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Shedding Light on the Museum


As museums around the world have shut their doors due to the pandemic, many have rallied to keep museums accessible with online exhibitions, tours, and other creative strategies. But this crisis is also an opportunity for museums to go deeper. Just as the pandemic is exposing stark global inequalities and sharpening social conflicts, museums must recognize their own implication in social injustice. Yet our museums also have the power to be leaders in addressing these problems and in shaping the communities we will return to after the pandemic is over.

How can we – as museum visitors and community members – help museums be the institutions we want and need? And how can we engage critically with them in this moment of crisis, while they are closed?

Shedding Light on the Museum is an attempt to use this difficult moment to reclaim our museums and think them through, together with all of those whom they touch.

FestivALT has invited three multidisciplinary artists to engage with the museum and the difficult questions it raises. Together we reflect on the broad and pressing questions museums must face (Wiktor Podgórski), the layered hauntings in and implications of their collections (Dorota Mytych), and the ambivalence and urgency of this conversation (Jaqueline Nicholls). Building on prior work by scholar-activists Erica Lehrer (Canada) and Roma Sendyka (Poland), along with Kraków Ethnographic Museum (MEK) curator Magdalena Zych, we are projecting our concerns on and into the museum. Projection has opened new creative possibilities for catalyzing a public conversation. Our project has also unexpectedly intersected with the revolutionary movement that has emerged in Poland in recent weeks. Anger and pain about a wide range of social issues unavoidably intermingle with the museum-specific questions we raise – perhaps making more visible the ever-present connections between the stories told by our cultural institutions and political power.

Thank you:
The Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland (“Public Diplomacy 2020—A New Dimension”)
Allianz Kulturstiftung
The Dutch Jewish Humanitarian Fund
The Curating and Public Scholarship Lab at Concordia University, Montreal
Thinking Through the Museum
The Seweryn Udziela Ethnographic Museum in Krakow
The project reflects the views of its creators and does not reflect the official position of any of the sponsors.