Monday, 16 April 2018




Your incoming Editors-in-Chief! Left: Kathleen Lew; Right: Amy Intrator.
Photo Courtesy of MUSSA.
Hello Musings readers! We are delighted to introduce ourselves as Musings’ incoming Editors-in-Chief for 2018/2019. That’s right, in Musings’ 5th year and approaching MMSt’s 50th anniversary you get two Editors. 

You may know us from our duo debut with the MUSSA Women and Leadership panel coverage. Amy was previously the Musings Administrator, and a Contributing Editor for the Greatest Hits and Beyond Tradition columns. Kathleen was a Contributing Editor for the She’s My Muse column. We have both immensely enjoyed writing about museums this past year, and we cannot wait to further our involvement on the blog as Editors-in-Chief. Writing for Musings has been a highlight of our MMSt experience thus far, and this is an incredible opportunity to lead the blog that has brought us so many wonderful memories.

We love engaging in dialogue about museums and Musings is an outstanding digital platform to explore writing and social media engagement. We hope to continue to evolve the Musings platform with our own ideas and goals over our term as Editors. 

Outgoing Editor-in-Chief Serena Ypelaar (Center) passes the throne to Kathleen Lew (Left) and Amy Intrator (Right)!
Photo Courtesy of Aurora Cacioppo.
We would like to thank our outgoing Editor-in-Chief, Serena Ypelaar, for her exceptional leadership and guidance throughout the last year. To say we have big shoes to fill would be an understatement! Serena fostered a sense of stability and community for all of the Musings Contributing Editors, and she also built Musings’ digital presence and community engagement. Musings has lost one of our greatest muses, but the museum world just gained a brilliant emerging professional. We can’t wait to see what you do next, Serena!

To the team of individuals Musings relies on: Professor Costis Dallas, for your guidance and support, iSchool faculty and students who read and share our work, and our phenomenal team of Contributing Editors, both first and second years – thank you. Musings wouldn’t be able to publish thought-provoking, dialogue-starting work without you!

To the graduating class, best of luck in future endeavors! Our first-year of the Museum Studies program was shaped by our excellent friends and colleagues in their second year of the program. We have no doubt that the graduating class will make their mark on the museum world, especially after attending some of the fantastic student exhibitions openings!

Finally, thank you to every one of our readers. Musings depends on the dialogue and support of our readers worldwide, and we hope you will all join Musings on our next journey!

Musings will be on a brief hiatus for the rest of April, but starting in May we will return with exciting new content! If you’re interested in the museum internships our students are completing across the country, stay tuned for Internship Check-In. If you’re an incoming Museum Studies student… welcome! Our Grad School Guide column will provide you with some tips and tricks for hacking your first year of the program.

During our brief intermission, keep an eye of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for all your Musings updates, and if you’re really fearing two Musing-less weeks, catch up on a year of phenomenal Musings content! See you all in May!

Friday, 13 April 2018




Well, this is it ... this week our #MMSt2018 cohort finished our coursework for the Master of Museum Studies! I'm so proud of my colleagues for all the amazing things we've accomplished together these last two years!

Of course, graduating from the iSchool means leaving the position of Editor-in-Chief. It's been a whirlwind year of growth, learning, and community, and I'm having a hard time writing this post as I know it will be my last for Musings.

I really, really don't! Source.
Having had the privilege of being your Editor-in-Chief this past year, I want to express how grateful I am for this invigorating role. Every week brought a new challenge, but I can readily say that each one taught me so much about leadership, the museum world, and the importance of working together to make good things happen.

Some of the lovely Musings team members at the Holiday Party!
From left (r): Emily Welsh, Julia Zungri, Kristen McLaughlin, Katlyn Wooder, Kathleen Lew, Amy Intrator;
(f): Jennifer Lee, Leore Zecharia, Sadie MacDonald, and yours truly. Photo courtesy of Serena Ypelaar.

When I stepped into the Editor-in-Chief position last April, I sought to enrich our digital presence through social media and facilitate more inclusive conversations by tackling challenging and underrepresented topics. We looked at how we commemorate individuals and events, especially difficult legacies. We looked at environmental sustainability and the future of museums. How can - and more importantly, how should - we do things differently?

