THE INDEPENDENT VOICE OF THE VISUAL ARTS

 

The Justice Work of Culture

 

Shortly after the 2014 fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, museum workers and scholars Aleia Brown and Adrianne Russell used the Twitter-mobilized phrase #MuseumsRespondToFerguson as a challenge to museum silence in the face of urgent social events. The discussions that followed inspired a joint statement by a collective of museum bloggers and colleagues. They asked:

Where do museums fit in?... What should be our role—as institutions that claim to conduct their activities for the public benefit—in the face of ongoing struggles for greater social justice both at the local and national level? 1

The Museum and Exhibition Studies Program (MUSE) at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) attempts to answer these questions by building on the politically radical tradition within museum studies. This is epitomized by social museology and the movement for a "new museology," which, from the 1970s to the present, has called on museums to act for justice.

Accepting that museums reflect and also reproduce deep social problems, we want to enmesh these public institutions with social movements and encourage a view of museum work as cultural activism. To those ends, our program decided in 2016 to create a journal of critical cultural theory and practice aimed at challenging and reimagining museums.

Fwd: Museums is produced by our graduate students and is published yearly by Chicago’s StepSister Press. It accepts submissions through an international open call and is peer-reviewed. The three edited articles in this section first appeared in that journal. Our fourth issue, focused on the theme, “Death to Museums,” will be released in May 2019.

 

Therese Quinn, Director, MUSE, UIC

 

  1. “Joint statement from museum bloggers & colleagues on Ferguson & related events,” 2014. Retrieved from: https://adriannerussell.wordpress.com/2014/12/11/joint-statement-from-museum-bloggers-colleagues-on-ferguson/

 

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