Art Museum Curator

The public history job of an art museum curator plays an important role in telling the story of an art exhibition.

According to the website “The Balanace,”  Art museum curators are tasked with curating art collections and exhibitions at art museums. The curator is responsible for selecting and organizing the art on display. They need to be knowledgeable in art, culture, art history, and philosophy. They increasingly have to take on the role overseeing administrative tasks such as fundraising, budgeting, and grant writing. They may also be responsible for acquisition and conservation of specific pieces.

The way this job relates to the definition of public history is that the art museum curator is in charge of telling the story. Whether the curator is focusing in one particular artist or if the collection they are presenting is built around a theme, the curator determines the audience, selects the pieces, determines the mode of display; every element is something they need to think of and oversee.

The McNay Art Museum currently has an exhibit called “Stage Frights: Madness, Monsters, Mayhem.” This exhibit features “scene and costume designs for plays, operas, and ballets by writers and composers—from Shakespeare to Lorca to Anne Rice’s adaptations; from Wagner to Stravinsky to Scott Joplin.” The McNay lists 3 employees under “Curatorial Affairs” on their webpage: Head of Curatorial Affairs, Curator of Tobin Collection of Theatre Arts, Curator of Prints and Drawings, and Curator of Collections/Sr. Exhibitions Manager. All of these people were likely involved in deciding what story to tell and what pieces were important to display and which were less important.

The Witte Museum will soon open their exhibit called ”Confluence and Culture: 300 Years of San Antonio History,” which promises to display the influences on the layout, economic and cultural development of early San Antonio. They Witte employs a Chief Curator with 5 Curators with different specializations reporting to her.

Google has job listings and can be set to send alerts for job postings. Google uses their search engine to display jobs from sites like glassdoor.com and linkdin.com City or state websites may also have job listings if the museum you are interested in is managed by the city or state.

 

https://www.thebalance.com/what-do-art-curators-do-1295684

https://www.thebalance.com/career-profile-of-art-museum-collections-assistant-1295341

https://www.mcnayart.org/exhibitions/current/stage-frights-madness-monsters-mayhem

https://www.mcnayart.org/about/staff

https://www.wittemuseum.org/confluence-and-culture/

https://www.wittemuseum.org/team-and-trustees/

Public History is a verb- Blog 02

A role within a museum that I’ve become intrigued with is an education program coordinator. As I have started my internship at the Alamo I really began to see first hand all the hands that go into managing a museum and a National Heritage site. It takes a lot of people to make all the gears turn in a way that make a museum appeal to the people that come to visit it. Someone who plays a huge role in that is the education program coordinator they take all the historical landmarks and artifacts that can be seen at the Alamo and give it some background that allow visitors to understand and learn from it. They create and shape new ways to look at the same history and it is a challenging but rewarding experience. They take history and apply it to the students, visitors and educators who come to learn at the museum. I myself working as an intern at the Alamo am being tasked to be inventive in that way which is an interesting opportunity.

An Education Program Coordinator does a list of things that are all geared towards the visitor and engaging various learning styles. They would create a learning strategy that connects with the goal of the museum, they create talks, activities, and workshops around museum exhibits and annual museum events, they work with schools and local educators to promote and share information to form curriculum with what the museum has to offer, and directly educates school groups and visitors.  Education Program Coordinators find a way to apply the history that the museum has to offer to the community around it, which is what I believe public history is defined as. “Public History is the action of taking history and directly applying it to the community, locally, nationally, and worldly through public mediums. This definition should be the goal of public history to bring history to the into the relevance of the community around it.”, this public history job does exactly that takes history and applies history it’s an action.

A job like this can be found at a museum one of the reason I began to explore this job and got an internship at the Alamo is through the Alamo website. By just searching through a museums websites a list of jobs can be found. I did this for my first job at the Witte museum in San Antonio I simply went to their website and applied online. Here is the link for the job offerings at the San Antonio Museum of art or SAMA. Here is the link for the job offerings at the Alamo.

The internet is one of the best ways to get the word out for the talks, activities, and workshops the education program coordinator has to offer. The Alamo has several online resources for teachers to incorporate into there lessons as well as a way to reserve “history trunks” an interactive set of different historically accurate replicas from the time period of the Alamo that teachers can show to students. These are just a few ways that the education program coordinator make public history an action. This is a link to the different resources the Alamo offers on its website.The San Antonio museum of Art does the same thing on their website by offering resources for educators.

