36. The Underground Railroad in Niagara Falls with Bill Bradberry

Bill Bradberry, at the site of the future Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center in Niagara Falls, NY. Canada is in the background, across the river.

Bill Bradberry, at the site of the future Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center in Niagara Falls, NY. Canada is in the background, across the river.

Bill Bradberry, the President and Chairman of the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Area Commission, thinks of the entire city of Niagara Falls, NY as an open crime scene from “the crime of holding people in bondage, and the man-made crime of trying to escape.” With Canada just across the Niagara river, the Commission conducts research on the Underground Railroad as it relates to Niagara Falls and the surrounding area — for some, the last terminus in the United States.

The Commission will open the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center on May 4th, 2018. Bradberry hopes that the center will show the full story, from black waiters at hotels helping enslaved people escape while serving their enslaves with duplicitous professionalism to massive brawls breaking out between abolitionists and bounty hunters.

In this episode, Bradberry talks about situating previously unknown stories into our understanding of the Underground Railroad, discovering the lack of non-white faces in the museum world he has recently entered, and his plan to change that.

Guest:
Bill Bradberry

Topics Discussed: 
00:00: Intro
00:15: Bill Bradberry
01:10: The Geography of Escape
02:05: The Cataract House Hotel
04:25: John Morrison
05:10: Historical Research
06:12: Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center Opening
07:10: The Lack of Non-White Faces in the Museum World
11:11: Introducing Club Archipelago 

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35. Cartoons from the Museum Floor with Attendants View

Attendants View is a blog of hand-drawn, single page cartoons that capture a slice of a museum attendant’s day. The comics show confused visitors, tourists asking the same questions over and over again, and museum board members flouting the rules.

The writer and illustrator behind Attendants View has been creating comics about her experiences in museums for the past seven years. About 60% of the comics are about something that has happened to her or around her personally, and the rest come from stories colleagues and others have told her. She wants anyone to feel comfortable sharing their experiences with her; for this and other reasons, she has chosen to remain anonymous for this interview.

By sharing experiences through the medium of comics, Attendants View hopes to demystify various museum jobs. In this episode, Attendants View talks about her creative process, the changes in her professional role, and voluntarism in museums. To read her excellent comics, visit the Attendants View blog here.

Special thanks to Attendants View  for taking the time for the interview. 

Guest:
Attendants View 

Topics Discussed:
00:00: Intro
00:15: Attendants View Description
00:48: Attendants View’s Anonymity
01:30: What is a Museum Attendant?
02:20: The Early Days
03:15: Powerful Stories
04:00: Changes During the Last 7 Years
05:15: Volunteer Positions
07:50: Attendants View’s Creative Routine
08:55: Sharing Your Job
09:42: Outro

34. Erotic Heritage Museum with Dr. Victoria Hartmann

The Erotic Heritage Museum in Las Vegas, Nevada

The Erotic Heritage Museum in Las Vegas, Nevada

The Las Vegas Erotic Heritage Museum is the largest erotic museum in the world. Sex scholar Dr. Victoria Hartmann has been the museum’s director since 2014, and her mission is to create a space for people to safely explore and engage the topic of human sexuality.

Dr. Hartmann thinks museums too often tell the visitor what to think. She would rather use visitors’ responses to the galleries as a starting point to further discussions.

At the Erotic Heritage Museum, there is a lot to react to: a statue of Donald Trump next to a galley of political, religious, and celebrity personalities connected to sex scandals; a huge collection of erotic artifacts from around the world; and a wall full of posters from the January 21st 2017 Las Vegas Women's March.

In this episode, Dr. Hartmann talks about the inherently political nature of sex, exhibit development with a diverse staff in positions of authority, and what visitors imagine when they hear the word museum.

This episode was recorded at the Erotic Heritage Museum in Las Vegas, Nevada. Special thanks to Dr. Victoria Hartmann for taking the time for the interview.

Guests:
Dr. Victoria Hartmann

Topics Discussed:
00:00: Welcome to Museum Archipelago
00:15: The Erotic Heritage Museum in Las Vegas
00:42: Dr. Victoria Hartmann
01:15: Wall of Shame
02:51: Educational Exhibits
04:00: Sex Comes in Many Flavors, So Do The Galleries
05:00: Exhibit Development with a Diverse Staff in Positions of Authority
06:25: What Visitors Imagine They Hear the Word Museum

33. Icelandic Museums with Hannah Hethmon

Hannah Hethmon's Fulbright project is a podcast called Museums in Strange Places.