We have the power to change the direction of museums and public dialogue through our work. Source.
There are so many directions we can take museums, as long as we don't overlook the possibilities. This week I've been listening to Hamilton band Arkells' new political anthem, "People's Champ", and I realized the lyrics sum up some of the themes we've tried to confront this year on the blog: You've got no vision for the long run / You've got no sense of history / You've got the world at your fingertips ... I'm looking for the people's champ! 

It hit me: museums can be the "people's champ".

We've learned that museums aren't neutral spaces. If we look back at what they've done in the past, what they're doing now, and what we can do going forward (which we've examined in our program and on this blog), we can actively initiate a more inclusive future in which museums truly serve their diverse and rich communities.

Talking about digital relevance with the Musings Panel at the 2018 iSchool Conference! Photos courtesy of Kathleen Vahey & Nicholas Ypelaar.
With their ideas, conviction, and professionalism, Musings' Contributing Editors have consistently impressed me from day one. I'm so grateful to have worked with such fantastic writers. Thank you all for the excellent content you've produced and for the discussions you've generated. It was a dream come true working with you and I can't wait to see what you do next!

A special thank you to Musings Administrator Amy Intrator for your positive attitude, enthusiasm and dedication. You're amazing and I couldn't have done any of this without you! Amy will join fellow writer Kathleen Lew to lead the blog as Co-Editors. Congratulations to you both! You are assets to the team and I know Musings is in good hands.

The wonderful Contributing Editors found me the perfect card...
Photo courtesy of Serena Ypelaar.
To our Museum Studies professors in the Faculty of Information - thank you for all your positive encouragement and support. We've learned so much from you, and your wisdom has helped us make the blog a thoughtful and engaging professional platform for museum-related discussion.

Best of luck to all my colleagues who are graduating this year, as well as those about to embark on their summer internships! I've loved being a part of the MMSt community and I know everyone will do great things.

Finally, to you, the readers - thank you for reading and for joining the conversation! The Musings community thrives thanks to you. Even though I'm leaving now, I can't wait to visit the blog in the future and see what Musings talks about next.

I had to, okay? Source.

Thursday, 12 April 2018




Welcome to this season's final edition of Alumni Check-In! I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight five of our alumni whose job titles represent positions which may be unique or often overlooked by those considering what they may like to do with their own MMSt degrees. Where can our degree take us?


1. Registrar and Project Organizer, Archaeological Excavation

Alum: Kapua Iao
MMSt: 2010
Employer: Gournia Excavation Project

Since 2010, Kapua has worked as Registrar and Project Organizer for the Gournia Excavation Project. The Gournia Excavation Project by the University at Buffalo in New York studies the Late Bronze Age Minoan site present at Gournia, Crete. Kapua's responsibilities include organizing the project's personnel, budget and resources; creating collections procedures (accessioning, cataloging, handling); supervising and instructing summer collections volunteers; building and maintaining the databases; and acting as liaison to scholars and the public.

2. Heritage Information Analyst

Alum: Heather Dunn
MMSt: 1995
Employer: Canadian Heritage Information Network

Since 1996, Heather has worked with the Canadian Heritage Information Network under the title of Heritage Information Analyst. In this role, Heather has had the opportunity to work on a variety of interesting projects including working as co-editor on the Nomenclature 4.0 Museum Classification System and leading national working groups assessing, developing and implementing documentation standards for museum collections. Heather's work with metadata, taxonomies and open data projects is contributing to the interchange of museum information. 

3. Development Officer, Annual Giving

Alum: Meaghan Duffy
MMSt: 2009
Employer: Toronto Symphony Orchestra  

Since 2017, Meaghan has been employed in the Development & Donor Relations Department at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Previously, Meaghan worked as Development and Marketing Administrative Assistant & Direct Response Coordinator at the Canadian Cancer Society.

It is important to remember that with your MMSt degree you are not bound to careers in strictly defined heritage organizations! Your skills are valuable to many organizations and you should follow your heart to where you best fit in!

Remember to think outside of the box and always follow your heart. Source.

4. Service Design Lead

Alum: Stephanie Nemcsok
MMSt: 2008
Employer: Calgary Public Library 

Since 2016, Stephanie has been employed as one of the Calgary Public Library's Service Design Leads. The Calgary Public Library describes their responsibilities as follows:
"Service Design Leads design, develop and evaluate a range of system-wide Library programs and services in the following key areas: civic and digital literacy, early literacy, and services for Indigenous communities, newcomers, children, teens, and readers."
If you would like to learn more about this job's role in the shifting vision of the library, you can check out this expired job posting.