The Curator

The keeper of collections inside a museum, cultural heritage center, private manor, charged also with interpreting and explicating the uses and meanings behind items, pieces of art or other historical treasures.  This is what the curator does, it could be said that he gives a narrative to things inside museums.

It’s definitely not boring

To hold this position, one must have research, communication, project management , as well as other skills, along with a master’s in Mueseum Studies (Sayer 44).  All this according to Faye Sayer in the book Public History: A Practical Guide.  By doing a good job, the curator fulfills one of Sayer’s definitions of Public History, because he communicates and enables public involvement in the past.  The curator is attempts to provide an accurate interpretation of what value or meaning, the collections he is in charge of hold.  By doing this, he may enable some potential historians to explore what was learned in deeper manner.

There are sometimes more than only one curator per museum, in places such as ‘The Met’ museum, Alissa La Gamma-Ceil provides her interpretation on an 18th century Cameroonese form of art.  While Kim Benzel discusses ancient empires, and the Seleucids.  The obvious difference between these two curators, who both work for the Metropolitan Museum, is that La Gamma works with the arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas.  Benzel, is in charge of the department of the Ancient Near East.  Of course, these two curators have very difficult positions to acquire, but career paths that may one day lead to the greatest positions in history are available.  I would personally recommend glassdoor, since it does usually have career postings that call for a curator in several places, such as Harvard, or the Pacific Asia Museum in the University of South Carolina.  You may also be able to land a curator job with the government, for example, the department of the Treasury in the United States needs a curator, to keep and rehabilitate buildings, as well as take care of the collections of art that are in part of the DOT.

The museum’s Storyteller (Curator)

Curators are needed in many cultural, local, government, private and other sites.  These are the closest to an authority of a particular collection or field of study, at least in my opinion.  Their responsibilities include immersing the public into an understanding of the past, and for that their job is a great one.

This Sh*t is More Important Than You Think

What interest me about Public History? Why is it important?

Well…let’s begin:

I came across a few ways of describing public history  when reading one of our class books, Public History: A Practical Guide, by  Faye Sayer. Now, the broad definition describes Public History as the “engagement with, and of, a geographically, socially, and politically-determined public, with “their history’. (Sayer, 7). However, I found this definition to be too complex. It can be broken down more simply, instead.

For example, in the subsection “Introduction”, I found “the practice of communicating the past to the public” (Sayer, 2) to be a more digestible definition of public history. I understand that public history shouldn’t be categorized as a simple term, and in no way am I trying to undermine this concept, but for the sake of others who might not be too familiar with this, or for people who are just learning it’s complexities, like me, I find simplicity to be the most helpful in teaching.

Furthermore, this definition helps to highlight the importance of public history: that is, to communicate a time before, to the people of the present. After all, in learning about the past, an individual can also learn from one’s mistakes. Just the same, in providing a past that is relevant and accessible helps people want to learn about the past.

From what it seems, teaching history is so much more than just presenting words from a book. The presentation design and accessibility of history is important so that people can enjoy the journey of it all. Just as well, public history aims for to support and clarify the histories, of course, that are shared. In all the goals that public history has personally, academically, and publicly, I would say this seems to be one of the most important for the public’s purpose.

Now, let me give you a few examples of how I am enjoying public history in my own life. One particular topic that interests me is that of LGBTQ+ history. As a gay young man, I find it extremely important to know about the struggles that have faced my community in the past. One such article called “Project Showcase: Still Fighting For Our Lives” give a synopsis of an exhibit, with the same name, of the largest repository LGBT materials shown in Philadelphia, PA.

Not only does the original propaganda and artwork intrigue me, but the inclusive effort that goes in to this exhibit also gladdens me. GVGK TANG writes that, “Most histories of HIV/AIDS focus on white gay men. But Still Fighting showcases materials from groups like Unity, Inc., the first grassroots organization in Philadelphia run by Black gay men for Black gay men”.

It would seem unthinkable for the LGBT community to be exclusive of a certain ethnicity, but honesty, this was not, and still is not the always the case. Racism unfortunately has a dominance in many social justice issues. Yet, the fact that this exhibit specifically highlights this as an importance, warms my heart to know that this article depicts equality truly as ‘justice for ALL’. And it is here that this relevant and accessible history gives me a deeper appreciation for public history.