Hannah Hethmon's Fulbright project is a podcast called Museums in Strange Places.

Iceland has many more museums per person than the UK and the US. The country is also in the middle of a massive tourism boom: there are several times more tourists than residents. Hannah Hethmon, an American museum professional and Fulbright Fellow living in Reykjavík, was interested in this abundance of museums and the nature of museum tourism in Iceland.

Her Fulbright project is the podcast Museums in Strange Places, which explores these and other Icelandic museum topics. In each episode, Hannah brings listeners through a different museum through the stories of the people who work there. 

In this episode, Hannah talks about what the tourist boom means for Icelandic museums, what makes museums on this island unique, and what is next for her podcast.

For new listeners, Hannah recommends starting with episode 3: A Writer’s Home.

Guest:
Hannah Hethmon

Topics Discussed: 
00:00: Intro
00:15: Hannah Hethmon & Museums in Strange Places
03:25: Tourist Boom in Iceland
05:40: Icelandic Museums Serving Locals and Tourists
08:40: Why Podcasting?
10:05: Giving the Project its Boundaries
11:30: Where Should People Start with Museums in Strange Places?

32. Lunar Human Heritage Sites with Michelle Hanlon

The Lower Half of the Apollo 17 Lunar Lander in a debris field in the Taurus–Littrow valley. This view was captured minutes after the last humans left the moon and it would look exactly the same today.

The Lower Half of the Apollo 17 Lunar Lander in a debris field in the Taurus–Littrow valley. This view was captured minutes after the last humans left the moon and it would look exactly the same today.

What humans left behind on the moon are part of our human heritage, on par with Laetoli and Lascaux. Unlike human heritage sites on earth, the lunar landing sites are pristine, completely untouched by natural erosion or human disruption. But the lunar landing sites are also unprotected. On earth, protecting heritage sites is a national affair: countries nominate sites within their own territory to be recognized by UNESCO. Sites on the moon are technically nobody’s territory, so no country can nominate the landing sites, including the six Apollo bases.

The people behind For All Moonkind are designing the legal framework to protect and preserve these human heritage sites.

Today, we talk with Michelle Hanlon, a space lawyer who volunteers with For All Moonkind, about what it will take to protect these sites them for future generations -- and speculate about what a lunar museum might look like.

Guests: 
Michelle Hanlon

Links:
Leaving the Moon, Watching at Home
For All Moonkind | Preserving Our First Off World Footsteps

Topics Discussed:
00:00: Welcome to Museum Archipelago
00:14: The Lunar Liftoff of Apollo 17
02:10: Induction to Michelle Hanlon
03:00: For All Moonkind
04:10: Protecting Heritage Sites on Earth
05:42: Outer Space Treaty
06:50: Apollo Landing Sites Today
08:45: Proposals for Lunar Museums
11:30: What Story Should Lunar Museums Tell?

31. Habemus with Romina Frontini & Christian Díaz

Christian Díaz (center), General Coordinator of Habemus, during a broadcast.

Christian Díaz (center), General Coordinator of Habemus, during a broadcast.

Habemus is a Spanish-language radio program about museum topics broadcasting out of Bahía Blanca, Argentina. Every Friday from 9 to 11pm, team members interview museum people and promote an ideology of fun and hacks in museums.

The title is a play on words — linking the Spanish word “museos” with the Latin verb “we have.” Since the show is on a popular radio station, Habemus team members Romina Frontini and Christian Díaz say it’s up to them to introduce museum topics to a general audience.

In this episode, Romina Frontini and Christian Díaz talk about their project and their ideologies. After listening to this podcast, you can stream their program at http://www.urbana939.com.ar

Guests:

Topics Discussed: 

00:00: Intro
00:15: Habemus
00:36: Romina Frontini and Christian Díaz
01:00: The Ideology of Habemus
02:00: "We Have Museums"
03:30: Is Your Audience Actually Interested in Museums?
06:08: How Do You Choose Your Guests?
08:50: The New Paradigm of Museums

30. Visitors of Color with Dr. Porchia Moore

Dr. Porchia Moore, Inclusion Catalyst at the Columbia Museum of Art, started Visitors of Color with nikhil trivedi in 2015.

Visitors of Color is a Tumblr project that documents the perspectives and experiences of marginalized people in museums. It is a record of what the museum experience can be like for people who are often discussed but whose voices are rarely privileged, people that don’t feel welcome in museums, and people that don’t feel like nearby museum spaces are for them.