5. President and CEO

Alum: Shelley Falconer 
MMSt: 1994
Employer: Art Gallery of Hamilton 

Shelley has been the President and CEO of the Art Gallery of Hamilton since November 2014. After graduating from the MMSt program in 1994, Shelley's career has moved through a variety of positions including Director of Exhibitions and Programs at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Adjunct Faculty at the University of Toronto, and CEO of Cultural Asset Management Group.

Don't limit yourself in your hopes and dreams for your career after receiving a MMSt degree! If upper management is your dream, or if you have another dream position, aim for it and set yourself up for success. Never stop believing!

"Don't let your dreams be dreams." Source.

 If you are interested in learning more about where the MMSt degree has taken our alumni, check out this interactive map which pinpoints alumni we have discovered around the globe.

The interactive alumni map was created by this column's creator, Kate Seally.

Best of luck with all of your own career aspirations!

Wednesday, 11 April 2018




 Wow this video's dramatic music and special effects are going are going to be hard to live up to.

At the end of winter I can't help but think of next year, and one of the things that I don't expect to find in a profession that historically has been about history is a Museum of the Future. In 2019, this 200 million pound museum will open in Dubai. The futuristic focus of the musuem's collection will be on invention. They are set to emphasize the trends of tomorrow rather than inform people of the past. They are also going one step further in their museum programming, in that they are planning to offer support, so that people can realize their ideas. This museum is set to be a place of international change.

The act of hosting a site where the best of international invention can be seen, and ideas shared, is not a new innovation. World expositions have been happening since 1851 in London. The 1855 Paris expo showcased the architectural marvel of the Eiffel Tower, the first ever building whose parts were constructed elsewhere and assembled on location. Canada itself has hosted world expos in Montreal 67 and Vancouver 86. But the expo is a festival, something that comes together and disperses after it's done. The Museum of the Future is interesting in that it has built itself a single, stationary location, and proposes that it won't stagnate.

I can't help but wonder how they are going to collect their collection, and disperse their collections when they are no longer innovative. Is this museum going to emulate some modern art galleries. Who have no permanent collection, instead choosing to showcase exhibits where the artifacts come from multiple points of origin? What does a futuristic collection look like? How are they going to curate it? Will they be experimental in their museum practices or will the use conventional museology practice to situate the unfamiliar in a familiar setting?

I can't wait to see how this museum of the future uses technology in new ways. Hopefully one of the applications is a database or web design that makes this museum - which exists on a different continent - accessible for us here in North America.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018




There is one thing that writing this column over the last year has made me realize: that in this field, people have the tendency to get comfortable. Comfortable in our knowledges, comfortable in our practices, and comfortable in our circles, whether it is Southern Ontario, West Coast, or East Coast. Whether it is America, Canada, the UK, or Australia.

In writing this column and wanting to have varied topics for each new post, I learned about so many stories going on around the world that are pertinent, useful, and humbling, to our experiences working in Canada. I have written about how nations deal with memorializing traumatic pasts in Eastern Europe and had friends bring forth recent and touching related family stories. I have discovered the powerful stories of women at work in museums in Australia and the intriguing trends of new museums around the world that we should be paying attention to.

I am passionate about the idea of museums as political players on a global scale, as sites of international relations, and got to write and research about that. I've learned so much more about the current tensions in the Philippines and how corrupt governments lead to interesting (and often incorrect) museum creations and the severe obstacles that museums in India face that can be easily related to small museums in our own country and continent. I learned about what it means to keep or erase memory through the lens of the horrific history of comfort women in Japan and the exciting local community heritage preservation work being done in Peru.

For example, go visit a heritage site or museum in a different country! Here's 19-year-old me, 
taking a bad selfie at Angkor in Cambodia. 

This alone is so much, and yet, barely anything at all. Museums, heritage practitioners, legislators, and visitors all across this world are doing interesting and amazing things in this field. There is also a lot of trauma, erasure, frustration, and obstacles that are valuable to learn about and appreciate, and can put your own experiences into perspective.

I like to learn. I think many people do--human curiosity is a trait we all possess. It is this curiosity that leads to exciting new steps in fields, to new discoveries, to paving the way and making a better world for all of us. The optimistic part of me has to believe that. So to sit back and get comfortable in our museum desk chairs, concerned only with what is happening in our vicinity, may not always be in our best interest. Local focus has its purpose and its need; this I will not deny.

