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Exhibitions and Events

Lecture series: Museums & social justice

Michigan Men's Glee Club

From grass roots activists to professional organizations and foundations, museums are being pushed to look both inward and outward to examine and transform themselves into more inclusive and impactful institutions. Social justice and transparency are not new concerns in museums practice or museum studies. However, there is a renewed urgency in today’s political climate and a new generation of activists working to make change. Speakers in this series will address their work, and the challenges, opportunities and results in expanding the relevance, impact and value of museums in today’s world.

11/3—What if? Demand the Impossible

Lisa Yun Lee, Director, School of Art and Art History and Visiting Curator, Hull House Museum; University of Illinois at Chicago

Lisa Yun Lee, Director, School of Art and Art History and Visiting Curator, Hull House Museum; University of Illinois at Chicago

On Tuesday, November 1, join the Museum Studies program at the University of Michigan Museum of Art’s Helmut Stern Auditorium at 6:30 p.m. for Lisa Yun Lee’s lecture: “What If? Demand the Impossible. On Museums and the Struggle for Social Justice.”

What if museums were to acknowledge their complicity with systemic forms of oppression, and commit to a reparations movement as part of a process of truth and reconciliation?

What if museum and exhibition programs at universities were to foster a form of fugitive studies? What if access and equity were to truly be at the center of museum work?

Through an exploration of current and fictitious museums, works in progress and not yet realized projects, this talk examines these “What if” propositions, and takes the impossible as the only realistic option for museums in these fiercely urgent times.

This talk is inspired by Bill Ayers’ most recent book Demand the Impossible: A Radical Manifesto (Haymarket, 2016), where he asks us to “unleash our radical imaginations and push ourselves to break the straightjackets of conventional thinking.”  Join in a conversation about how museums and other cultural institutions might fulfill a moral obligation to recognize the capacious, colorful, and diverse world of all that is beautiful, true and just.

12/6—Inclusion requires fracturing

On December 6, join the Museum Studies Program at the Helmut Stern Auditorium at 6:30 for its final presentation in this lecture series: “Inclusion requires fracturing,” featuring Swarpua Anila, Director of Interpretive Engagement at the Detroit Institute of Art.

As museums strive to serve broad, ever-diversifying publics, it is no longer possible to deny the ways museums mirror and reinforce racial, cultural, and class inequities of the broader society. Skillful racial and cultural representation in interpretation and programming is not only an intellectual exercise; it is an ethical responsibility that requires fracturing the known through consistent individual and institutional self-reflection and action. This talk focuses on the challenging and often painful internal work toward developing diversity and strategies and actions supporting systemic change in museum representation, interpretation, and ideation.

Swarupa Anila is director of interpretive engagement at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Key issues she pursues in interpretive planning practice include examining whose voices and perspectives are missing in museum interpretation, how to integrate visitor voices to flatten museum and art historical knowledge hierarchies, and how to design museum interpretation that supports dynamic, meaningful visitor engagements with art.

Co-sponsored by the University of Michigan Museum of Art

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