Rethinking Museums: An Interdisciplinary Academic Conference was held May 3-4, 2007 at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Rethinking Museums 2007 was generously sponsored by the Museology Graduate Program, the Learning for Leadership Council, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Henry Art Gallery, and the Burke Museum of Natural History at the University of Washington.

Information about Rethinking Museums: An Academic Interdisciplinary Conference:

Call for Submissions

The Call for Submissions has closed. Please stay tuned for next year!

Museums in the Seattle area are currently experiencing both rapid change and phenomenal growth. Nationally, museum attendance exceeds that of professional sporting events; museums are constantly being founded, remodeled, and restructured. What are the issues involved in the explosive growth, increased professionalisation, and changing expectations of our cultural institutions? We invite undergraduate and graduate students, university faculty, and museum professionals to submit papers or workshop proposals related to museological topics. Potential topics include rapidly evolving technologies, increasingly diverse communities, attracting new audiences, and new demands in collections care, conservation, interpretation, and exhibition.

The museum field is inherently interdisciplinary. Possible areas of research may come from disciplines within the social sciences or humanities and include work from:

  • museology
  • anthropology
  • art history
  • architecture
  • urban planning
  • public affairs
  • communications
  • sociology
  • American Indian studies
  • international and cultural studies
  • library and information science
  • history
  • law
  • education

We welcome a variety of perspectives on the present, past, and future of museums.


Submissions will be accepted until March 26, 2007. Please include your name, department, email, paper title, and an abstract of 150-250 words. You may submit electronically or send a hard copy with the required information to:

Molly Dalessandro
Museology Graduate Program
Burke Museum Box 353010
Seattle, WA 98195

Papers will be published and distributed at the conference. A complete version of selected papers must be available by April 27, 2007 (Limit 20 pages).

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Conference Proceedings

Conference Proceedings are still available for purchase! Please download the order form.

Abstracts Accepted for Presentation

Re-Envisioning Collections at the Frye
Morgan Bell, Ingrid Haftel, Erin Langner, Geoffrey Nunn
Art History, Comparative History of Ideas, Museology
University of Washington

Revised Mission Statement:
Through its exhibitions, collections, and programs, the Frye Art Museum engages audiences, challenges perceptions, and provokes dialogue about the question of representation in art, past and present.

Composed of Museology, Art History, and Comparative History of Ideas graduate and undergraduate students from the University of Washington, our research group participated in a "Think-Tank" at the Frye Art Museum, and engaged in a variety of analytical strategies involving the re-thinking of museum collections at the Frye. As a museum of "representation," we address the various problems resulting from the use of such terminology, as well as propose thematic categories for the organization of collections, and guidelines for future accessioning and deaccessioning policies. With the intent of being as bold and progressive as possible, this paper reflects our re-envisioning of the Frye in terms of the question of "representation," and takes special care to situate the institution within a contemporary framework.

Topics of relevance include the ways in which the Frye's founding collection of 19th and 20th century German paintings can maintain a resonance with a constantly changing and diverse community. In order to achieve this goal, an enhanced dialogue between works from the past and present is proposed through the juxtaposing of works in the Frye's collection with traveling, loaned, or commissioned works. Inevitably, such strategies bridge the gap between historic and contemporary social and artistic climates. In turn, this approach provides myriad possibilities for revitalizing interpretations of existing works, as well as new and innovative exhibition techniques.

Kira Randolph
Natasha Crider
Melissa Andrada

Imagine reorganizing an idiosyncratic collection of 19th and 20th century oil paintings according to thematic structure rather than traditional categories? Or, envision an exhibition for the Frye Art Museum galleries that would facilitate connections between the collections and contemporary art, opening a dialogue between past and present that enriches our understanding of both. Propose major deaccessions while maintaining the Frye as a donor memorial to its benefactors Charles and Emma Frye. Define the slippery term "representational art," found in the Frye's mission, in a manner that would make it function well as an integral concept within a future collection management policy.

These were some of the challenges issued by the Frye's chief curator Robin Held and art historian Kolya Rice to our think-tank course Re-thinking Museum Collections for the 21st Century. Three course participants, two graduate students in the University of Washington Museology program and one in the Comparative History of Ideas program, will present their responses to these challenges, as well as the insights they gained through their participation in the course.

Theory in Practice: Making an Active Connection Between Academic Theory and Practice in Science Centers
Julia E. Berger
Graduate Student
Cognitive Studies - College of Education
University of Washington

This paper is designed to be a useful tool for new and seasoned museum educators in science centers. In this examination of museum educators' practices, connections between research and current practice are made, and new connections are proposed.

