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Meditations on a Meeting by Lisa Simmons, Curatorial Assistant, Department of the Arts of Africa, the Americas, Asia, and the Pacific Islands, The Baltimore Museum of Art

Posted By Lisa Simmons, Wednesday, June 6, 2012

At the 2012 AAMC Conference in Boston, curators expounded upon ways in which their institutions have realized profound transformations of physical and mental space. Museums across the world are undergoing metamorphosis as they shed old skins and ways of doing to regenerate, transform, and expand into new entities, more capable of flourishing and reaching out to broader demographics in a quickly changing world.

The Keynote Conversation between James Snyder and Helen Molesworth was a glimpse into the Israel Museum’s reinvention of place driven by the desire for enriching content. Museums with encyclopedic collections, like the Israel Museum, are focusing on finding common threads and themes that make cross-departmental connections. Reinvention was a major theme throughout the conference. Curators spoke about how museums are undergoing intense self-reflection and mining their collections in order to create exciting new reinstallations and exhibitions from within.

Museum bodies, now leaner in a stressful economy, are flexing interdisciplinary muscles to support increasingly energetic exhibition programs. In the session Give and Take: Shifting Collection Boundaries in the 21st-Century Museum, panelists spoke about co-curated exhibitions that crossed boundaries of media, department, time, and geography to realize ground-breaking shows with great scholarly significance. Marla Berns described how the Fowler Museum was founded on interdisciplinary boundary-crossing exemplified by the thematic Inter/Sections installation.

The Expanded or Reconfigured Spaces session touched on architect Renzo Piano’s additions to the Elizabeth Stewart Gardner Museum and the Harvard Art Museums. Piano practices a sort of architectural yoga, stretching museum environments to breathe light, air, and movement into the dwelling spaces of extraordinary collections. And, as almost all of the speakers relayed in one way or another, it is exactly those extraordinary collections that inspire the drive to reinvent and transform.


Lisa Simmons

Curatorial Assistant

Department of the Arts of Africa, the Americas, Asia, and the Pacific Islands

The Baltimore Museum of Art

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