NOMA’s Learning and Engagement team is excited to present monthly suggested reading lists for all ages, in partnership with Octavia Books. Direct links for ordering books are found in the listings below. This month’s selection focuses on museums and their roles in society.
The Brutish Museums: The Benin Bronzes, Colonial Violence and Cultural Restitution by Dan Hicks
Pluto Press, 2020, ISBN: 9780745341767
Walk into any European museum today and you will see the curated spoils of Empire. They sit behind plate glass: dignified, tastefully lit. Accompanying pieces of card offer a name, date, and place of origin. They do not mention that the objects are all stolen.
Few artifacts embody this history of rapacious and extractive colonialism better than the Benin Bronzes—a collection of thousands of brass plaques and carved ivory tusks depicting the history of the Royal Court of the Obas of Benin City, Nigeria. Pillaged during a British naval attack in 1897, the loot was passed on to Queen Victoria, the British Museum, and countless private collections.
The story of the Benin Bronzes sits at the heart of a heated debate about cultural restitution, repatriation, and the decolonisation of museums. In The Brutish Museums, Dan Hicks makes a powerful case for the urgent return of such objects, as part of a wider project of addressing the outstanding debt of colonialism.
Culture Strike: Art and Museums in an Age of Protest by Laura Raicovich
Museum 2.0, 2016, ISBN: 9780692701492
In an age of protest, cultural institutions have come under fire. Protestors have mobilized against sources of museum funding, as happened at the Metropolitan Museum, and against board appointments, forcing tear gas manufacturer Warren Kanders to resign at the Whitney. That is to say nothing of demonstrations against exhibitions and artworks. Protests have roiled institutions across the world, from the Abu Dhabi Guggenheim to the Akron Art Museum. A popular expectation has grown that galleries and museums should work for social change.
As Director of the Queens Museum, Laura Raicovich helped turn that New York municipal institution into a public commons for art and activism, organizing high-powered exhibitions that doubled as political protests. Then in January 2018, she resigned, after a dispute with the Queens Museum board and city officials. This public controversy followed the museum’s responses to Donald Trump’s election, including her objections to the Israeli government using the museum for an event featuring Vice President Mike Pence.
In this lucid and accessible book, Raicovich examines some of the key museum flashpoints and provides historical context for the current controversies. She shows how art museums arose as colonial institutions bearing an ideology of neutrality that masks their role in upholding conservative, capitalist values. And she suggests ways museums can be reinvented to serve better, public ends.
Museums As Agents of Change: A Guide to Becoming a Changemaker by Mike Murawski
Rowman & Littlefield, 2021, ISBN: 9781538108956
Museums everywhere have the potential to serve as agents of change—bringing people together, contributing to local communities, and changing people’s lives. So how can we, as individuals, radically expand the work of museums to live up to this potential? How can we more fiercely recognize the meaningful work that museums are doing to enact change around the relevant issues in our communities? How can we work together to build a stronger culture of equity and care within museums ? Questions like these are increasingly vital for all museum professionals to consider, no matter what your role is within your institution. They are also important questions for all of us to be thinking about more deeply as citizens and community members. This book is about the work we need to do to become changemakers and demand that our museums take action toward positive social change and bring people together into a more just, equitable, compassionate, and connected society. It is a journey toward tapping the energies within all of us to make change happen and proactively shape a new future.
The Art of Access: A Practical Guide for Museum Accessibility by Heather Pressman and Danielle Schulz
Rowman & Littlefield, 2021, ISBN: 9781538130513
The Art of Access: A Practical Guide for Museum Accessibility is a one-stop guide to the incremental ways your museum can build a comprehensive approach to accessibility that can be easily integrated into the fabric of your museum.
- Consultation with leaders in the field and calling on practitioners from across the disciplines (art, science, history, business, living collections)
- Concrete examples and specific resources
- Physical/environmental access
- Sensory access
- Inclusive spaces, exhibitions, and programs
- Staff training and institutional buy-in
Each chapter presents practical actions that any museum or cultural institution (regardless of the size, budget, or scope) can take to better engage and welcome visitors of all ages and abilities. This book will illuminate the incremental ways in which accessibility can be easily integrated into the fabric of museums, thus enabling institutions to better engage with audiences who would otherwise not visit the museum.
The Art of Relevance by Nina Simon
Museum 2.0, 2016, ISBN: 9780692701492
What do the London Science Museum, New World Symphony, and the National Park Service have in common? They are all fighting for relevance in an often indifferent world.
The Art of Relevance explores how mission-driven organizations can matter more to more people. The book is packed with dozens of inspiring examples, rags-to-relevance case studies, research-based frameworks, and practical advice on how your work can be more vital to your community.