In this episode, Dr. Moore discusses the Museum Computer Network conference where the project launched, the museum-visiting habits of freshmen at a Historically Black College, and how Visitors of Color has been received by the wider museum community.

Special thanks to Dr. Moore for taking the time for the interview. 

Guest: Dr. Porchia Moore

Topics Discussed:
00:00: Intro
00:14: Dr. Porchia Moore
00:36: “A Librarian Who Studies Museums”
01:11: Survey of College Freshmen
03:43: Visitors of Color Launch
06:35: Gathering Stories for Visitors of Color
07:30: Visitors of Color as a Counternarrative Project
08:45: The Power of Museums as Cultural Heritage Institutions
09:45: Response from Institutions Across the Country
 

29. A Digital Approach to Museum Maps

An example of a digital mapping tool, Mapbox Studio Classic.

An example of a digital mapping tool, Mapbox Studio Classic.

Everything happens at a time and a place. In a museum, that coordinate system can help keep a story straight, even if it is not at the forefront of a gallery. And when designing maps for museums, we should keep in mind how humanistic digital tools are — and how helpful they can be to museum visitors.

We should pay close attention to mental map matching. Museum visitors have a sense of geography marked by their own lived experiences. What feels like an important city landmark to one person isn’t even on the radar for another. 

To account for this, museums should approach maps in the same way that an online mapping service does: by making rules about what categories of landmarks appear at different zoom levels, and then letting the software take over.  

With the help of digital tools, we can work toward a map that draws on a hierarchy of categories instead of our personal experience.  

28. Leaving the Museum Field with Marieke Van Damme

Executive Director of the Cambridge Historical Society Marieke Van Damme affectionately calls anyone working in the museum field “Museum People.” On her excellent podcast of the same name, she interviews museum people every episode. Many museum people are museum workers.

In 2016, together with other noted museum professionals (Sarah Erdman, Claudia Ocello and Dawn Estabrooks Salerno), Marieke asked why museum workers leave the field. Last month, they published a summary of the findings titled, Leaving the Museum Field.

As Marieke explains, she always knew that working in the museum field is hard. Museum workers face difficult conditions, and some of the very same things that make working in the museum field desirable (passion for the mission) contribute to the bad (discriminatory societal and economic systems, student loans, intense job competition).

Marieke has had countless conversation that begin, “I love working in museums, but I don’t think I can do it anymore because of [insert reason here]”.

Leaving the Museum Field is now the most-viewed article on the AAM Alliance blog since it launched a year ago.

Through her research, Marieke tries to better understand the difficult conditions museum workers face. Though her projects like Joyful Museums, she provides resources and writings about creating a positive workplace culture. 

Guest: Marieke Van Damme

27. Yo, Museum Professionals

Notably missing from discussions like these is a willingness to defend the interactive screen. The defense is simple: concepts that museums are tasked with teaching aren’t tangible anymore. 

Today’s students learn complex concepts that kids weren’t exposed to a generation ago. Even basic knowledge of science today requires a deep understanding of systems and ecosystems and how they interact at different scales. Interactive screens provide the conceptual tools, like rescaling and simulation, that help with that understanding.

In this episode, I describe how an interactive screen can teach global climate change in ways an object can’t. 
 

 

26. Arab American National Museum with Devon Akmon

Arab American National Museum photo by knightfoundation CC BY-SA 2.0

Arab American National Museum photo by knightfoundation CC BY-SA 2.0

Before the Arab American National Museum opened in Dearborn, MI in 2005, there wasn’t a singular museum telling the Arab American story. 

The museum defines the Arab World as 22 countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Southeast Michigan has the highest concentration of people from the Arab World in North America, and much of the social, religious, cultural, and commercial enterprises are centered in Dearborn. 

In this episode, museum director Devon Akmon describes the process of using arts and culture as a mechanism to build greater community and to share the complexities of the stories with the wider public. 

Devon also talks about how his institution relates to other museums on issues of equity and justice.

Guest: Devon Akmon

Topics Discussed:
00:00: Intro
00:15: Devon Akmon, Director of the Arab American National Museum
00:45: Why Dearborn, MI?
02:53: Displacement in the Arab World
03:30: Using Arts to Build Community
04:04: Building the Museum
05:07: Exhibitions and Space
06:40: Feedback Mechanisms
07:35: Different Audiences
10:01: Talking to Other Museums

25. Museum of Socialist Art in Sofia, Bulgaria

An abundance of Lenins at the Museum of Socialist Art in Sofia, Bulgaria 

An abundance of Lenins at the Museum of Socialist Art in Sofia, Bulgaria 

After the fall of communism in Bulgaria in 1989, statues of Bulgarian communist leaders, idealized revolutionary workers, and Lenins were taken down all over the county. Some of these statues are now in the Museum of Socialist Art in Sofia.