Museum educators are a specialized population. They work with thousands of unique learners annually, in venues across the country and around the world. In recent years, much research has been conducted in museums on individuals, families, schoolchildren, and their teachers. This research has focused on questions pertaining to short and long term learning, as well as whether or not their experiences lead to increased enthusiasm in science, math, and technology. However, little research has been conducted on the practice of the museum educators themselves (Tran, 2006). This study is an initial attempt to bridge this gap. An analysis of the data, collected from 71 museum educators responding to an online survey, reveals connections between what goes on inside a museum, and pedagogical methods and tools described in current research in educational psychology.

Initial findings reveal a marked similarity in the way museum educators in science center settings approach their jobs. Their efforts appear to intuitively reflect goals and recommendations set by research in educational psychology, including areas of metacognition, framing, transfer, and a deliberate use of discourse. Recognizing that a lasting cognitive impact for specific facts is unlikely, educators focus on longer-term objectives related to motivation and future learning opportunities.

Constructing Connections: Why Museums Should Blog
Lynn A. Bethke
Master's Candidate
Museology Graduate Program
University of Washington

Museums are blogging. More than 50 museum blogs have come into existence since the spring of 2005, and more are appearing every month. But what little contemporary literature exists on museums and blogs focuses primarily on how museums can start up blogs and drive traffic to them. Museological literature suffers from a distinct lack of discussion attempting to ground blogging (or other Web 2.0 practices) in applicable theory.

This paper begins that conversation by answering the question of why museums should blog through employing theories from three related disciplines. Communication, education, and public relations are necessary components of museum work and can be applied to any discussion of organizational blogging. All three areas have undergone a transformation in the last half century from one sided and distant to cooperative and interactive in their general and museological applications. This transformation makes their current application to museum blogging practice especially apt as blogging is inherently interactive and cooperative. This paper hopes that an examination of applicable theory will not only provide a thoughtful basis for museum blogging, but will also offer insight into the most effective avenues for practice.

Museums as Sites for Cultural Revitalization in Urban Indian Communities
Deana Dartt-Newton
Graduate Student
Anthropology/Museum Studies
University of Oregon

In recent years tribal museums have revolutionized traditional museum use. These institutions are often at the center of cultural revitalization efforts by rural, land-based tribes. Tribal museums provide a place where the public can glimpse Native history and culture, but more importantly for tribal members, they are places that house sacred community objects, archives and ancient items, and provide language and other preservation programs. These centers have proven a vital tool for hundreds of tribal communities. My research in urban Indian communities has revealed an urgent need for these same services. Unfortunately, in places like Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and San Francisco the local Indian people are primarily landless, disenfranchised tribes that lack the resources to establish a community museum or cultural center. In these same urban centers museums are often at a disadvantage when trying to find Indian people to consult about exhibits and school programs and become frustrated at the seeming invisibility of local Indian people.

In this paper I propose ways that history and art museums in urban centers may begin to take a more pro-active role in collaborating and designing public programs to serve preservation and revitalization efforts crucial to cultural survival in urban Indian communities. My experience shows that this is a winning proposition for all involved, providing museums with needed cultural information to bring exhibits and programming to life, while fulfilling their responsibility to the communities they represent.

The Many Voices of the Burke Museum : Showing Institutional Personality through Web 2.0 Technologies
Rebecca Durkin
Public Relations Assistant
Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture
University of Washington

With Web 2.0 technologies becoming increasingly popular in the past five years, museums across the globe have tackled the trend, with varying success, in many ways: from posting exhibit photos on Flickr to creating accounts with The Burke Museum seized the opportunity to involve community voices and provide user control to museum programming by establishing blog and podcast programs in June 2006. In trying to create an outlet for community voices, the Burke discovered its desire to shed its "institutional voice" and provide a platform for the many personal voices found within the Museum.

As part of the Museums and Technology panel, I will discuss the Burke Museum 's Web 2.0 initiatives in the context of the Burke's strategic plan. Starting with the origins of the Burke's blog and podcasts, I will explore how these programs developed as tools for public relations, education, and outreach, how they are maintained and evaluated (including an assessment of resources and challenges), and what impact they could have on the Burke Museum and the museum industry as a whole.

Digitization and the Web: Empowering and engaging public audiences
David Giblin
Herbarium Collections Manager
Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture
University of Washington

The emergence over the last decade of rapid digitization technologies and Web-based applications for sharing data has revolutionized access to and public appreciation of musuem collections. The Burke Museum has databased and provides online access to over 275,000 of its biological specimens through collections-based search pages and international data portals. Additionally, we continue to develop online resources such as image galleries and species checklists whose content is built in part by public input. Digitization allows public audiences to interact with collections in novel and dynamic ways, and providing opportunities for public audiences to assist in the construction of online resources expands the ways in which museums serve their communities.