The second article that peaks my interest revolves around the civil rights movement. “Cold War civil rights at Gettysburg” by JILL TITUS talks about four monuments that were erected for the Civil War Centennial in 1963. What I find interesting that this article sheds light on, that I didn’t know before hand, is that these monuments and “images coming out of Birmingham, Alabama, had been a source of shock and embarrassment to many whites who had previously paid little attention to civil rights” (TITUS).

It’s like Public History even came in handy here because if it weren’t for the remembrance of the Battle of Gettysburg, people would’t have realized then and there, during the Centennial, that the same thing was still taking place with the Civil Rights movement.

Behold, just a glimpse of my passion when it comes to history. I hope this definition and two examples encourage y’all to further appreciate the importance of public history, like I too am appreciating slowly…but surely.

John Hernandez-Blog 01

What interests me about public history is the multiple takes that different people can have different takes on the same information that is available to the public. One individual may understand the information that is available in a different way than the individual who studies the information as either a historian or educator who takes more of an academic stance on the information that is available. I have spoken with individuals who take the information at the ground level without considering what the causes were that led up to the events. While some will dive into the information and dig deeper into the causes. Looking at all possible angles of what led up to the events, whether it be a historian researching a specific event, or an educator researching a topic for a lesson, or an individual who is interested by history and wants to learn more about. Since public history is historical information that is available to the general public, different people will have different takes on that information whether they take it at surface value or delve into the forgotten and overlooked aspects of it.

In an article posted by Steven Burg, on 9 July 2012, he discusses how there is a rise in public history in education and how media, if done correctly and by historians who are trained in the use of media to and digital history, to deliver the information to the public and students. Saying that the rise of the growth of digital history was something that he, Burg, is glad to see. But that the issue with this comes when finding the balance between everything that educators must find in order to teach their students the information and not create any confusion on that information when it’s given orally or from digital media.

In another posted by Anne Parsons, on 11 January 2013, she discusses in the last two paragraphs how a going beyond changing the public history curriculum we also should consider changing the way we better connect to a broader range of cultural works. As well as how a turn toward more of a humanities aspect of public history will benefit students allowing them to design their own education and tailor it to their needs. Allow them to not only learn history at their own pace but allowing them to also dive into their local history and learn the history of that area.

Both article fall into line with how public history and the line between educators, historians and the media. As well as how individuals, students or the adults are having new ways emerge to better help them delve into local and general history. Allowing them to understand and learn at their own pace, whether it be through normal means or using the new forms of digital media.

Public History Is Now

I enjoy public history because of the dynamic it plays by bringing history to the now. Often time when I talk to other people about history the automatic response is “oh thats old stuff” and “that already happened we really don’t need it now” public history changes that narrative and allows people to understand the history happening around them and the history that shapes who they are.  It allows us to critically think and examine in a new way what really is happening and rethink what has happened.

In an article written by Aaron Sharpio entitled “Paneriai, Poland, and “Public History and the Study of Memory”  Sharpio discuss the struggle between official and vernacular memory. He explains that his group traveled to Lithuania  to do some research and map out a memorial cemetery in a forest where “…one hundred thousand individuals—including seventy thousand Jews—were killed by the Nazis.”  but what was left out of a soviet memorial was the involvement of Lithuanian collaborators  that was confirmed by the cemetery in Lithuania. This for me is a really good example of how the public plays an essential role in the development of history now. The cemetery is a medium of public history that when was researched more allowed a clearer picture of history to be made.

Jenny Boulware in her article highlighting the way she is teaching an introduction to public history, entitled “Public history: yours, mine, & ours” remarks on Ronald Grele who has help shaped the public history norms. “Grele’s article helps students compare public history’s past with the present—what are the trends in the field today?”, she makes this comment in refrence to how her students tackle there own history by understanding there own homes through public history mediums like libraries and streets and mapping it out. She really hopes to take public history to apply it to the present through these things. For me that is why I gravitate towards public history because how useful it is and how relevant it makes history.

Public History is the action of taking history and directly applying it to the community, locally, nationally, and worldly through public mediums. This definition should be the goal of public history to bring history to the into the relevance of the community around it.

Blog 01 – Interests in public history

What I admire about public history is how expansive it can be. Instead of only teaching students in classrooms, public historians can inform the public on a wider audience composed of all ages. The larger the audience, the more impact that the public history projects will have on the communities. In the public history field, there are many options to choose from and many projects to be a part of.

