Museum Practitioners Publish Open-Access Scholarship at the Intersection of Personal Identity and Museum Practice

Twelve museum professionals from across the United States took part in a new professional development program—the Writing Scholars Workshop—that seeks to elevate the voices of a new generation of museum workers, and advance the museum field’s dialogue around critical topics and practices. 

Developed and led by Curator: The Museum Journal and Knology, a nonprofit social science think tank, the workshop provided emerging museum professionals a space to dive into museum research, develop new scholarship at the intersection of personal identity and museums, and receive guidance on how to publish their scholarly work. Kate Flinner, associate editor of Curator and Knology’s communications manager, explains the impetus for the program:

“The museum field is increasingly reflecting on power structures in debates on fair wagesfunding sourcescollecting practices, and more. Publishing museum scholarship is part of these conversations: Who gets to publish their ideas? Which museum topics are considered worthy of publishing? Whose perspectives are being left out?”

Open-Access for the Museum Field

Curator and its publisher John Wiley & Sons, Inc. are publishing the scholars’ work in seven open-access Virtual Issues. Three of these Virtual Issues are currently live, with the remaining editions to be published throughout 2020. To be notified of new releases, readers can sign up here. Here is an overview of all seven to get started:

  1. You Love Them, but You Don’t Know Them: Recognizing and Welcoming Lived Experiences” explores how museums have addressed the diverse social categories represented by their audiences. Read the issue.
  2. The Human Condition: Health, Wellness, and Emotional Connection in Museums” studies how the museum field has addressed illness, disability, death, and overall health through a variety of approaches. Read the issue.
  3. Defining the Museum: Struggling with a New Identity” shows that power and privilege have always influenced and continue to shape the museum sector’s image of itself. Read the issue.
  4. Encouraging Museum Participation Among African Americans” surveys the history of the relationship between museums and communities of color in the United States, particularly those identifying as Black and African American. Forthcoming.
  5. Welcome to the Museum: Reflecting on Representation and Inclusion in Museum Evaluation” examines how museums have embraced people with different identities (or not) in the last few decades and tracks the impacts of these actions on staffing and professional practice in museum evaluation. Forthcoming.
  6. The ‘Rich Gay’? Small Museums and Funding ‘Difficult’ History” compares the prevalence of LGBTQIA identities in the general public, and particularly in the museum workforce, with the lack of funding for exhibitions and programming around LGBTQIA topics in small museums. Forthcoming.
  7. It’s Not Just for the Children: On Engaging Culturally Diverse Families at Museums” reflects on how the museum field has historically prioritized white families in exhibit design and interpretation. The authors show that museums’ ability to work with all families will hinge not only on adopting specific techniques, but also on taking a new perspective on the rich variety of families. Forthcoming.

Writing Scholars with STEM Interests

Many of the 2020 Writing Scholars have an interest in STEM engagement, and four work at ASTC member institutions. Through the workshop, these scholars were able to reflect on research into STEM learning and STEM learning spaces, and the ways that existing work has addressed audiences’ identities. Read all the scholars’ full biographies here.

Pamela Maldonado (she, her, hers) works in the education department at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture at the University of Washington in Seattle. As the Burke Mobile Program Manager, she leads the outreach program that visits schools and communities across the state.

Nick Martinez (he, him, his) works at the intersection of museum education, youth and workforce development, and science at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. He focuses on managing museum internship experiences and engaging in science outreach to communities of color.

Michelle Mileham (she, her, hers) lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, working to bridge environmental education, free-choice learning, and conservation. She seeks to understand how people tell stories about and make meaning of their lives—and this drives her work in developing and facilitating education programs, drafting interpretive signs, and evaluating audiences.

Cecilia Nguyen (she, her, hers) is a senior exhibit developer at Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland, where she leads research and development for exhibitions and multimedia experiences. She works with content experts, museum visitors, youth, and community members to help shape exhibit experiences.

Sunewan Paneto (she, her, hers) works in research and evaluation at the Museum of Science, Boston. Currently, she explores the importance of emotions in museum learning experiences while learning about new affect-based technologies.

Brenda Salguero (she, her, hers) has dedicated her career to promoting equity, diversity, and increasing the representation of people of color in various fields. Currently she works for Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA), a statewide California program dedicated to increasing the representation of people of color in STEM fields.

More About the Writing Scholars Workshop

The 2020 Writing Scholars Workshop is funded in part by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services (grant #MG-50-18-0044-18) and is supported by Curator: The Museum Journal and its publisher John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Knology serves as the editorial office for Curator.

Kris Morrissey and John Fraser lead the project’s analysis of graduate-level research on personal identity in museums. Kris is a research fellow at Knology and John is the editor of Curator and founder and CEO of Knology. Kate leads the Writing Scholars Workshop.

Project advisors include:

Headshots courtesy of Knology. Lead photo by Susan Yin on Unsplash.

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