Bulgaria doesn’t have a history museum that explores its communist past. The Museum of Socialist Art doesn’t fill that void, exactly: it is an extension of the Bulgarian National Gallery of Art. 

In this episode, museum director Nikolai Ushtavaliiski and art historian Elitsa Terzieva talk about organizing the past by focusing on art. The outdoor sculpture garden, above, is unorganized, with statues placed wherever there is room. The indoor galleries, by contrast, are organized by exhibitions exploring specific themes

Even though the museum stays as far away from politics as possible by focusing on the art, these exhibitions provide the framework to start interpreting the era. At some point, there will be a museum that explores the communist era in Bulgaria, but until then this collection of artwork gives you a lot to think about.

This Episode was recorded at the Museum of Socialist Art in Sofia, Bulgaria on July 6th, 2017. Special thanks to Elitsa Terzieva and Nikolai Ushtavaliiski for taking the time for the intreview. 

Guests: 

  • Nikolai Ushtavaliiski
  • Elitsa Terzieva

24. College Hill and the International Slave Trade Walking Tour with Elon Cook

IMG_0046.JPG

Elon Cook created the College Hill and the International Slave Trade Walking Tour in Providence after researching the crucial and massive role that Rhode Island played in the history of slavery.

The walking tour covers an an area of about one square mile in and around Brown University. Here, wealth and stability were created off of the buying and selling of enslaved people in Rhode Island and elsewhere.

The built landscape of Providence serves as a museum without walls, and Elon considers each of the stops on the tour to be a different mini-exhibition.

In this episode, Elon talks about creating the walking tour, the glossing over of local history, and tracing her ancestors’ genealogy before the 1860s.

Elon Cook is the program manager and curator for the Center for Reconciliation, a non-profit focused on educating the public about the United States’ history of slavery, slave trading and resistance.

This episode was recorded immediately after a walking tour on June 22nd, 2017. Tickets to the next walking tour on July 14, 2017 can be found here.

Topics Discussed:
00:00: Intro
00:14: Elon Cook, Program Director and Curator at the Center for Reconciliation
00:40: Slavery in Maryland and Local Education
01:50: Learning Rhode Island’s Role in the International Slave Trade
03:10: The Way Slavery is Taught
05:10: The First Walking Tour
06:00: Future Museum
07:00: Using the Built Landscape of Providence as an Exhibition
08:15: Genealogy Before the 1860s

 

23. Museum-Metro Station Hybrids

An early rendering of the Serdika station in Sofia, Bulgaria, displaying Roman ruins on the first level underneath the street.

An early rendering of the Serdika station in Sofia, Bulgaria, displaying Roman ruins on the first level underneath the street.

During the planning stages for the Sofia Metro in Bulgaria, ruins of an old Roman fortress and city wall were discovered at the network’s proposed Serdika station. This wasn’t a surprise. People have been living in what is now Sofia for at least 4,000 years, and when you dig a tunnel, you’re bound to find something.  
 
The agendas of archaeologists and metro builders are often contradictory. Metro builders want to proceed quickly, while archaeological examination can be extremely time consuming. After the construction finished, however, Serdika station resolved these differences into a museum-metro station hybrid. 

Serdika station is just one example of this museum-metro station hybrid. Metro systems in cities like Mexico City, Istanbul, and Rome have stations featuring artifacts unearthed during their construction. Museum Archipelago tries to make sense of these museum-like spaces.

Links:

Problems of Cultural Monuments' Preservation Connected with the Construction of the Sofia Underground

MISC | Archaeology & Subways

22. Guide Training at Akagera National Park with Lisa Brochu

I met interpretive planner Lisa Brochu in Akagara National Park in Rwanda. I was there as a tourist, and she was there as a guide trainer.

Lisa’s teaching stresses that the best way to communicate with the visiting public is by having strong, central theme. 

At Akagara National Park, park-employed and community freelance guides are the ones doing that communication. By working with them, Lisa hopes visitors’ experience in Akegara will stick with them longer. Lisa teaches that instead of rattling off a list of facts, guides should bundle them together with a strong, central theme. Repeating the theme throughout the tour builds an emotional connection that standalone facts don’t.