One blog that stood out to me was “Project Showcase: Murals of Las Cruces Project” by Peter A. Kopp, Norma Hartell, and Jerry D. Wallace. In it, the people working on the Murals of Las Cruces Project do an amazing job preserving public murals found around the city of Las Cruces. I find this to be a fascinating project, as the act of preserving city murals is something I have not really heard of before. Also interesting was how not just the art itself was preserved, but how the group collected all sorts of data around the community which included the names of the artists, the dates, and the mural’s physical conditions. I was also impressed with how they even started up a website to help connect with the community. This project even ties into heritage, in which we are learning about the community’s past.  Paul Ringel’s “Can Facebook help public historians build community?” blog shows that  public history can also be done on social media websites such as Facebook. Another blog that caught my attention was the “Statues, national monuments, and settler-colonialism: Connections between public history and policy..,” by Rose Miron because it shows how controversial  political/social dilemmas can be to public historians.

To define public history, I believe that it is about communicating the past and relating it to the present with the help of heritage. Faye Sayer puts great emphasis on heritage, which indeed is what helps shape public history but as the author mentions, both history and heritage must be merged together. As I mentioned earlier, public history can be applied into many areas – which include museums, social media, parks and monuments. The goal of public history is to be able to successfully inform the audience about the past and present. However, getting there can be challenging. As Sayer explains, there are several issues to consider while engaging in these projects: authenticity, education versus entertainment, consumerism and ownership. It should also be said that the public historians should not be the only ones with direct control over these projects, as the public should also play a significant role.

 

References:

Kopp, Peter A., Hartell, Norma., Wallace, Jerry D. 2017. “Project Showcase: Murals of Las Cruces Project.” National Council on Public History, http://ncph.org/history-at-work/murals-of-las-cruces/.

Miron, Rose. 2017. “Statues, national monuments, and settler-colonialism: Connections between public history and policy in the wake of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante.” National Council on Public History, http://ncph.org/history-at-work/statues-national-monuments-settler-colonialism/.

Ringel, Paul. 2017. “Can Facebook help public historians build community?” National Council on Public History, http://ncph.org/history-at-work/can-facebook-help-public-historians-build-community/.

Sayer, Faye. Public History: A Practical Guide New York: Bloomsburry, 2015, 14-18.

Blog 01

After reading a bit about public history in Faye Sayer’s book, “Public History: A Practical Guide,” I can say it really made me more interested knowing how much public history is around me. I did not really have a clear understanding to what was considered public history until I read about it. Knowing how even murals have a representation of history made me realize how important my surroundings really are and how the smallest things can have the greatest details. Before knowing what public history meant I did take into great detail how my settings were formed and how it came to be. My parents came to the United States because they fled from the civil war in El Salvador. Knowing this, I was always grateful for everything they did because I could only imagine the sacrifices they made to give my sibling and I a better life than what they had. Because of this, I learned to stand up not only for myself, but for other who can’t do so for themselves.

For these reasons, the first blog I chose was “Still Fighting For Our Lives” by  GVGK Tang, which talks about how important is it that people should be educated on HIV/AIDS and how it can be prevented. I chose it because these are numerous cases of people living with it every day. The public needs to be informed on how to prevent getting HIV/AIDS, but also on how they can help the people who already live with it. The second blog is called “Hoosier Women in STEM Wikipedia edit-a-thon” by Editors, which is about women who are involved in the STEM field come together and edit sites on Wikipedia since in Indiana, women’s work has been mostly overlooked or not mentioned at all. The reason why I chose this blog is because I am a feminist and want for women to be given credit for the work that they have done throughout history.

In the book “Public History: A Practical Guide” by Faye Sayer, one of the definitions of public history that he states is “the engagement of the public in the practice and production of history.” I really like this definition of his because it really is about the public. In my own words, the definition of public history would be a way that the public can learn about how their surroundings came to be so that they can notice the smallest of details that show the greatest amounts of history.  

Blog 01

I find Public History to be interesting because it has affected my experience  visiting various types of museums and national parks as I was growing up. I had always wondered how people knew history so well that they could present it in a way that seemed like a story to me. My goal for this class is to bring that same feeling of story telling to my future students. I grew up in a military family, which meant that moving to a new area was nothing new, however, the exciting part about moving was learning the history of my surroundings. History helped me understand not only my surroundings better, but also the people there as well. Most my childhood was spent in Northern Virginia, about 20 miles or so from Washington D.C. My parents would take me to see the national museums as much as they could, which gave some of the fondest memories I have to this day.

