Program Abstracts

Aaron Ellrich 

University of Florida

Anthropology Department

 African Restitution through the Lens of Critical Museology: Rally, Reactions, and Resistance

The collaborative turn in museums has complemented as well as challenged traditional approaches to museum practice. This disciplinary turn, witnessed in case studies throughout the world, illustrates how museum scholars and practitioners are actively engaging local stakeholders in ways that foster the mixing and merging of ideas, values, and perspectives. On the African continent, renewed calls for the restitution of African objects housed in Western museums has ushered the collaborative turn to new and uncertain horizons. Whether framed as productive, disruptive, or revolutionary, renewed commitments to the restitution of African objects is a political undertaking centered around legislative and institutional procedures. This paper examines how European museums are grappling with restitution claims by asking the following questions. How are restitution claims redirecting museums operations and collaborative approaches within and between European and African institutions? What proposals have been offered to initiate the restitution process, and are such proposals foreseeable in terms of meeting established schedules? Are bilateral and multilateral relations concerning restitution generating declarations of development which, in turn, link museums to what scholars characterize as the sustainable development historic bloc? 

Ena Heller

PhD, The Bruce A. Beal Director, Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Rollins College

Democratizing the 21st century Museum: From being for somebody to being for all

Twenty years after the publication of Stephen E. Weil classic 1999 essay, museum professionals in the US broadly acknowledge that that the most resonant change for museums in the 20th century was indeed their transformation “from being about something to being for somebody.”  As we approach the third decade of the 21st century, the question becomes: what will be the equivalent change in this century? What transformation(s) must museums undergo so they not only maintain their relevance in society, but enhance their role as agents of change? This paper explores one possible answer, taking into account recent research, position papers by thought leaders, and specific projects. Many museums today are adopting equity, diversity and inclusion as guiding principles. Foremost in strategic plans are notions of decolonizing and democratizing the spaces –physical as well as and intellectual – of museums.  Not coincidentally, in AAM’s Trends Watch 2019 three of five identified trends had to do with democratizing authority, confronting the past, and inclusivity. Several national institutions are devising innovative collection-sharing initiatives; others are sharing their collection in unexpected places. What these efforts have in common is the concept of access: facilitating, improving, or in certain cases making possible for the first time, access to original works of art. The goal, then, for the next step in the institutional history of museums would be to create unmitigated access: to transform our museums so they become a place where all are welcome and tell an inclusive story in all members of our society see themselves reflected.

Yulia Tikonova

Coordinator of the Art Gallery and Museum Services at Eastern Connecticut State University, Willimantic, CT. 

A Model for a Constituent Museum

In 2002, Stephen Weil proposed a revolution: The public and not the museum will occupy the superior position -- the historical dialectic would be reversed. A hundred years earlier, the Russian avant-garde artists invited workers to take control of the museums and deploy culture to build the new state. Today’s revolutionary model is the “constituent museum.” 

I propose that our constituencies become the foundational idea of museum studies, as we move forward.

My presentation will consider examples that originate on the opposite sides of the continuum. At the same time that some individual artists formed bespoke museums in the heart of their communities, some cultural institutions were inviting their communities to transparent, self-governing governing museum. Contemporary Museum Studies must present both progressive tendencies and encourage students to explore a variety of schemes that combine the strengths each offers.

I propose to examine two projects that are concerned with these potentially complementary approaches for freeing the institutional museum from the dead weight of a history of elitism and exclusion.  

L’Internationale is a consortium of seven European modern and contemporary art institutions brought together in 2018 to envision a new model for a “constituent museum.” The confederation proposed the public at large public as the epicenter of museum operations. Its mission is to put the fine arts in the service of acquiring the skills necessary to have agency in a democratic society: self-organization, ownership, and citizenship.  The Constituent Museum, a publication by L’Internationale, from which this paper borrows its title, is a compendium of the successful projects that took place under its umbrella that are not widely known amongst American museum professionals. 

Puno Museum of Contemporary Art, created by artist/architect Cesar Cornejo (2007-ongoing ) is a museum created in the homes of low income village residents in exchange for repairs and renovations. Cornejo extends art into the homes of the Peruvian town of Puno, a mountain settlement, and makes museum theory serve community empowerment in real life.  Puno MOCA offered free repairs and advice on the development of small businesses complementary to the museum activities, as an incentive to take ownership of the museum’s economic and cultural power. Cornejo’s project is a part of mestizo museality  - a unique artistic gesture characteristic to many Latin American countries, in response to the museum void of the 1970s.   