This talk will provide an overview of the Burke's current online resources for its natural history collections, as well as outline new directions that we are pursuing to maximize public access to our specimens and associated information. The technologies and approaches presented can be applied to a variety of collection types and therefore should be of interest to a wide range of museum professionals.

Modalities of Exhibits
Mary Erin Gillingham
Undergraduate Student, Museum Studies

Once valued as only a curiosity, the modern museum has a vision of an educational value. The museum no longer is simply a gatekeeper of the cultural knowledge they treasure for our nation; today a museum is a vessel of education. Exhibit design can enhance the understanding the visitor is experiencing. Today there is a need to make exhibits instilled with an experience the visitor carries with them, outside of the museum and transfers into the realm of their "outside" life. Exhibits cater to objects, words, images, sounds, touch, smell, and body movements. The design aspect or the ‘physical context' of museum exhibits needs the modalities of sensory input as available in the rest of our technologically advanced society.

This paper describes my research into modern day museum practices and the conventions they employ to serve special needs visitors at their museum. A multi-sensory exhibit can capture the attention and deliver information in a multitude of modalities. Both old and new technology can easily provide vehicles of museum learning. These simple modalities align with learning theories and the special needs of sensory impaired visitors. Stimulating presentations of ideas can influence an individual's museum experience, as the future will bring more visitors that have special needs or visitors that simply appreciate the different dimensions of communication the museum of the future will present.

Museums as social practice: From Brazil to the United States
Margaret Griesse
Museum Professional

Museological theory and practice have gone through considerable transformation in Brazil. Initially, museums were used to solidify the official history of the elite and impose a univocal conception of national identity. After the end of militarism, museums became defined as "social practices at the service of society and its development dedicated to participative democracy" (DEMU/IPHAN/Minc, 2004). This turn has given rise to creative attempts to reach out to groups that traditionally have not been given exposure. This paper describes how the Historical Museum at the Martha Watts Cultural Center (MWCC) in Piracicaba, Brazil experienced this transformation. The museum was originally designed to showcase the official history of a school and university in Brazil founded by Martha Watts, a Methodist missionary who immigrated from the United States to Brazil in 1881. However, with continued research the museum established contact with a group of descendents of confederate immigrants who left the United States and settled in Brazil in 1865 after the Civil War. The research on the meanings associated with the immigration and settlement of confederates in Brazil, considerations of race relations, identity development, the Civil War, the use of the Confederate flag, etc., resulted in the collection of oral histories, documents and objects, the organization of exhibits and the production of an original bi-lingual theatrical performance about this theme which toured the United States. This case demonstrates how the museum's interactions with local groups can enrich historical understanding on a local and international level.

Signs of Life in Museums: Understanding the Potential of Podcasts
Erin Langner
Master's Candidate
Museology Graduate Program
University of Washington

Podcasting is an unprecedented technology that was introduced to museums by members of the public. Considering how these institutions were initially built upon associations with elitism and an authoritarian approach to knowledge, the way this medium was first used in a museum by a group of students demonstrates its potential as a means for rethinking communication with the public. In 1998, the American Association of Museums challenged organizations to look outward and more actively engage the people they are intended to serve, through the Museums and Community Initiative. Although almost ten years have passed since then, museums continue to search for feasible solutions for this call to action. As a communication medium with the potential to reach a public shaped by the digital age, podcasting presents an opportunity to explore a new venue for community engagement. Incorporating this innovation into their practices can be considered by all organizations, regardless of size, budget, and technical knowledge. Essential to implementing this technology is understanding both the role podcasting can play in museums' relationships with their communities, as well as how different museum podcasts are being executed. This paper will explore these ideas through an analysis of podcasting as a tool for community engagement, through an examination of the Henry Art Gallery's ArtCast program, and through the findings of a national survey of museums using this technology.

The challenge of scientific objects: a report from the "Wandering Seminar"
Anna K. Maerker
Post-doctoral student
History of Science

In 2006 the German Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, together with a number of academic departments and museums in Europe and the U.S., launched a new form of event, the "Wandering Seminar", as part of its international research network "The History of Scientific Objects". 15 participants from different professional and disciplinary backgrounds – curators, academics, and technicians; historians of science, art historians, and artists – visited European museums and collections of scientific instruments, from large institutions such as the Science Museum in London to small university collections such as the Pisa Museum of Natural History. I propose to give an account of this enterprise from my perspective as a participant with a background in the history of scientific collections and an ongoing interest in exhibition projects. In particular, I discuss the challenges which are specific to the collection and display of _scientific_ objects. Time permitting, I use examples from our own current exhibition project at the Institute ("Objects in transition").