In this episode, Lisa explains the importance of “going beyond the wow,” particularly for institutions like Akagara that have plenty of cool experiences to offer visitors. The “wow” doesn’t last, but a good theme will leave visitors with something to reflect on afterwards and then hopefully stimulate the visitor to make to make a commitment to the park’s conservation. 

Guest: Lisa Brochu

 

21. Apollo 11 Historic Site

Even before I started working in the museum field, I was thinking about the future museum at the Apollo 11 landing site at Tranquility Base on the moon. 

The site is special. No matter how the human experiment turns out, the site will represent the first step off earth. Now Tranquility Base is a pile of historical artifacts in their original context. Even the astronauts' footprints in the delicate, powder-like dust of the lunar surface are still there. 

How should we treat this well-preserved historic site? What will the museum at the site have to say to future visitors, all of whom took the same journey as the Apollo 11 astronauts? Museum Archipelago has some ideas (and more questions).

20. Universal Design at the White House Visitor Center with Sherril York

Dr. Sherril York, executive director of the National Center on Accessibility, was part of the team that renovated the White House Visitor Center in 2012.  Design priorities included making the experience accessible for all visitors.

The new visitor center features raised line floor plans, tactile 3D models, and physical directional keys adjacent to touchscreens.

In this episode, based on her case study for the fall 2015 issue of the Exhibitionist, Dr. York describes the process of working on alternative navigation methods, explains the difference between accessability and universal design, and underscores the importance of not thinking about accessibility and universal design as an afterthought.

Guests: 
Dr. Sherril York 
 

19. Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre with Honoré Gatera

When the Kigali Genocide Memorial was first built in 1999, it was a burial site outside the Rwandan capitol city for thousands of victims of the 1994 genocide. Rwandans came to visit the final resting place of friends and family. Today, the city has expanded to envelop the memorial, which has also expanded to include a museum and archive.

We talk with Honoré Gatera, the manager of the memorial, about what the center means to the city and country in 2017 and why a museum is the right medium for the center.

This podcast was recorded at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre on March 24th, 2017.

Guests:
Honoré Gatera

Topics Discussed:
00:00: Intro
00:14: Honoré Gatera, Manager of the Memorial
01:00: Burial Site
01:45: Visitor Experience / Opening Film
04:00: Individual Stories Lead to Community Stories
04:50: Video Is In Two Parts
05:25: Pre-Colonial Period
07:10: Why is a Museum the Right Medium to Tell the Story?
09:06: School Groups / Educational Outreach
11:07: Photographs in the Museum
13:00: Genocide Archive 

18. Maps and the 20th Century at the British Library

Two propaganda maps at the Maps and the 20th Century exhibit at the British Library.

Two propaganda maps at the Maps and the 20th Century exhibit at the British Library.

The Maps and the 20th Century exhibit at the British Library is quick to get to central theme of the exhibition: in order to understand a map, you must understand how and why it was made. Maps are not neutral. 

In a museum context, however, it can be tempting to present a map as the source of truth.

Topics Discussed:

00:00: Intro
00:14: Maps in Museums
01:08: Limiting the Gallery to the 20th Century
01:45: “Global North”
02:15: Propaganda Maps and Globes
02:40: German Map of European immigrants living in the US

Links:
Maps and the 20th Century: Drawing the Line

17. Entertainment and History at Disney's America

A Civil War-era village that would have served as the hub of Disney's America. Image (c) Disney

In 1994, Disney was hard at work on a new theme park called Disney's America. The park, which would open in Virginia not far from Washington DC, would showcase the “sweep of American History.” 

Confident and enthusiastic, Disney executives were walking a tightrope between entertainment and history.

Topics Discussed:

00:00: Intro
00:14: Disney's America
00:37: "The Complexity of the American Experience" 
01:24: Themed Lands at the Magic Kingdom
01:50: Themed Lands at Disney's America
03:10: "Serious Fun" 
03:50: Courtland Milloy
05:10: Theme Park Design
05:50: Marc Davis

Links:

DISNEY SAYS VA. PARK WILL BE SERIOUS FUN - The Washington Post

HELPING DISNEY, HURTING AMERICA?

SLAVERY IS NOT AMUSING

Disney Avenue: Imagineers Remember Creating Pirates of the Caribbean

Passport to Dreams Old & New: Marc Davis