I propose to test these unique examples of constituent efforts as a participant in the development of the curriculum for the Museum Studies certificate at ECSU.

Dr. Doug Jones, Marty Hylton, and Marygrace Kennedy

A New Role for Museums in the 21st Century

Perhaps the defining issue of the 21st century will be how humankind survives on a planet increasingly altered by human activity. As global temperatures (atmosphere) rise at alarming rates, Earth’s interconnected systems are concomitantly displaced from historical norms – melting polar ice (cryosphere) raises sea level (hydrosphere) which reshapes coastlines (geosphere) causing migrations, extinctions and pathways for invasive species (biosphere). How quickly and decisively humans respond to this global emergency will determine the resilience of civilization as we know it in the Anthropocene Epoch.


Fortunately museums of all types, from art to science, recognize the crisis that awaits if society fails to act. By taking advantage of their well-earned reputation as trustworthy sources of information, museums play a vital role in communicating the consequences of Earth systems change, describing potential impacts on human populations worldwide, and advocating for sustainable practices that can slow, or potentially reverse, the deleterious effects of global climate change.


In the 21st century, it is no longer sufficient for museums to merely display and interpret interesting, rare or beautiful objects, disconnected from the everyday lives of their visitors. Embracing their responsibility to the public, science museums in partnership with art and history museums, are using their collections and their diverse communication platforms with increasing frequency to confront audiences with the plight of our natural world. With their non-neutral advocacy for a healthy planet, museums are achieving Stephen Weil’s vision of increased relevancy and impact as they help influence the future of life on Earth.

Darcie MacMahon

Director of Exhibits & Public Programs, Florida Museum of Natural History

Pop-Up Museum: Connect People to Nature Where They Are

For most of the field’s history, museums have operated on the paradigm of serving audience at their bricks-and-mortar location. The Florida Museum of Natural History launched a “Pop-Up Museum” initiative to physically reach beyond the museum walls and engage people where they are in conversations about natural history. Pop-up museum efforts are still in their infancy, and are little utilized by science and natural history museums. We looked at concepts from art and history museums, as well as fields such as theatre and retail, then invented how to work with natural history subjects. Armed with tent, tables, props, and scientists, this flexible, low-cost format allows us to experiment with where and how we reach people. We have taken pop-ups to diverse locations such as festivals, urban parks, breweries, and community swimming pools, and have developed an expanding “library” of topics such as evolution, the tree of life, sea level rise, and backyard biodiversity. We develop the pop-up activities in ways that support two-way conversations, with a goal of more deeply engaging participants. For relatively little investment, we are seeing big returns, both as a new kind of educational experience around big ideas, and as a marketing tool. As we continue to expand the program to new locations and to develop new topics, we learn more about how best to inspire and engage audiences of diverse economic, educational, and racial/ethnic backgrounds, many of whom might not otherwise engage with the Museum.

Carmem Beatriz de Paula Henrique 

M.A. Latin American Studies '20

Center for Latin American Studies

University of Florida 

Museum on the road

The purpose of this research is to connect museums into communities, that typically do not have access to them, due economic reasons.  My objective in bringing museums to those communities is to change the mindset of the Brazilian population that museums are “boring”.  Access to culture like museums, theaters, and similarities has been treated like a privilege, therefore limited to people who has the economic means to frequent those places.  While working in one museum in Sao Paulo, Brazil, I propose to create a project called “suitcase” in which would have a collection of local relevant objects and activities, we would use that suitcase as an instrument to introduce to underprivilege communities, part of their culture. The “suitcase “project would bring accessibility and increase their interest to their own culture. Access to cultural resources and knowledge has potential to bring new perspectives about art and culture, possibly changing their own perceptions. The project will be inclusive and conscientious. The mail goal of this project is to bring to the public entree to their public patrimony and develop the understanding of how museums can capture lived experiences and histories being also a great entertainment to all classes of society. 

 Expected results have been showing that it is possible to change the perception of groups of people, and museums may provide gears to help the marginalized some education to fight against the social injustice by giving them better access to knowledge and resources to which they have been denied access for centuries.

Emily Hogrefe-Riberio

Assistant Curator of Education, Georgia Museum of Art


Callan Steinmann

Ph.D., Curator of Education, Georgia Museum of Art

Reimagining Docent Education: Inclusive Gallery Teaching and Community Building

Docents provide a vital link between the educational mission of a museum and the public that the museum serves. Over the last decade at the Georgia Museum of Art, docent training has undergone a radical, sometimes contentious, shift that challenges traditional approaches to gallery teaching. Moving away from an art history-focused, lecture-style tour model, docents are now required to lead interactive, conversation-based tours that emphasize personal meaning-making, multivocality, and interdisciplinary connections. The shift towards this style of gallery teaching took a number of years, as both established docents and each class of new docents had to leave their comfort zone and embrace new understandings about gallery teaching objectives and the goals of the education department.  

