Stefanie S. Jandl and Mark S. Gold are planning an edited volume tentatively titled Academic Museums, to be published by MuseumsEtc. next summer. The volume shall examine successful strategies, tactics and activities within the academic museum community internationally, and the editors are particularly interested in innovative practical experiences that can be applied within the wider museum community

Their call for contributions to the volume is exciting because it sums up what I think are some of the major strengths of a university-owned museum like ours:

College and university museums originated out of the desire to teach with, and learn from, original objects. These museums today aim to be active participants in the teaching life of their campus communities and vital sites for learning, interdisciplinary dialogue and collaboration, and professional training in many disciplines. Academic museums differ from their freestanding counterparts in that they can express their mandates in broader and more innovative ways. They can, for example, install exhibitions that explore controversial topics or artists under the “umbrella” of education. They can create small, focused shows with little pressure to produce blockbuster exhibitions. They can include campus voices in exhibitions, and foster critical dialogues within and beyond the classroom. And they can explore the teaching possibilities of a broad range of objects and exhibit those objects in new or unorthodox ways.

Well, I can hardly find a better argument for the role of university museums in the contemporary museum world.

Here’s a lost of potential topics for contributions:

  • developing exhibitions that explore controversial topics or artists
  • cultivating critical dialogues within and beyond the classroom
  • engaging a diverse community and including campus voices in museum programming
  • how a college/university museum is uniquely positioned for innovation, risk-taking, and challenging audiences
  • the museum’s role as a site for interdisciplinary teaching and learning
  • how the mission of the museum relates to, or conflicts with, the mission of the parent institution
  • how trustees resolve the tension between preserving the museum’s collection and sustaining the broader educational mission
  • the value and opportunities in object-based learning
  • cultivating relationships with faculty across disciplines and helping them integrate a museum’s resources into their teaching
  • building a collection appropriate to the educational institution and its audiences
  • organizing exhibitions with faculty members and students
  • how a college/university museum defines its role in the community
  • the unique opportunities that academic museums offer for experiential learning and mentoring students
  • fundraising and donor relations within a larger non-profit entity
  • promoting the value of a museum to administrators and trustees
  • how to successfully compete for funds
  • securing outside grants as a museum with a parent organization
  • case studies of recent or current innovative and pioneering programs

Wow, that’s a list! However, the schedule is way too tight in my opinion. They want a <250 words abstract and a short bio before the end of the year, and then they think they can get the book out before next summer. I do indeed like rapid publishing, but it’s really impossible to produce a thoughtful contribution with such short notice and a delivery dead-line of 25 February. (Where’s the time for thinking? For peer-review? Will it be peer-reviewed?)

With these caveats, however, this is such a great topic, so if you feel tempted — and don’t care about spending time to write an apparently non-peer-reviewed paper (who said university museums?) — don’t hesitate to send an abstract to Stefanie and Mark (at ) and the publishers (at ) within the next two weeks.

Share →