The Art of Relevance was written by best-selling author Nina Simon, rooted in her experience as a museum director and activist for more open, inclusive, effective cultural institutions.
Museum of the Future: Now What? edited by Cristina Bechtler and Dora Imhof
JRP Editions, 2021, ISBN-10: 3037645695
Gathering together fresh perspectives from more than 25 leading art and museum figures―including artists, architects, curators, and museum directors―from all over the world, this collection of interviews and contributions shares idiosyncratic views, feedback, and visions of what is and what should or should not be a museum in the 21st century, both inherently and in our fast-changing cultural ecosystem. Do we need a new art historical canon? How can museums become welcoming places for everybody? How should a museum deal with artworks that are considered problematic today? Is the blockbuster a thing of the past? How can museums be sustainable? These are some of the pressing questions answered very differently by the contributors, together with others dealing with the relationships between the local and the global, the museums’ governance and financial organization, technological possibilities, and audience-related challenges. Showing the diversity of today’s thinking about the museum, this tome constitutes a valuable handbook for navigating an ever-evolving landscape.
Edited by Cristina Bechtler and Dora Imhof, the book is introduced by Chris Dercon and concludes with a postface by Hans Ulrich Obrist. Interviewees and contributors include: David Adjaye, Richard Armstrong, Manuel Borja-Villel, Lionel Bovier, Raphael Chikukwa, David Chipperfield, Bice Curiger, Clementine Deliss, Madeleine Grynsztejn, Sabine Haag, Camille Henrot, Jacques Herzog, Josef Helfenstein, Junya Ishigami, Sam Keller, Ramiro Martínez, Sarah Morris, Dimitri Ozerkov, Adriano Pedrosa, Susanne Pfeffer, Manuel Rabaté, Rebecca Rabinow, Pipilotti Rist, Adam Szymczyk, and Eugene Tan.
Meet Me at the Art Museum by David Goldin
Harry N. Abrams, 2012, ISBN: 9781419701870
After being discarded on the floor of an art museum, Stub (a museum ticket) has nowhere to go until Daisy the docent’s helper (a name tag) finds him and offers him a tour of the museum. Stub meets a badge who keeps the artworks safe, a computer who archives them, and other characters who work there. From the director’s office to the library to the conservator’s studio to the loading dock, Stub discovers who does what, and what goes on, behind the scenes at the museum. He even finds a home for himself among the museum’s many treasures!
David Goldin combines actual artworks by famous artists, found pieces, and digital art to tell Stub’s sweet story. Filled with fun facts and a glossary, the book wonderfully introduces young readers to all that museums have to offer.
My Museum by Joanne Liu
Prestel, 2017, ISBN: 3791373196
A young boy learns that art is all around us in this captivating picture book about a day at the museum. We all remember what it was like to be a child in a crowded art museum. It was hard to see, let alone appreciate the art. It got tiring. And there was so much else to look at! That’s the lesson of this ingeniously simple yet profound book about art. It is everywhere—from another visitor’s elaborate tattoos to the way the sun makes patterns of light on the floor. While other visitors are busy trying to find their way through the museum’s galleries, or fighting for room to view a masterpiece, our hero examines the gallery upside down from a bench, plays with his shadow, and makes friends with the custodian. With a wink and a nod to serious museum-goers everywhere, Joanne Liu’s whimsical illustrations remind us that sometimes the best kind of art is the kind you make yourself.
Matthew’s Dream by Leo Lionni
Dragonfly Books, 1995, ISBN: 978-0679873181
Matthew the mouse lives in a dreary corner of a dusty attic. But a trip to the museum helps him to see his surroundings in a new way. With brush in paw, Matthew sets out to paint “the shapes and colors of joy.”
We appreciate any questions or feedback about NOMA’s suggested reading lists. Please feel welcome to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Education and outreach initiatives at NOMA are supported in part by the Zemurray Foundation; the Lois and Lloyd Hawkins Jr. Foundation; The Helis Foundation; The Gayle and Tom Benson Foundation; The City of New Orleans; IBERIABANK; The Wagner Foundation; Janice Parmelee and Bill Hammack; the Diversifying Art Museum Leadership Initiative, funded by the Walton Family Foundation and the Ford Foundation; Sara and David Kelso; Patrick F. Taylor Foundation; Dr. Scott S. Cowen; The RosaMary Foundation; The Azby Fund; the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism, in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, a Federal agency; The Collins C. Diboll Private Foundation; Burkenroad Foundation; Marian Dreux Van Horn Education Endowment; The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; Ruby K. Worner Trust through the PNC Charitable Trusts Grant Review Committee; The Harry T. Howard III Foundation; New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation, Inc.; Harvey and Marie Orth; The Bruce J. Heim Foundation; and Mrs. Bennett A. Molter, Jr. This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.