Rethinking History Exhibitions for Kids
D. Lynn McRainey and John Russick
Chicago History Museum
Chicago, Illinois

In preparation to mark its 150th anniversary, the Chicago History Museum (formerly the Chicago Historical Society) sought to invite a new audience to discover their relationship with history. The museum developed, designed and installed a new interactive history gallery for families. The exhibit opened on September 30, 2006 and was designed primarily to appeal to and communicate effectively with eight- and nine-year-old children. Since families are a new audience for the museum's exhibition program, the team devised and implemented an audience-focused process for this project that departed from the museum's traditional exhibit development path.

By choosing to foreground audience, the exhibition process was informed by parallel tracks of audience research that broadened our understanding of how a collections-based history museum that traditionally caters to adult audiences can create meaningful and memorable experiences for children. This article focuses on how foregrounding audience through the exhibition development process led to a shared vision not only between the curator and educator, but among all team members and outside contractors throughout the project. It also demonstrates the myriad ways that understanding, observing, and interacting with a target audience can provide guidance to the team and increase the likelihood that the end product will meet project and institutional goals and expectations.

When Curators Educate
Tamara Moats
Curator of Education
Henry Art Gallery
University of Washington

Increasingly art museum educators are organizing exhibitions, bringing new perspectives and a stronger voice to curatorial practice. These projects go beyond traditional constructs of educational exhibitions and have created a new wave of approaches that combine both educational and curatorial concerns into an innovative hybrid. This session will focus on the benefits realized when curators and educators collaborate, for both the professionals involved and the visitor. Tamara Moats will summarize a collaboration on two related exhibitions, Shifting Ground and Landscape Dialogue, between her and former Henry Curator Rhonda Howard.

Rethinking Museum Studies for the 21st Century
Elizabeth Moyer
Master's Candidate
Museology Graduate Program
University of Washington

As the museum field continues to grow and professionalize, the role of graduate level work in museology and museum studies is becoming more important, yet most of the programs in existence are isolated from each other and most museum professionals. It is important to know not only what exists and what areas are currently emphasized in museum studies programs, but also for museum professionals to look at the system to determine if it fulfills its responsibility to the museum world.

In order to assess the current status of the museum studies field, I distributed two surveys to 51 universities which house a museum studies program. The first surveys asked programs about their enrollment and graduation rates, curriculum, and job placement rates. The other survey, which I asked the programs to forward to their alumni, asked the alumni about their museum training experience and to rank various areas of competency and the degree to which they felt their museum program addressed each area.

Through the analysis of the data collected in the national surveys, I intend to illuminate the current state of museum studies training in the United States. Currently, the confused state of museum training in the United States hinders attempts to further professionalize the field and must be clarified before we can move forward to the next level, whether that next level is accreditation of museum training programs, a Ph.D. in Museology, or simply a more codified national organization of graduate level museum programs.

Panel Discussion: Native American Representations in the Museum
"Getting it? ' : Museum Visitor Experiences and Understandings of Contemporary Native Art Displays"
Dolma Roder
Graduate Student
Museum Anthropology
Arizona State University

This paper examines visitor experiences and understandings of an exhibit by a contemporary Native American artist at a Southwest museum concerned with preserving and presenting Native cultures and arts. The findings are based on ethnographic research methods, including semi-structured interviews with 44 visitors. The intention of this paper is to explore the ways in which interactions with a museum's institutional culture shaped visitors' experiences. Of particular interest is the finding that even visitors with superficial and limited knowledge about Native American art and life were willing and able to draw insightful conclusion about what the pieces might mean especially in regard to their contemporary nature. These findings seems to suggest 1) that visitors, given the opportunity, are capable of moving beyond stereotypes of Native cultures and arts as existing only in the past 2) that some institutional assumptions and expectations related to visitors may need to be rethought and finally 3) that ethnographic research methods have the potential to undercover more nuanced, complex visitors' understandings that other evaluative mechanism might overlook.

Native American Curators
Darsita Ryan
Graduate Student
Museum Anthropology
Arizona State University

Native American representation, interpretation, self-determination, and determining whose voice should be heard are issues that museums contend with on a daily basis, given the strained relationship between museums and Native Americans. Increasingly more Native Americans are being trained, educated, employed, and included in museums operations today. This has transformed Native Americans from a position of "the other" to an equal and crucial counterpart of the infrastructure of the museum. Native and non-native participants from the United States and Canada addressed their contributions made to the field of museology during a symposium entitled Museums and Native American Knowledges in which I co-chaired a session entitled Native Curation. In this paper I will further discuss Native Curation, as it provides an avenue to show the new methodologies and current concerns and issues that Native American curators have in mainstream museums. I will examine how three Native American curators are changing exhibitions and museum ideologies, and the contributions Native American communities make when involved in the creation of an exhibit.

