This month, Cytko interviewed Deborah Robichaud, who graduated in 1980 as part of class number 12. Currently retired, Robichaud previously worked as Director of the Musée acadien, Director of Information and Extension Services at the Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI), and Regional Manager of Arts, Culture and Heritage for the Department of Canadian Heritage.
This article by Jordan Fee is cross-posted at Musings
Risk in a professional setting is often perceived as something unwanted – something to avoid at all costs. We want to be calculated in our decisions, and to be sure of their successes. Rather than seeking risk out, many of us choose to cast doubt upon it.
Such is the mythology of risk.
However, on February 7th, the Museum Studies Students Association (MUSSA) took yet another step towards dispelling such myths. As part of the 50th Anniversary of the Museum Studies Program (MMSt50), MUSSA invited four incredible panelists – Jim Shedden (Manager of Publishing at the Art Gallery of Ontario), Shaniqua Liston (Operations Manager at Kingston Penitentiary Tours), Kathleen Brown (Chief Operating Officer of Lord Cultural Resources), and Karen Carter (Founding Executive Director of Myseum of Toronto) - to speak on their respective approaches to risk in professional settings.
Guided by moderator Melissa Smith, the panelists riffed and responded to questions such as: How do you define risk in your own setting? What is the biggest risk that you have taken in your career? and do types of museums tend to take more risks than others?
While we tend to think of risk as something that is intensely consequential, each of the speakers took time to underline - and celebrate - the smaller risks that are taken by a number of institutions on a daily basis. Speaking of the tours provided at the Kingston Penitentiary, Shaniqua Liston noted that risk in her institution generally requires a constant negotiation with her visitors, each of whom bring their own unique perspectives to the institution’s history. Kathleen Brown also shed some light on this endeavour, noting how she, as an entrepreneur, takes risks everyday when consulting with her clients. Adding some humour to this discussion, Jim Shedden noted how in the museum business, many risks are in fact taken for us, rather than by us.”
Except from Jordan Fee’s “Moving Forward with Boldness: Risk, Redefinition and Reservation in the Museum” article in Musings.
Click here to read the full article.
While risk-taking is a hot topic in the museum field, is it really a path to museum success?
This panel brings together museum professionals from different fields with risk-taking experience in everything from exhibition design to programming. They will discuss how they balance innovation and risk, break away from museum conventions, and shift institutional paradigms. The panelists will highlight the challenges and failures they faced along the way and what they have learned from being audacious in the museum field. Finally, they will share their thoughts on the idea of a “path to success”.
The panel will be facilitated by MMSt50 Committee Chair Melissa Smith, who is also Co-ordinator of the Gallery Guide, Adult Education Officer, and Access to Art programs at the Art Gallery of Ontario.
The panel will be followed by a networking cocktail with snacks and a cash bar.
This event is free and open to the general public. Please register on Eventbrite as spaces are limited.
Who is behind all the MMSt50 celebration planning? The MMSt50 Committee is composed of engaged MMSt alumni and students, professors and staff members at the Faculty of Information.
Here are the committee members:
Irina D. Mihalache (outgoing Chair), Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Information
Melissa Smith (incoming Chair), MMSt Alumni, Coordinator, Gallery Guide Program, Adult Education Officer Program and Access to Art Program and the Art Gallery of Ontario
Cara Krmpotich, Associate Professor/Director of Museum Studies at the Faculty of Information
Ann Brocklehurst, Senior Communications Officer at the Faculty of Information.
Lisa Habib, Alumni Development Officer at the Faculty of Information.
Jordan-na Belle-Isle, MMSt Alumni, Curatorial Administrative Assistant, Indigenous & Canadian Art at the Art Gallery of Ontario.
John Summers, MMSt Alumni, Manager, Heritage Services & Curator, Regional Municipality of Halton, Sessional Lecturer at the Faculty of Information.
Cara van der Laan, MMSt Alumni, Artifacts Coordinator at the Ontario Science Center, Sessional Lecturer at the Faculty of Information.
Khristine Cuthberson, MMSt Alumni, Development Coordinator at Crow’s Theatre.
Courtney Murfin, MMSt Alumni, Interpretive Planner at the Royal Ontario Museum.
Katherine Hanneman, MMSt Alumni, Designer, Business Development at Overlap Associates.
Laetitia Dandavino-Tardif, MMSt Student, MUSSA President, Social Media Coordinator and Outreach Assistant of MMSt50.
Erica Chi, MMSt Student, MUSSA Vice-President.
Jordan Fee, MMSt Student, Musings Communication Officer.
Musings is the Master of Museum Studies student blog, started in 2014. For its anniversary, MMSt50 is partnering with Musings to offer professional development workshops to MMSt students.
In November, Musings hosted its first-ever writing workshop focusing on the theme of Risk-Taking and Digital Strategies with Sarah Hill, Senior Consultant at Lord Cultural Resources. The students learned about writing strategies specific to digital platforms and social media in the museum field.
See the Smarties jar? Know how many Smarties there are? The same as the number of graduates from UofT’s Museum Studies program over the past 49 years. The answer is 817 graduates!
During the OMA conference (October 24 - 26), the Museum Studies program had a booth where MMSt alumni and conference attendees could try and guess the number and learn more about MMSt at UofT. The lucky winners received Museum Studies merchandise, designed by MUSSA (the Museum Studies Student Association).
It’s not late to hazard a guess.
On October 22, 2018, the Museum Studies Student Association (MUSSA) hosted a Button Blitz event where Museum Studies students produced MMSt50 buttons. These buttons will be distributed to various members from the Museum Studies community: students, professors, alumni, etc.
MMSt50 kicked off with a lecture from cultural historian Constance Classen, whose topic was “Collecting Our Senses: Seeing, Hearing and Touching in the Museum”.
While museums and art galleries are customarily thought of as places of visual engagement, historical and contemporary practices show that sensations of touch, of sound, of movement—even of scent and taste—all play a role in the collection experience.
Classen's lecture fit well with the theme of MMSt's 50th anniversary year, which is risk taking. Assistant Professor Irina Mihalache, who organized many of the anniversary activities and researches museums and food, counts herself among Classen's many fans. "My students read her work on 'museum manners' and I find her work a fantastic tool to 'fight' theorizations of museums that focus on the visual only," she says.
Cara Krmpotich, Director of the Museum Studies Program, says Classen has shown that touch was an essential part of learning in early museum practice. "Based on this research, I've learned to change my own vocabulary, no longer speaking about 'damage' to objects and instead thinking about 'change.' I am an advocate for touch in the museum, and firmly believe its value outweighs any risks," says Krmpotich.
Classen's latest work is The Museum of the Senses: Experiencing Art and Collections(Bloomsbury 2017). She also gave a graduate seminar and a second lecture while at UofT.