However, by taking two steps out of our worlds and into someone else's--reading their stories, understanding their government museum structure, or hearing about what amazing work is being done by them--can inspire us, reinvigorate us, and give us new goals, directions, and ideas. I am a firm believer in this concept. Nothing beautiful or new or world-changing happens in isolation.

Our big/little world. Source.

So as I graduate this program and leave this column behind, I ask my readers to do this: take a step out of your world. Go apply for a job or an internship abroad. Volunteer at an international heritage or art organization. Go read a different country's heritage laws, just for kicks. Learn. Grow. And take what you learn and apply it to all your future endeavours. After all, we are not so far apart from each other in today's world.

Monday, 9 April 2018




Delectable readers, our time has come: this is my last Musings article. Thank you for joining me at the table this year as I explored food in and out of museums and libraries. As my colleagues and I leave the iSchool and get ready to move up to the grown-ups’ table, I’d like to propose a toast. While I have your attention, and while our champagne flutes, wine glasses, and teacups are raised, perhaps we can use this last column to ponder an area of food history that I’ve neglected a little: the history and politics of drink.

I hope that I’ve managed to convince you in this column that food is political. What we eat (and what we don’t eat), when and how we eat it, how we talk about it, and who gets invited to sit at the table are not random happenstance, but the end results of historical processes that have been working for decades, centuries, or even millennia. Of course, drinks are political for the same reasons. What we serve, where it comes from, and who is drinking are all worth thinking, talking, and museum-ing about, because they tell us a lot about ourselves.

What is a museum for, if not to tell us about ourselves?

W.D. Cooper's engraving of the Boston Tea Party demonstrates how political a drink can be. Source. 

 I propose three ideas to bring drink history into the museum in ways that matter now and will matter more and more in the future. Gentle reader, let us slake the public’s thirst for knowledge together.

1. Make your narratives inclusive

Everyone needs to drink something, and all kinds of people have been involved in making and serving drinks. We’ve already talked about the work that Teresa McCulla is doing at the Smithsonian to diversify the history of early American beer brewing, bringing to light the role of women, enslaved people, and immigrants. When we research and talk about members of historically disenfranchised groups and their work, we emphasise their agency and make the stories we tell more interesting, more diverse, and more true to historical fact.

Abolition Teapot, by Josiah Wedgwood & Sons, c. 1760. Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Source. 

2. Find the politics in the everyday object

I’ve told everyone I know about this incredible article in Lapham’s Quarterly. Patricia A. Matthew writes about the late 18th-century consumer movement to boycott sugar from slave plantations. In the material record, this manifested as teapots and drinking utensils with snappy anti-slavery slogans, which allowed British women to organize around a political cause when they were not permitted to vote. Although we tend to think of teapots as the most domestic and innocuous of objects, their use speaks to complex issues of gender, colonialism, class, and globalization. Spin out the meanings of everyday objects, and you will often find that they have been more controversial than you think.

3. Make a political statement.

Indigenous water protectors protest the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock, ND; oil pipelines endanger drinking water and coastlines in addition to violating treaties. Source. 

It is not an accident that the communities without access to safe drinking water are disproportionately poor and non-white. In Canada, 107 First Nations reserves were affected by boil-water advisories at the end of last year. In the United States, citizens and water protectors are still fighting for access and regulation, and against fracking and pipelines, in communities like Standing Rock and Flint. Governments, regulatory bodies, and corporations have failed these communities. In a few decades we may all be in their position, with our access to fresh water jeopardized by government mismanagement and corporate interests.

Museums must work toward water justice – for disenfranchised communities now and for everyone in posterity. There are many ways to do this: through advocacy, ensuring that organizations obtain and sell water in ethical ways (Nestle’s water operation in Michigan, for example, violates a treaty which protects the land for Grand Traverse Band and Saginaw Chippewa tribal use), and, of course, through the interpretation of art and objects.

Ruth Cuthand's Don’t Breathe, Don’t Drink highlights the First Nations water crisis in Canada. 2016. Source.
The AGO’s acquisition and display of Ruth Cuthand’s arresting piece Don’t Breathe, Don’t Drink drew attention to the water crisis on reservations across Canada. Unless we resolve the inequalities that persist around access to safe drinking water, drawing attention to water justice and empowering visitors to act will only become more important in the future. While some necessary action, including divesting from fossil fuels and selling ethically-obtained water, represent big changes for museums, mindful acquisition and display of objects which speak to inequality is not only a possibility but a duty.