The Power of Voice: Indigenous Communities and Museums
Amy Scott-Williams
Graduate Student
Museum Anthropology
Arizona State University

In this paper I will discuss issues of Indigenous community voice within museums today. While I will unavoidably acknowledge the history of museums with indigenous people, as it has affected the current state of museums, I will focus on the present situation of this relationship between the indigenous people of North America and the museum institution, especially as Native Americans have struggled to gain a voice of authority within this institution. Many tribes have used the tactic of forming their own tribal museums as a means to gain the voice of authority over their cultural heritage. While tribal museums began under the traditional model, many have been finding their own way, taking on the community center or ecomuseum formats more, so that they may become living entities within their communities, growing and changing as the communities change. Perhaps the most noticeable difference of these museums, whatever the physical model, is the insistence on showing the continued life of the people – the things that have changed as well as the continuing traditions. In these ways, the museums not only preserve, they also promote and nurture the growth and continuation of their communities. While many still struggle with models and terminology, they have made tremendous leaps in regaining their authority and re-validating the knowledge of their communities.

The University Art Museum as a Catalyst for Interdisciplinary Collaboration
Barbara Rothermel
Faculty, Museum Professional

The university art museum can assert its role in the educational experience through collaboration between the university museum and diverse academic disciplines. This collaboration will broaden and deepen the academic experience for university students, and reaffirm the traditional expectations of the museum - investigation, inquiry, and intellectual challenge – by the university administration and faculty. To remain an indispensable component of the university's mission, the art museum must engage in interdisciplinary dialogue through which new meanings can be unveiled while respecting the integrity of the disciplines involved. Fundamental to the assertion is the question of whether colleges and universities need or aspire to collaboration across and between disciplines. I argue that interdisciplinary collaboration between the college and university's art museum and academic programs should be woven into the overall academic process. It is essential that the university art museum expand its horizons by using the collection, as well as exhibitions and programs, to make connections between - not limited to - specific disciplines. Museums generally focus specifically on the disciplines associated with their collections; faculty often find it difficult to move beyond their own disciplines and embrace the museum as a teaching resource. The college and university art museum and the various academic disciplines must move beyond this monologue approach and begin to participate in an interdisciplinary dialogue. It is through this dialogue and more formal, systematic approaches to museum-academic collaboration that students will develop as learners, and connect experiences and knowledge.

Folk collections and the reinterpretation of cultural identity
K. Linda Tzang
Graduate Student, Museum Professional
Assistant Curator, Provincial Museum of Alberta

As history museums reach out to culturally diverse communities, one seemingly natural course is to focus on immigration history which is generally presented as an extension of ‘pioneer history'. To introduce a cultural specificity to these immigration stories, museums draw on ‘folk' collections. As a result we are often faced with exhibits where embroidered shirts, patterned quilts, and other decorated objects are used as a shorthand to suggest the ‘old world' in contrast to the ‘new world'.

These images are highly evocative, visually arresting and draw on our nostalgia for a past where we believe cultural differences were simpler and clearly defined. And that is how it should be because this is what a folk collection is about. At the core of a folk collection is the idea that somehow, somewhere there was and is a ‘pure' expression of a culture which can be encapsulated within an object. This nineteenth century idea has largely been rejected and we have come to accept the idea that cultures have always and continue to be influenced by others but it this is not expressed in museums which draw on collections that were amassed under the idea of ‘folk'.

For museums to move forward, we need to acknowledge the limitations of folk collections and look beyond our established models to bring a new understanding and interpretation of these objects. Using the Folklife collection of the Royal Alberta Museum as an example, this paper will discuss this issue and explore new avenues of research.

Maritime Museums as Agents in Urban Waterfront Revitalization
Andrew T. Washburn
Collections Assistant
Dr. James W. Washington, Jr. and Janie Rogella Washington Foundation
Seattle, Washington

For forty years, municipalities around the world have engaged in efforts to revitalize their image by redesigning, rebuilding, and revitalizing former or current industrial waterfront sites for commercial or residential development. Due to the historical processes that shaped our cities, the redevelopment of the urban waterfront involves issues of public access and the preservation of cultural heritage. As a result, the process of urban waterfront revitalization often involves the creation or expansion of maritime museums.

In recent years the population and economic growth of the Pacific Northwest, and its urban areas, has brought the issue of waterfront redevelopment to the forefront. Formulation and implementation of waterfront revitalization plans stimulates many discussions of the role of maritime heritage and maritime museums in our region's future. This process is clearly visible at various stages of development in Tacoma, Seattle, Victoria and Vancouver, B.C.