Docent training now begins with a baseline of educational teaching practice and continues to shift towards a political understanding of community. GMOA docents typically occupy a space of socioeconomic privilege not reflected in the student populations they guide through the museum; Athens, Georgia’s public schools are all Title 1 schools composed predominantly of students of color.  As part of an ongoing transformation, docents develop their community throughout training and are encouraged to consider and welcome the communities they serve into the museum space with equity.

This presentation will outline the critical transformations the Georgia Museum of Art docent corps continues to undergo in order to provide an empathetic educational space for all museum visitors. It will provide examples of successful teaching and community building exercises that have pushed docents to accept new ideas and practices.

Carissa DiCindio

Assistant Professor, Art and Visual Culture Education

University of Arizona

Creating Openings for Authentic Museum-Community Collaborations in University Classrooms

Museum education programming has shifted from staff-developed sessions in the galleries to creative, multivocal collaborations. How can university students studying museum education engage in these types of experiences with limited resources, time, and in some cases, past museum experiences? In this paper, I discuss how university students can have experiences with authentic, meaningful collaborations with community audiences by creating opportunities for them to work with partners in the classroom, in their university museum, and at organizations off campus through long-term class projects.


This paper focuses on how classroom activities and assignments can be structured to promote peer learning and collaboration within the classroom and with outside community partners.  I consider how these experiences shape the direction of the course, from readings to discussions, and how working on a long-term community project as a class empowers students to use their own ideas, skills, and experiences to contribute to final outcome. 


The classroom collaborations involve dedicated staff at university museums, community partners with a willingness to give time, space, and resources, and students committed to jumping into new experiences; they can be messy, complicated, and with so many moving parts, may include unexpected challenges and obstacles.  However, I argue that these projects have been transformative, directly impacted students in the classes long after the end of the semester. 

Eric Segal 

Director of Education and Curator of Academic Programs at the Harn Museum of Art


Jeffrey Purahl 

Lecturer, Center for Arts in Medicine and Faculty Affiliate, Center for STEM Translational Communication

Museum as Stage: Opening Doors through Oral History Performance

Art museums and universities are often perceived by local community members as closed-door institutions. This presentation discusses a multi-partner theatre-based project through which faculty, students, community members and several campus units approached the challenges of community engagement. Oral History Performance for Social Change – a collaboration between the Harn Museum of Art, The Center for Arts in Medicine, and The Samuel Proctor Oral History Program – explored 1) how themes in the artwork of African-American painter and printmaker Jacob Lawrence could be connected to the history of local communities through Oral History Performance, 2) how students could deeply engage with the oral history archive and the local community around topics of race, civil rights, and inclusion, 3) how performing oral history in the exhibit could generate critical dialogue between students and community members, and 4) how this program could produce inclusive space in a museum. ​ 

Michelle Sunset

Exhibits Manager at the Florida Historic Capitol Museum

Second-year PhD student in Museum Education and Visitor-Centered Curation in the Department of Art Education at Florida State University.


Julia Atkins

PhD student 

Graduate Teaching Assistant in Arts Administration at Florida State University

Emancipatory Museum Studies Curriculum for Human-Centered Museums

The onset of the “museums are not neutral” era requires a careful reexamination of the training grounds for the developers of socially conscious spaces. In order to maintain relevance in a world filled with seemingly endless entertainment options, as well as a society that is increasingly focused on smart-phones instead of social interaction, museums must provide a greater experience beyond mounting exhibitions of masterworks and expecting attendance. Museums thus have an opportunity to serve their communities in more meaningful ways through empowerment and social engagement. To accomplish this, museum studies and other arts leadership programs need to engage in educational practices that move beyond the realm of traditional pedagogy. One possible way to engage in this kind of work is through the lens of Paulo Freire’s critical pedagogy.


Critical pedagogy lays the groundwork for departure from the “banking system” of education in which teachers fill the “empty” students with knowledge, towards an emancipatory philosophy of teaching that eliminates the hierarchical teacher-student relationship. Building on Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Freire, 1970) and bell hooks’ (1994) concept of “engaged pedagogy,” we offer philosophical concepts on which to center the museum studies classroom, including the encouragement of student voice, critical thinking, the examination of power structures, and critical praxis. In the museum, this educational background could translate into dialogic, and non-hierarchical interpretation, and programs of human empowerment. The primary challenge museums will face in this mission is their ability to embrace and expose vulnerability. Are museums up to the challenge?