I also participated in Boy Scouts of America and eventually became an eagle scout. During my time in Boy Scouts, I went on several hiking and camping trips, giving me a sense of adventure to my life. The hiking trips allowed me to visit battlefields and national parks. On the way, I would stop at the memorials and read the signs describing the historical significance of that place. It is for this reason why I chose two blogs that reflect my experience as an Eagle Scout and sight seer. The two blogs I chose were ” Reimagining the history of the (inter)National Park Service” by Joanna Arruda, which describes how the National Park Service plays a role in public policy throughout history. The second article is titled ” Statues, national monuments, and settler colonialism: Connections between public history and policy in the wake of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escanlante” by Rose Miron. This article describes how the taking down of confederate and colonial statues has affected the shrinkage of sacred Native American lands.

As defined by Sayer, public history is ” the communication of history to the wider public”. In my opinion, this definition best provides a general overview of what happens in the field, and it is simple enough to understand. The goal of public history should be to effectively communicate historical facts as well as concepts to the larger public. Essentially every day there are new advancements in technology that make it easier to learn while at the same time leave a story in our minds.

Providing Aspirational Figures

Public history has the potential to give the next generations, aspirations for the future. However, it is important to understand that not all people will be satisfied with a more ‘disneyfied’ narrative of the past. This is of course understandable, but it is not everyone’s cup of tea. While most history buffs and professionals will understand, there are many heroes of the past that lead not so extraordinary lives, but have been exalted to an exemplary position. This is not what I endeavor promulgate. This can be done by other people in the field, just as one book about a historical figure may focus on the figure’s virtue and the other on his vices. Let us begin this entrance into the post with one of Dr. Faye Sayer’s definitions of the subfield of public history, ‘communicating and enabling public involvement in the past. ’
So why would a hint of ‘disneyficiation’ be a worthy endeavor? I do not think I speak only for myself when saying that this has its benefits. For one it brings in funding through the consumer, as is shown in the post ‘Yoga among the ruins? The challenges of industrial heritage in postwar Pittsburgh’. This’ disneyfication’ also opens paths to entrepenuers in the community, who may feel pride in their city’s blue collar past, and decide to perhaps open up metalsmithing workshops, which in turn may make the youngest generations aware of the city’s historical legacy. I take this example, also from the blog post previously cited. And what may the youngest generations, meaning children be able to look up to in the past? They may take the example of the almost gone steelworkers’ hard-working appearance, their ability to withstand in probably less than safe conditions to provide for their families. In my case I remember being fascinated by history at first, by the story of Vicente Guerrero, who’s famous quote ‘La Patria es primero’ is present in the house of congress in Mexico City today. There was also nothing more noble than the story of Jesus Garcia, which is usually heard in corrido form, the great man, who sacrificed his life by staying behind in a train trying to diffuse dynamite so that the passengers would live. Or the story of Tlahuicole, the Tlaxcaltecan warrior who was sentenced to death, but managed to fight off about ten Aztec warriors before being killed. This type of narrative, which focuses on the good in people gives people purpose, it certainly made me strive to be a better person as a child.
Diving into the question of how public history should be conducted, or where it should lead to, I think it’s safe to say that it should be aimed at drawing non-historians into museums or places with a history. Getting people, as mentioned in Jenny Boulware and Elizabeth Satterfield’s post , who dislike history but enjoy the history channel or a more disneyfied version of history, using facts and promoting those places and people who have a good story to be told. This is what I would attempt to do in public history at least.

 

 

References

Sayer, Faye. Public History: A Practical Guide New York: Bloomsburry, 2015.

National Council on Public History (History@Work) Yoga among the ruins? The challenges of industrial heritage in postwar Pittsburgh 12 January 2018. Cowan, Aaron http://ncph.org/history-at-work/yoga-among-the-ruins-the-challenges-of-industrial-heritage-in-postwar-pittsburgh/

Natioal Council on Public History (History@Work) Public history: yours, mine, & ours, 3 January 2018. Boulware Jenny, Satterfield Elizabeth http://ncph.org/history-at-wor/public-history-yours-mine-ours/