MSU Museum Studies Program E-Newsletter
A report on the summer 2017 AL497 Practicum in Curation and Collections Management: MSU Museum’s Historic Dress Collection:
Curatorship and collections management require fair amounts of museum studies and material culture theories, content knowledge based on connoisseurship and research, exhibition and conservation best practices, and familiarity with professional ethics and standards. What we set out to do in teaching this practicum was to have students think and apply all these aspects of museum work through the exploration of one object—a historic garment.
So much to cover in only five class meetings! We were lucky to have enrolled in the course a group of energetic and curious students. They were ready to choose and research a garment and to engage in discussions and exercises designed to prepare them for museum work. It was great fun to work together with students in the MSU Museum’s collections.
After a brief tour of collections and an overview of object handling, we got down to business. With the help of a questionnaire, students inspected their garments and raised questions about what they were seeing. Such critical examination is fundamental to object-based research—objects, as mute declarations of culture, often offer evidence absent from textual sources. With only scant evidence in the Museum’s records, creative thinking was required to imagine and then to find primary sources with which to write a garment’s biography. (And, like a human’s life, there are many ways to tell the story.)
Recording a garment’s physical description and condition is one thing; creating a record that fits standards of museum nomenclature is quite another. Students were introduced to the MSU Museum’s collections management/catalog system, Argus, and asked to write a catalog entry conforming to professional standards. We also discussed the politics, based on recent movement towards community curation, within the shifting notions in museum nomenclature and vocabularies.
Next, we reviewed textile types and related care and storage needs, from creating and attaching identifying labels to garments to conceptualizing the appropriate storage environments. Should a given garment be stored on a hanger, or boxed? Or does it require a drawer? What are the archival materials professionals use in extending the life of a given article of clothing? How do we decide whether a given garment can be dressed on a mannequin or displayed flat—or not at all? What are the drawbacks to exhibiting inherently fragile textiles and what can be done to limit harm to the objects?
Time was devoted in each class meeting to an overview of fashion history for women’s, men’s, and children’s clothing, primarily in North America. We pulled from the collection representative examples of women’s clothing—including a wonderful 1810 linen dress—to enhance this overview, offering close inspection of materials, manufacturing methods, and styles.
The students’ presentations in the final class meeting were fascinating, raising more questions about each garment, eliciting solutions to storage and display, and pointing to various directions for future research. Through research, each student added knowledge to the MSU Museum’s collection.
A great deal of museum work is solving problems—working from objects to create a narrative or thesis and then adapting that narrative within a physical space for visitors, working with objects to preserve and protect them through innovative storage solutions and exhibition strategies, and working within the larger professional world in which all this problem-solving takes place. We hope that the students enjoyed and benefited from the class.
Review Provided by Mary Worrall, Curator of Cultural Heritage, MSU Museum and Shirley Wajda, Curator of History, MSU Museum.
MSU Museum’s new director Mark Auslander begins his role at the museum on July 1st. Mark is a Sociocultural anthropologist with a reputation for engaging community and campus. He previously served at Central Washington University where he oversaw the Museum Studies Program and directed the University’s Museum of Culture and environment. The addition of Auslander is received with great excitement.
“I’m honored to join the MSU Museum, a museum known for the remarkable depth and breadth of its scientific and cultural collections, and for its innovative exhibits and public programs. I am thrilled to be working with this dedicated and imaginative group of museum professionals. Our shared vision is to deepen and extend the Museum’s impact across campus, in the diverse communities of mid and southeast Michigan, and around the world,” – Mark Auslander
4. MSU Museum 2017 Great Lake’s Folk Festival Updates:
The MSU Museum announced their 2017 Folk Festival Line up. Click the link here to see the artists and events for the 2017 festival.
Volunteer Registration is up for the Great Lakes Folk Fest. If you would like to volunteer please apply here. There are a wide variety of volunteer positions for this year’s Great Lakes Folk Festival. Volunteers receive a festival t-shirt and an invitation to a volunteer party a few days before the festival. A list of volunteer job descriptions can be found here.
The award-winning Great Lakes Folk Festival, produced by the MSU Museum’s Michigan Traditional Arts Program, is a celebration of culture, tradition and community. This festival takes place in downtown East Lansing spans 3 days from August 11 to August 13.
5. The Queer Traditions Summit, East Lansing, MI, August 10-11 2017
We invite you to participate in the inaugural Queer Traditions Summit (QTS), a two day event a two day event, produced in conjunction with the MSU Museum’s Great Lakes Folk Festival, exploring queer folklife: the everyday culture, aesthetic expressions, and traditional arts of LGBTQIA+ people in Michigan, nationally, and internationally. The QTS will include things like roundtable discussions, paper presentations, participatory workshops, performances, a film screening and a keynote speaker. We’d love to see you there and if you want to get involved email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more info check out the Facebook event:
Visit the RCAH LookOut! Art Gallery for Conscience of the Human Spirit: The Life of Nelson Mandela. The RCAH LookOut! Art Gallery is open Monday through Friday from noon to 2 p.m. in the summer and is always free. Noon to 3 p.m. hours resume in September. This exhibit is a collaborative work between the MSU Museum and the RCAH. The exhibition is by African-American quilters, organized by the MSU Museum, and hosted in the RCAH LookOut! Art Gallery.