Vivian Gornick 

Lecturer University of West Georgia


Michelle Assad

Researcher University of South Florida

Museum Methods at the University of South Florida: Transforming Museum Practice at the Undergraduate Level

In 1999, Stephen Weil famously called for museums to go from being about something to being for somebody. In 2016, David Fleming took it one step further and asked, “do museums change lives?” This question is answered with a resounding “yes” in the applied museum anthropology course taught at the University of South Florida. Not only are museums keepers of knowledge, they must be community collaborators and advocates for social justice. 


As examples of applied museum anthropology, student-led exhibitions are uniquely effective and transformational pedagogical tools that translate theory into practice. At USF, these student-led exhibitions tackled timely issues and began to challenge traditional curatorial authority. As a result, students were empowered to create diverse and impactful exhibition content. 


Based on observational evidence from the Museum Methods (ANTH4181) course at USF in 2016 and 2018, we highlight how the skills gained by students from the design and installation of a formal exhibition is a transformative practice for undergraduate anthropology students. Specifically, it will focus on the exhibition Exposure: Photography and Social Justice, which was installed in Spring 2018.


Exhibitions seminars are common in graduate Museum Studies programs. However, on the rare occasion that they are available for undergraduates, it is often in a small, well funded, liberal arts college context. So, in addition to explaining how student-led exhibitions are pedagogically and museologically transformative practices, this presentation also advocates for the broader adoption of these pedagogical practices at the undergraduate level at larger universities. 

Greg Stevens 


Faculty Associate and Director, MA in Museum Professions and the Institute of Museum Ethics

Seton Hall University

South Orange, NJ 


Suse Anderson


Assistant Professor, Museum Studies 

The George Washington University

Washington, DC


Haitham Eid


Associate Professor and Director, Master of Arts in Museum Studies Program

Southern University at New Orleans

New Orleans, LA

Museum Studies in Transition: Responding to External and Internal Challenges

As the museum field is changing, so is the field of museum studies. Many of the museum academic training programs are in transition, reflecting and responding to external factors--the social issues that impact the field broadly, the increasingly prohibitive cost of higher education, and the changing expectations of professional skills and competencies for museum professionals. Museum studies programs face internal challenges as well, as they strive to reinvent or realign their structures within their departments and colleges, address traditional curriculum and teaching practices, foster more experiential learning opportunities for students, provide both national and global perspectives on museology, and keep abreast of recruitment and advising. In this panel discussion, faculty members representing three diverse museum studies programs will discuss how their respective graduate programs are dealing with these and other complex issues.

Lightning Round Presenters

Kaitlyn Hof-Mahoney

Curator of Collections 

Matheson History Museum, Gainesville, FL

Trauma on Display: Exhibiting Difficult History 

The Matheson History Museum is a museum for the community. We are committed to using our exhibitions and programs to share our collective past, even when it is uncomfortable. Within the past two years the museum has featured an exhibition on the desegregation of local schools, programs on topics such as the Rosewood Massacre and Seminole Wars, and a screening of “An Outrage,” a documentary film about lynching in the American South. 

The newest exhibition at the Matheson is McCarthy Moment: The Johns Committee in Florida. Between 1956 and 1965, the Florida Legislative Investigation Committee, better known as the Johns Committee, conducted a hunt for subversive activities by academics, Civil Rights Movement groups, and suspected communist organizations. In 1958 and 1959, the committee interrogated students and faculty at the University of Florida suspected of being homosexuals. This exhibition examines the persecution of the LGBTQ+ community both at the University of Florida and throughout the state.

In this lighting round presentation, the Curator of Collections will discuss creating exhibitions centered on under-represented groups and historic traumas. Museum exhibitions typically depend on objects, but in many cases objects related to these topics have been lost. Where they do exist, they are closely guarded by their owners. The Matheson has worked to gain the trust of these communities and collaborate to tell their stories.  

Laken Brooks

Graduate student in the English Department at the University of Florida 

Holistic Storytelling: Reimagining Virtual Reality for Accessible User Experience at Historic Sites and Museums 

In 2017, Jacqui Kenny went viral for her popular social media posts about travel. However, Kenny, coping with agoraphobia, rarely left her home. From CNN to The Sun to QZ, major news outlets picked up Kenny's Instagram posts chronicling her virtual travels on Google Streets all around the globe.

