What is a Museum in the 21st Century? Online symposium

2018-11-15

Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) and the International Committee for Museology (ICOFOM) partnered in organizing an online symposium on "Defining the Museum of the 21st Century: Evolving Multiculturalism in Museums in the United States".

The symposium was structured as a virtual, live-streamed event, participants from around the world were able to connect and share their perspective on museums. Among the countries represented were: Japan, Argentina, Greece, Russia, France, Venezuela, Latvia, Peru, and China. The aim was to include multiple voices in the International Council of Museum's (ICOM) definition of the word "museum."

The organizers, each from SNHU, included: James Fennessy, former associate dean of liberal arts, Robert Denning, faculty lead of history and Dr. Yun Shun Susie Chung, team lead and adjunct history faculty concentrating on public history theses courses, who is also an International Committee for Museology member and former board member (2007-2010). The organizers consulted monthly with François Mairesse, president of ICOFOM, Bruno Brulon Soares, vice president of ICOFOM, and Anna Leshchenko, ICOFOM Study Series general secretary, on the structure and content of this event.

The one-day online symposium featured opening remarks by Deborah Disston, director of the McIninch Art Gallery at SNHU, 3 keynote speakers and 3 thematic panels with 10 presenters. Presenters offered new perspectives on what a museum is today in the U.S. and Indigenous nations. Panel themes included:

  • "Nation-Building in Museums in the United States"
  • "Collecting Tangible and Intangible Heritage in Museums in the United States"
  • "Serving Nearby Heritage for All in Museums in the United States"

Keynote speaker Alyce Sadongei, chair of the Partnership for Native Americans, and program coordinator of the American Indian Language Institute at the University of Arizona, weighed in on Indigenous museums.

The organizers relied heavily on existing platforms, from SNHU and ICOFOM websites to social media, including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, for presenter submissions and sharing information related to the event. Internal resources, such as SNHUconnect, and announcements in online courses, along with communication through diverse museum and history associations provided additional virtual outlets to spread the word of the symposium.

Podcasts were developed to provide 8 interviews of museologists or museum professionals on SoundCloud, including 3 keynote speakers, Francois Mairesse, Alyce Sadongei and Bruno Brulon Soares.

The symposium, presented through Adobe Connect, also featured recording of the event on YouTube and SoundCloud. A monograph is due to publish by the end of 2018, which will be digitally preserved on the ICOFOM website.

www.snhu.edu


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