This paper examines how the complex issue of waterfront revitalization creates opportunities, as well as obstacles for the planning, creation, and sustained operation of maritime museums. The paper illustrates how the politics and economics of urban waterfront revitalization affects the core functions of maritime museums, like collections, programs, fundraising, and management. Research for this paper was conducted over the course of 2006 through the examination of municipal and museum planning documents, first person interviews with content experts, and a review of urban planning and museum studies literature. The paper is an adaptation of a Master of Arts Thesis in Museum Studies submitted to the San Francisco State University.

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The State of Museums
Keynote Address by Carlos Tortolero
Carlos Tortolero is the Founder and President of the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago. The Museum was founded in 1982 and opened its doors in 1987. With a budget of approximately $5 and a half million, the National Museum of Mexican Art is the largest Latino arts institution in the nation. The Museum has become a national model for its exhibits, performances, arts education programs, advocacy of cultural equity issues, and as a model for how museums need to change in today's society. Tortolero has become one of the nation's leading critics of the failure of large museums to serve diverse communities and the need for these museums to return cultural treasures to their respective countries. Last year, over 160,000 individuals including over 1,500 school groups from throughout the Midwest, visited the Museum. The National Museum of Mexican Art is also the only Latino museum accredited by the American Association of Museums.

Sixteen exhibits organized by the Museum have traveled across the U.S., of which six have also traveled to Mexico. The Museum will be touring its landmark exhibition, The African Presence in Mexico for five years. This exhibition will be traveling to museums across the U.S. and to Mexico, including the world renown Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City in the fall of 2007. The Museum also organizes two annual festivals - The Sor Juana de la Cruz Festival: A Tribute to Mexican Women and Del Corazón: Mexican Performing Arts Festival. In March 2007, the Museum organized a Sor Juana Festival in Houston. The Museum has won numerous awards including the Institute of Museum Services' National Museum Award at a White House ceremony.

The Museum also has two nationally recognized youth initiatives located at another building in the community. This first initiative is Radio Arte WRTE-FM 90.5 FM, a youth operated station, which is the only Latino owned urban public radio station in the country. Radio Arte is a 2003 recipient of the White House's Coming Up Taller Award, which is given to national models for youth arts programs. The second youth initiative is the Yollocalli Youth Arts Reach, a program that provides arts training for youth.

From 1975-1987, Tortolero worked as a teacher, counselor, and administrator in the Chicago Public School System. Tortolero is the co-author of Mexican Chicago, a very well received photo history book of the Mexican community of Chicago. In addition, Tortolero has written articles for national and international publications. He has also spoken at both national and international conferences and has also worked as an arts consultant across the country.

Presenters and Workshop Facilitators

Ron Chew is the Executive Director of the Wing Luke Asian Museum, a native Seattleite, and a community activist who has been involved in a variety of labor and social justice organizations, including the Alaska Cannery Workers Association, the International District Economic Association, Seattle Rape Relief, and the Organization of Chinese Americans. Chew was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the National Council on the Humanities in 2001. He comes from a journalist background, having worked as a reporter for the UW Daily while in college, where he sought to challenge mainstream media's poor representation of communities of color. In 1975, he left the UW to pursue a career in community-based journalism at the International Examiner. A year later, he became the paper's Editor, a position he held until 1988. His research includes organizing the Chinese Oral History Project of Seattle in 1990 and editing the Project's 1994 companion volume, Reflections of Seattle's Chinese Americans. Chew is a board member of the Seattle Public Library Foundation and was a founding member of the Seattle Chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association and the Northwest Minority Media Association.

Rebecca Durkin is the Public Relations Assistant at the Burke Museum , overseeing special projects including the Burke Blog and Burke Podcasts programs. A graduate of the Masters program in Museology from the University of Washington , Rebecca also holds a Bachelors degree in Biological Anthropology from New York University . Prior to joining the Burke, Rebecca worked in museum education and community outreach with various science organizations including Woodland Park Zoo, Washington Park Arboretum, and Central Park Zoo.

Dr. Mimi Gardner Gates has been the Director of the Seattle Art Museum for the last 10 years. She previously served as the curator of Asian art, and then the Director of the Yale University Art Gallery. Gates holds a Ph.D. in art history from Yale University, and her publications include "Porcelain Stories: From China to Europe" and "Biblical Art and the Asian Imagination."

Dr. Carver Gayton is the Northwest African American Museum's Executive Director, a former Boeing Executive, educator, School Board Member and respected community leader. Dr. Gayton has the ability to mobilize staff, capitalize on challenges and opportunities, and engage personal contacts and organizational resources to achieve unforeseen results. As Washington State Employment Security Commissioner under Governor Locke, Dr. Gayton established sweeping statewide employment reform. Dr. Gayton was also Corporate Director of College and University Relations for The Boeing Company for many years, where he had responsibility for establishing higher education policy for the organization as well as corporate giving to institutions of higher learning. Dr. Gayton's Ph.D. is in Political Science with emphasis on Organizational Theory. His Masters degree is in Public Administration.

