in years past, the idea of curatorial collaboration was a common thread that
wove itself through the 2012 AAMC annual meeting. The opening keynote conversation between
Helen Molesworth, Barbara Lee Chief Curator at the Institute of Contemporary
Art, and James S. Snyder, Anne and Jerome Fisher Director of the Israel Museum,
introduced the broad idea of interdisciplinary cooperation, in particular the
fusing of art history and contemporary artistic practice. Such a fusion, the two speakers agreed, would
revolutionize museum practices with the past being employed to explain the
present and the present helping to make the past more relevant for museum audiences.
rest of the conference’s first day continued the theme of curatorial
collaboration with two panels that focused on shifting taxonomies within the
museum and physical expansion, respectively.
In Give and Take: Shifting
Collection Boundaries in the 21st-Century Museum, senior museum
professionals Marla Berns, Emily Ballew Neff, and Matthew Witkovsky encouraged
and challenged their curatorial colleagues to communicate across departments to
build new connections between seemingly dissimilar objects. In the afternoon session, Expanded or Reconfigured Spaces, Elliot
Bostwick Davis of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and Jim Labeck of the
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum presented on their recently completed building
campaigns, while Deborah Martin Kao of the Harvard Art Museums spoke of the
ongoing renovation at her institution.
All participants offered advice and anecdotes for those curators and
institutions undergoing expansion or reinstallation of collections.
following day’s Curatorial Short Courses
created another opportunity for curators to learn from each other through
shared experiences. Chiyo Ishikawa of
the Seattle Art Museum, Mark Scala of the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, and
Laurie Winters of the Milwaukee Art Museum provided specific advice for
managing exhibitions and negotiating loans.
Both topics are important curatorial responsibilities, and junior
curators benefited from hearing how senior curatorial staff handle these
duties on an institutional and personal level.
Likewise, the short courses provided senior curators with a chance to
reevaluate their own current practices.
my perspective—a curatorial assistant with a newly-minted PhD working in an
institution that is currently experiencing the excitement and complexities
associated with a museum merger—the topics covered at this year’s AAMC annual
meeting provided ample opportunity to think about the future of the Honolulu
Museum of Art (HMA). Having recently
merged with The Contemporary Museum (TCM), the HMA is working to incorporate
contemporary art into its exhibition program.
We are also at a crossroads with more practical issues, like exhibition
management, since both TCM and HMA brought their own policies and procedures
into the merge. The AAMC annual meeting
allowed me to hear from other curators facing similar issues and helped eased
the sense of isolation one can have when working in a geographically isolated
part of the world.