As Kenny's story demonstrates, VR tours are not only a novelty; they open gateways for connection and community across curious travelers who may not otherwise have the ability or resources to physically visit a location. These VR tours are especially helpful for historic home museums. Historic preservationists have long struggled to renovate a building's original structure to meet modern ADA standards. According to experts like David Field and Carson Bear at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, these renovations are vital to incorporate the disabled community; however, these changes are especially difficult when they threaten the integrity of the original home, such as removing certain structural barriers like narrow hallways or difficult-to-maneuver columns.

As museum preservations confront these expensive and time-consuming renovations, how can site curators use new technologies to welcome visitors with diverse abilities? In my presentation, I use the Pauli Murray home, the Glass House, and other historic house museums to demonstrate how curators and site staff are using augmented and virtual reality to enhance a visitor's experience in the limited confines of the physical museum space. Most importantly, I point to several collaborations with disabled creators to indicate how such virtual tours should always incorporate user experience. Using these homes as case studies, I posit human-centered design as the digital humanities lens that museum specialists should consider as they create virtual tours about their space. Not only can this technology enhance a modern user's experience in the space, but virtual reality can also restore the historic erasure of disabled persons who once lived in such locations by educating visitors about the life of these forgotten figures. Therefore, effective virtual tours in historic museums break the temporal wall by providing contemporary access and highlighting any persons with disabilities who may have lived in the space in the past, connecting disabled people with a broader, understudied heritage in historical locations. 

Sarah Graves

PhD, Visitor-Centered Exhibitions and Museum Education

Collections Information Specialist | Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts

Volunteer motivation factors in an art museum

Volunteers are vital in the construction of knowledge and the engagement of their communities, especially in a museum setting. Volunteers help museums grow educational programs, improve relations with their communities and with out-of-town visitors, and provide a sense of representation. However, since 2008 the rates of volunteering have dropped to less than twenty-five percent of the community. There are several motivating and satisfying factors that affect volunteer retention, and organizations need to be aware of these factors in order to improve volunteers’ rates of retention as well as satisfaction. This presentation examines factors of volunteer motivation and retention through a mixed-methods case study of long-term volunteers at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, some of whom have volunteered for over thirty years. The goal of this presentation is to provide guidelines and recommendations for museum professionals and museum studies programs in order to celebrate the current work with volunteers and to continue to improve and grow volunteer programs.

Brittany A. Mistretta

University of Florida


Jonathan A. Hanna

Pennsylvania State University 

Digital platforms can provide museums opportunities for expansion and outreach when funding and accessibility are limited. Consequentially, they increase spaces for synthesizing cultural heritage resources and materials that are disjointed by separate collection and analysis. Ripley Bullen conducted archaeological excavations in Grenada during the 1960s and a sample of artifacts from these early excavations are still housed at the Florida Museum of Natural History. Recent research has sparked an initiative to make these materials more accessible to Grenadians and the public at large. Additionally, there has been a new push in Grenada for grass-roots heritage projects in which local communities are interested in ways to record, promote, and share their histories. In this talk, we present our experience with collaborative projects to develop online exhibits and 3D printed materials as approaches to help resolve these issues, and discuss challenges in digitization and accessibility in the Caribbean.

Jodi McCoy

Director of Exhibitions

Missouri State University

Transformational Identities: Examining the future of the museum and museum studies programs

Recently the International Council of Museums (ICOM) proposed an updated definition of the museum to much public criticism. Strong initial reactions to the proposed definition primarily focused on the specific additions of “human dignity” and “social justice” and the elimination of “educational.” As museums and museum studies programs evaluate their principles, policies, practices, and vision for the future, the turmoil surrounding the newly proposed definition illustrates the need to re-define and modernize our identity to one that aligns with our rapidly evolving world.  

Through examination of the current and proposed definition, as well as selections from the 250 international submissions this paper will examine the opportunities, obstacles, and criticisms surrounding the ICOM’s proposed definition of the museum. Additionally, this paper will explore how museum studies programs can continue to adapt to prepare the next generation of museum professionals. 

The future of the museum and museum studies programs is directly related to the evolution of our social, cultural, and political values. How we formally define who we are as cultural institutions are vital to not only responding to the changes in our world but also to how we assert our public value and critically engage with the systems and structures upon which they have been built. As we approach this monumental vote on the newly proposed definition of the museum, critically examining how we want to be defined is essential to the future success of the museum and museum studies programs.      

UF Museum Studies 

20th Anniversary

Museums Challenge

A Symposium for Transformative Practice

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Museums Challenge

Feb. 16-18,