Brenda Hanan currently serves as the Development and Marketing Manager at the Washington State History Museum. Hanan is also part of a "Museum Marketing Campaign to Promote Cultural Tourism" in the Pacific Avenue corridor, previously worked in Development and Marketing at the Children's Museum of Tacoma, and received a B.A. in Art History from Western Washington University. Hanan has facilitated other conference workshops, including "Discovering Tacoma's Museum District" the 2007 Lewis Family Focus Women's Conference Climb Every Mountain

Robin Held is currently Chief Curator and Director of Exhibitions and Collections at the Frye Art Museum, Seattle, where she has organized more than thirty exhibitions with the mandate of rethinking for the twenty-first century a museum of "representational art." Recent projects include Tracy and the Plastics 101 (2006), Swallow Harder: Selections from the Collection of Ben and Aileen Krohn (2006), and The Retro-Avant-Garde Universe of the NSK State (2005). Prior to joining the Frye in 2004, Held was associate curator at the Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington. Among her more accomplishments there was the traveling exhibition Gene(sis): Contemporary Art Explores Human Genomics (2002), the first art museum exhibition to be registered with the National Institutes of Health as laboratory activity and a new museum model for the safe exhibition of life forms created by artists. Held has published widely on post-communist art in Eastern Europe, performance art and its relation to documentation, video art, and biological art in an age of bioterrorism. She was a 2003 Getty Grant Program Curatorial Research Fellow for Hershmanlandia: the Art and Films of Lynn Hershman Leeson, 1965-2005 (Henry Art Gallery, 2005), a retrospective of artist and filmmaker Lynn Hershman, currently traveling internationally.

Marilyn G. Jones has been Director of the Suquamish Museum since July of 1992 and also serves on the many of the Suquamish Tribe's Cultural Committees. She has had the honor of being one of eleven Community Curators for the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American Indian exhibit, "Listening to Our Ancestors: The Life Art Along the North Pacific Coast" as the Coast Salish Curator. Ms. Jones sits on the Diversity Coalition Standing Professional Committee as a Member-At- Large and is a member of the Native American PICS through American Association of Museums. Ms. Jones has presented a panelist for AAM, the Western Museums Association and the American Association State and Local History. Ms Jones is a traditional dancer has done Oral Histories and worked on slide/tape productions and is learning to loom weave and basket weave. Currently Ms. Jones is working on the plans for the new Suquamish Museum and Arts Center along with the Suquamish Foundation Board.

Regena Kowitz has been the Public Relations Coordinator with the Washington State History Museum since July 2006. Prior to working at the History Museum, Ms. Kowitz worked as a Supervisory Public Affairs Specialist with Marine Corps Community Services Okinawa and served in the United States Navy. Her education includes a bachelor's degree in communications and a master's degree in public relations management from the University of Maryland.

Ann Lally is the Head of the Digital Initiatives program at the University of Washington Libraries where she is responsible for the coordination of digital-based projects. She is also involved in the Libraries Digital Scholarship initiative activities which include new media documentation and access, and geo-spatial data visualization. She served as the Associate Director of the Artificial Intelligence Lab at the University of Arizona Management Information Systems Department for two and a half years; before that was the Architecture Librarian for the University of Arizona Library.

Seth Margolis is the Director of Education Programs at The Museum of Flight. He studied history at the University of Alberta, received his Master of Arts in Museology from the University of Washington, and has worked at aviation and transportation museums in the United States and Canada. Seth has taught museum education in both the University of Washington's Certificate Program in Museum Studies and Graduate Program in Museology.

Laura Matzer joined Microsoft in 2003 and serves as the Art Collection Curator and Program Manager. Laura relocated from Fort Worth, Texas, where she worked at the Amon Carter Museum. During her three years at the Carter she was responsible for supervising lectures, symposia, films, gallery talks, and workshops, and launching new initiatives, such as a visual observation course for medical students. Prior to her position at the Carter Museum, Laura worked at the El Paso Museum of Art, The Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, and the Blaffer Gallery at the University of Houston. (Taken from Microsoft Art Collection website.)

Dr. Lorraine McConaghy is the historian at Seattle's Museum of History and Industry, where she manages MOHAI's oral history program, Speaking of Seattle, and teaches classes in historical research methods, including oral history. She is also working on a book and a series of articles based on her research on the Pacific Squadron cruise of the U.S. Sloop-of-War DECATUR , 1854-1859. The manuscript "Warship Under Sail" is currently under review at University of Washington Press . In 2005, she received the Governor's Award for Excellence in Teaching History, the DAR National Heritage Medal, the AKCHO Charles Payton Award, and a research fellowship from the U.S. Naval History Center. In 2006, she received the Annual History Award, from the Pacific Northwest Historians Guild.

