Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Follow-up to "Museums in the News"

I followed some links in the "Museum Workers Are Called Complicit" story from the last post & found quite the hubbub! This story explains the background: Four California Museums Are Raided. So weird to see federal agents guarding an art museum . . .

Monday, January 28, 2008

Museums in the News

A couple of interesting news stories this week involving museums. For those without an online account with the NY Times, I've pasted the shorter stories below.
Published: January 26, 2008
The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, has turned to the courts to validate its claim to a 1913 Oskar Kokoschka painting sought by Claudia Seger-Thomschitz, an Austrian woman who says it was sold under duress during the Nazi occupation of Austria, The Boston Globe reported. Lawyers for Ms. Seger-Thomschitz contend that there is no doubt that the Kokoschka painting, “Two Nudes (Lovers),” was sold under duress by Oskar Reichel, a physician who ran an art gallery in Vienna. The Museum of Fine Arts, citing months of research, maintained that the sale in 1939 was voluntary and to another Jew, the Viennese art dealer Otto Kallir. “The painting was never confiscated by the Nazis, was never sold by force as a result of Nazi persecution and was not otherwise taken from Dr. Reichel,” the museum’s complaint states. Ms. Seger-Thomschitz’s lawyers said they would respond to the suit.
Published: January 24, 2008
Paul G. Risser, acting director at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, is to step down on Friday after nine months in the job. Mr. Risser, a biologist, will return to his position as chairman of the University of Oklahoma Research Cabinet. “I came here originally for a six-month period, and that has stretched longer,” Mr. Risser, 68, said. He replaced Cristián Samper in April, when Mr. Samper was named acting secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. Mr. Samper succeeded Lawrence M. Small, who resigned in March after an investigation into his personal spending. While Mr. Risser was acting director, the Smithsonian Regents, its governing body, debated the appropriateness of accepting a $5 million donation for its Ocean Initiative from the American Petroleum Institute, prompting the institute to withdraw the offer.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Museo Journal

In class today, we discussed creating a journal or website to record our thoughts on material culture and museum studies. My initial instinct, honed from years of pack rat practice, was to buy a nice paper journal and stuff it with notes, articles, photos, etc.

However, over two years of personal blogging have taught me that blogs are one of the better ways to induce me to stick with regular writing. My bookshelf is littered with personal journals that I started and never hung onto.

So, here we go. I named the blog "Museophilia" because I believe it means "love of museums." While the blog will initially be about material culture for this class' purposes, I hope to expand it outwards into all area of the profession I have chosen. As much as I wish it would, my personal blog is just too full of nephew photos and long ramblings to ever be able to land me a job.

In our first class, we reviewed the syllabus and discussed the assignments and expectations of the course. I think this will be a great learning experience and I appreciate that our professor has created a variety of assignments. Each one seems like it will help us develop a different skill to interpret material objects, and do so with ever greater efficiency & understanding.

On a related note, I was doing some work with wooden planes at my internship site this morning. As I recorded accession numbers, I admired the old tools, their wooden sides worn smooth from use. The cooper walked by and said, "Neat, huh? Now imagine actually working with them."

And that's the point in some way. We learn the stories behind these objects based on their individual components. Yet, those components are usually just that - pieces of a whole. Understanding the whole object and its utility (be it real utility or decorative) requires the museum professional to consider the human component. And that's what I think visitors tend to respond to - the image of themselves interacting with the object in some way.