Cheers, santé, and prost, Musings readers! This is my final Musings column; it’s been a pleasure to connect with you and with my wonderful fellow columnists this year. Stay hungry, thirst after knowledge, and feed your souls. I’ll see you around the table.

Friday, 6 April 2018




Hi, Musings readers! This is my penultimate post for the blog (!!!). Reflecting on my MMSt journey and all that I've learned about what museums were, what they are, and where they are going, I wanted to take this final Walk of Fame back to one of the earlier iterations of museums: The Great Exhibition.

The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations was an international exhibition organized by Prince Albert, prince consort of Queen Victoria, and Henry Cole. Their intention was to showcase British imperial prosperity and the might of the Industrial Revolution by exhibiting manufactured goods. Exhibitions comprised the display of raw materials and their manufactured counterparts, which of course included resources and products from overseas. The Great Exhibition was housed in the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, built specifically for the event. It took place between May 1st and October 15th, 1851.

Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, from Dickinson's Comprehensive Images of the Great Exhibition of 1851. Source.
At this point you may be wondering, "why are you using your final post to talk about two Victorian white men who created the Great Exhibition?"

In short, I'd like to use the Great Exhibition to explore the colonial origins of museums. How can we respond to these early conventions to operate modern museums that serve their diverse and multicultural communities, especially in a place like Canada? The two individuals below represent members of a hierarchical society that don't necessarily make up the visitor population today, but their work can inform what we do.

Henry Cole
Henry Cole.

An inventor and British civil servant, Henry Cole (1808-1882) sought support for the exhibitions through his involvement with the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce (RSA). He was dedicated to improving the standards of industrial design, and ultimately secured Prince Albert's patronage for exhibitions on art manufactures between 1847 and 1849.

After visiting the 11th Quinquennial Paris Exhibition in 1849, Cole aspired to expand the RSA's planned exhibitions for 1850 and 1851 to international participants, so in 1850 he obtained Queen Victoria's backing to establish the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851.

Cole's dedication to artistic and scientific pursuits led to his creation of what's considered the first commercial Christmas card, in 1843. He was adamant that the Great Exhibition's profits be allocated to the purchase of land for the South Kensington Museum, of which Cole was the first director. Established in 1852, the museum is now the Victoria & Albert Museum, and has a Henry Cole wing.

Prince Albert 

Prince Albert, c. 1848. Source.
Prince Albert (1819-1861)'s role in the Great Exhibition reflects his class in relation to Cole; while Cole and the RSA were the mobilizing force behind the Exhibition, the Prince Consort was enthusiastic in his support of it.

Prince Albert was lauded as the mastermind of the Exhibition, and his vision resulted in the profit of the showcase, bringing in £186,000. It was by Prince Albert's decree that the funds be used to “increase the means of industrial education and extend the influence of science and art upon productive industry”, ultimately contributing to the creation of what is now known as the V&A.

Beyond the Royal Family, who visited the Exhibition three times, prominent Britons at the time also made appearances, such as Charles Darwin, Charlotte Brontë, Lewis Carroll, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Though other individuals such as Karl Marx disapproved of the Exhibition for sensationalizing capitalism, six million people visited in total.

What does remembering the Great Exhibition mean for us today?

Countries from the world could exhibit their industrial accomplishments, but the Great Exhibition was primarily intended to prove British superiority. As a colonial engine, therefore, the Exhibition is an example of how museums and their exhibitions can perpetuate a hegemonic agenda.

Nevertheless, we don't have to resign ourselves to this prospect. Rather, we know that through conscious and responsible interpretation we can subvert and overturn these notions of superiority - whether by class, race, gender, sexual orientation, or culture - and aspire to capture empathetic responses to the human experience.

Rather than exhibiting differences in a way that creates hierarchies, we can celebrate those differences and learn from them with a positive vision. That's my hope for the general direction of museums today, and in the future - but as museum professionals we're responsible to go beyond hope and create change through action.

Thank you all for coming on this Walk of Fame with me all term. Going forward, I hope we don't simply dismiss the past as something irrelevant to us, but instead examine it in a way that serves our commitment to progress today.