Tamara Moats has been curator of education at the Henry Art Gallery since 1988 where she has built the department to include a wide variety of evening adult programs, programs for university students, children’s workshops, K-12 tours, teacher training institutes, a series of ten exhibition-related curriculum guides, and the Henry’s noted museum-school partnership, the Artlink program. She regularly teaches for the UW School of Art, the College of Education, Museology program, and the Cornish College of the Arts. She has published in Art Educator magazine and presented papers at NAEA and CAA.

Wilson O'Donnell is the Acting Director, Graduate Program Coordinator, and Lecturer of the Museology Graduate Program. O'Donnell has also served as the Executive Director of Seattle's Museum of History and Industry, the Executive Director of the New Jersey Historical Society, a Curator at the Cumberland County Historical Society, and as a Museum Consultant. His research interests include museum administration and management, exhibition development, and American furniture and decorative arts.

Gwen Perkins currently serves as School Program Coordinator and Washington History Online Project Assistant for the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma . She has written and/or done graphic design and research for curriculum focusing on several topics in Washington history. Currently, Gwen is also working as an exhibit writer and consultant for the Washington State Capital Museum's fall exhibition. She holds a BA in Humanities from Washington State University.

Kolya Rice, currently a PhD candidate in modern and contemporary art history and criticism at the University of Washington, was raised in the Seattle area and received his MA from Rice University. He has taught a wide range of courses on western art, theory, and criticism at the University of Washington and Seattle University over the past decade, and is a visiting lecturer in the UW's Master or Arts in Museology program.

Dr. Julie Stein is the Director of the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture and a member of the Museology Program's Interdisciplinary Faculty Group. She is also a Professor of Anthropology and Adjunct Professor of the Quaternary Research Center at the University of Washington. Dr. Stein's areas of research include: archaeology, geoarchaeology, archaeological sediments, site formation processes, and shell middens of the Northwest Coast and New World. Her recent publications include "Environment of the Green River Sites" in Archaeology of the Middle Green River Region, Kentucky, and "Determining the Provenience of Kennewick Man Skeletal Remains through Sedimentological Analyses" in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Dr. James Wehmeyer is currently a member of the Auxiliary Faculty Group of the Museology Graduate Program. Previously, Wehmeyer worked in museum education outreach at the National Museum of Natural History where he designed , developed and managed collaborative production of digital exhibits, websites, interactive video satellite and webcasts, and related multimedia educational products. Wehmeyer also worked as an exhibit writer for Newseum: an Interactive News Museum in Rosslyn, VA. He holds a PhD in Radio-Television-Film from the University of Texas/Austin and his research interests include digitial exhibitions and virtual museum education.

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Please download the .pdf version of our schedule!

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Registration Information

Registration is closed. Please stay tuned for next year!

Registration for Rethinking Museums: An Interdisciplinary Academic Conference (2007) was free, thanks to a generous grant from the Learning for Leadership Council, the support of the College of Arts and Sciences, the Museology Graduate Program, the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, and the Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington.

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Press Releases

(206) 543-4922
kmg42 [at]

Seattle-- Museums are dynamic interdisciplinary organizations, characterized by rapid growth and change. What are the issues involved in the sudden expansion, increased professionalisation, and changing expectations of our cultural institutions? The Museology Graduate Program at the University of Washington aims to address this question through their upcoming conference, Rethinking Museums: An Interdisciplinary Academic Conference, to be held on May 3-4, 2007 at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle, WA.

Through workshops, panel discussions, and presentations the conference will focus on the changing and interdisciplinary nature of museums. A venue for expanding professional development, Rethinking Museums will provide valuable opportunities for students and emerging professionals to present and learn about current research and converse with their peers. Due to the diverse perspectives of the field of Museology and Museum Studies, this conference is open to all academic disciplines and cultural institutions.

Keynote speaker Carlos Tortolero (President and Founder of Chicago's National Museum of Mexican Art) will address museum-community involvement and the NMMA's transformation over the last decade.

Dr. Mimi Gates (Director, Seattle Art Museum), Dr. Julie Stein (Director, the Burke Museum), and Marilyn Jones (Director, Suquamish Museum) will participate in a panel discussion about the transformation of museums in the greater Seattle area.

Conference registration is free. To register or submit an abstract to present a paper, please visit The conference is organized by the Museology Student Committee for Professional Development and is supported by the Museology Graduate Program, the Learning for Leadership Council, and the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington.

For additional information, please contact Karyn Gregory at kmg42 [at]

Documents Available for Download:

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