Summer’s here and we’re hitting the streets. We’ll be traversing the Greater Lansing landscape with our custom-built, screen-printing cart, searching for creative minds and committing random acts of art. Keep your eyes peeled. Locations will be announced on Twitter (@msubroad).
Take an unconventional look at our newest exhibition The Transported Man. Discover how ordinary objects are transformed into works of art through this offbeat, interactive tour. WARNING: This tour may contain strong language and random acts of weirdness. Participant discretion is advised.
Bring your lunch to the crossroads of American roots music with Danika Holmes and Jeb Hart. This Nashville duo combines Jeb’s clean and sophisticated style of playing with Danika’s smooth, soulful vocals to create their own unique blend of acoustic pop. The Acoustic Lunch series is offered in collaboration with Pump House Concerts.
Stretch your mind, body, and spirit in the sculpture garden this summer at the MSU Broad! This month MSU yoga instructor, Lizzy Paul, guides us through a session to leave you revitalized for the week ahead. Lizzy is a graduate of MSU and a registered yoga instructor with teaching experience in Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and here at MSU with Recreational Sports and Fitness Services. Please bring your own mat; free with registration.
The (SCENE) Metrospace opened their new exhibition Remnants, a solo exhibition by Metro-Detroit based artist AJ Cooke on June 23rd. This free show will be up until the 1st week of August.
17. Impression 5 Science Center – FLOW: A Water Experience, July 1st
Opening July 1, 2017, the newest exhibit FLOW will celebrate water with two stories of interactive components and activities. Click here for more details.
Don’t Miss the Arts Council of Greater Lansing’s Arts Night Out event. This is a free family event that contains live music, street art, pop-up exhibits and performances and involves local businesses and artists in Old Town, Lansing. This month it will be occurring on the second Friday of the month, as opposed to the first due to holiday. The Event will coincide with Old Town’s ‘Scrapfest’ festival that will start at 6:00 PM on July 14th. Visit the link to learn more
This free, signature event for all ages celebrates artists who are able to create works of art from scrap metal. Artists get up to 500 pounds of scrap and have two weeks to create a masterpiece. From still figures to interactive instruments, the creativity of this festival features something for everyone. Additional sustainable artists, music, education and food trucks round out the event! The event begins at 6PM on July 14th, and will go until 10pm July 15th. The Event will coincide with the Arts Council of Greater Lansing’s Arts Night Out in Old Town on July 14th.
The Michigan Emerging Museum Professional’s museum networking group will be meeting at Red Cedar Spirits for a distillery tour and boardgame night on July 14th, at 6:30 PM. Join for and evening of Michigan-made spirits, casual networking and plenty of board games! Get to know other Michigan museum professionals, learn about MEMP, and unwind at the end of the week. Red Cedar Spirits in East Lansing will be our host for the evening – enjoy tastings of their product and a tour of their distillery. Free parking is available at the distillery.
In Between Here and Gone will feature a diverse collection of photographs and sculptures. This exhibition is a chance to view facets of the up‐close natural world that may escape everyday observational notice. Exhibition is generously sponsored by Gary & Nancy McRay. This exhibition will be on view from July 6 – August 31, 2017. The Reception will be held on July 7th at 6:00pm.
Lansing Art Gallery’s 2017 Pop Up Project will bring art out of the gallery and into the public arena with demonstrations by professional exhibiting artists. On July 12th, at 12:00pm join the Lansing Art Gallery in their demo led by Helen Murray that will experiment with Alcohol Inks. Then on July 26th at 12:00PM, join the gallery for a demo lead by artist Rosanne Coty that encourages participants to discuss emotion in art.
State/National/Regional Conferences, Workshops and Other Resources
34. Dialogues on the Experience of War Grant
35. Public Humanities Projects Grant
39. Art Institute of Chicago – Publishing Production Intern, Chicago IL
, Applewood Ruth Mott Foundation, Flint, MI
41. Collections and Education Intern, Applewood Ruth Mott Foundation, Flint, MI
42. Programming and Communications Intern, Michigan Womens Hall of Fame, Okemos, MI
43. Collections Inventory Intern – Historic Ford Estates, Dearborn MI
44. Collections Conservation Intern – Historic Ford Estates, Dearborn MI
45. Grand Rapids Public Museum Internships, Grand Rapids, MI
46. Michigan Maritime Museum – Internship opportunities 2017, South Haven, MI
47. MSU Museum Internships East Lansing, MI
48. Lansing Art Gallery – Gallery Associate, Lansing MI.
49. Administrative/Project Specialist in the Office of Museum Services at IMLS , Washington D.C.
51. Volunteer Services Manager, Grand Rapids Art Museum, MI
52. Collections and Furnishing Specialist, Historic Ford Estates, Dearborn MI
53. Archivist, Historic Ford Estates, Dearborn MI
54. Registrar, Hudson River Museum – Yonkers, New York
55. Assistant Curator, Saginaw Art Museum, Saginaw MI
56. Museum Preparator, Oakland University, Rochester MI,
57. Senior Administrative Assistant, Cranbrook Educational Community, Bloomfield Hills, MI
58. Sales Supervisor, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit MI
To send information to the MSU Museum Studies E-news or to be added or removed from the list, contact MSUMSP@msu.edu.
Arts & Cultural Management and Museum Studies
Department of Theatre
Exhibitions Technology Specialist
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824