UMAC's First Conference: 2001

Intensifying Support For and Increasing Audiences in University Museums and Collections.


Photograph by James M. Edmonson, Dittrick Medical History Center and Museum, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland.

The first meeting of UMAC was held in Barcelona on 2-4 July 2001.

Please click on the icon [Text] for the full text of a conference paper.

Monday 2 July 2001

Introductory Papers

Sue-Anne Wallace: Challenges Facing University Museums.
Universities have apparently enthusiastically embraced new ventures in taking on the responsibilities of cultural institutions, such as museums and theatres. Museums especially have long been integral to campuses, growing out of teaching collections, particularly in the fields of science - for herbaria and medical collections on the one hand; and the humanities - for antiquities and art collections on the other. Indeed, art collections have occasionally developed independently from the teaching and learning functions of universities, posing questions about their 'fit' with the core business of the contemporary, corporate university.

Pasquale Tucci: Role of UMs in Disseminating Scientific Culture.
Starting from the definition of scientific museums as material context where scientific and technological artifacts are preserved and scientific culture is elaborated and disseminated, I'll try to sketch the different ways in which museums of history of science and science museums accomplish their task. University museums, due the way in which they are formed, have some features common to both of kinds of museums. They can play the role in researching and promoting innovation in scientific museology and museography above all as regards to dissemination of scientific culture.

Bonnie Kelm: Museum Ethics -- Implications for University Museums.
As museums become more visible and accountable to the public, it is important that the actions taken by their leaders be "transparent" and meet the highest ethical standards. Over the past several years, American Association of Museums (AAM) task forces have recommended, and the AAM Board has approved two important sets of guidelines - one concerning the unlawful appropriation of objects during the Nazi era and the second focusing on exhibiting borrowed objects. Both sets of guidelines make specific recommendations that delineate the scope of ethical activity in professional museums. These guidelines present special challenges for university museums, which will be discussed in this paper.

Michael Mares: Miracle on the Prairies.
In 1983 the University of Oklahoma's museum began a struggle for a new building. The century-old museum was housed in barns and stables. The University provided mixed support. Grassroots efforts and a multifaceted strategy led to a successful result in 2000, after 17 difficult years requiring patience and tenacity.

Tuesday 3 July 2001

Theme: Intensifying Support, with and between universities, from city, community, funding bodies & links to university research.

Keynote Address: Professor Di Yerbury (Vice-Chancellor, Macquarie Univ., NSW)
Intensifying Support for Australian University Museums.

This paper will address a number of processes through which the Australian university sector attempted to transform a position characterised by relative ignorance and generally benign neglect into one of recognition, strategic positioning and funding security. It will seek to identify the relative success (or otherwise) of different approaches and to contextualise their outcomes.

Marta Lourenço: Are UM's Still Meaningful?
The contemporary significance of university collections and the changing role of university museums has not been the subject of thorough scientific research. This paper presents the outline of a research project to be carried out during the next few years, which seeks to place these and other topics in the perspective of recent developments in public universities in Western Europe in general, and Portugal in particular. The communication also presents the results of an inquiry among a number of European university museums (2000), aimed at establishing a context for the research.

Bernard Van den Driessche: Louvain-la-Neuve: where a university created a town with a museum.
[Text] [in French]
The museum of Louvain-la-Neuve was inaugurated in 1979. The collections (originaly cast reproductions started in 1864) includes Fine art, Archaeology and Ethnography. The university city, designed on a human scale and entirely pedestrianized, has approximately 30,000 inhabitants, 15,000 of whom are students. A new building (4.000 square meters) will be erected in the city center and open in 2003.

Nick Merriman: Current State of the UK's HEMGCs.
The paper will summarise the current state of the UK's higher education museums, galleries and collections (HEMGCs) by drawing on recent surveys of collections and management issues. In particular the paper will highlight some of the innovative ways in which HEMGCs have been working in partnership with others and roadening their audiences.

Cornelia Weber: From Independent University Collections to a "Wissenstheater".
The Humboldt University owns over one hundred separate collections from all spheres of knowledge. Most of them are scarcely accessible to the general public and thus not well known. Since 1995 a group of scientists is engaged in opening up and presenting these collections (public lectures, construction of database, exhibition "Theatre of Nature and Art; Treasure-trove of Knowledge", seminars with students). In the last three years the hidden treasures were systematically and successfully presented to the general public. Now the Humboldt University is planning a science museum exhibiting a selection of the whole spectrum of collections and demonstrating the points of contact between the different disciplines.

Fausto Pugnaloni: Academic Heritage & Young Universities.
The project of a Regional network of University Museums in the Marche, central Italy, promoted by the Universit of Ancona, is aimed to create an integrated cooperation structure based on the different experiences in the history of the single Universities. To enhance the scientific research and the academic and cultural heritage in the young Universities (as in the Marche), the project focuses on the cooperation with the local authorities and with the Regional Museums System. The University collections and the history of the research meet the territory with its complexity and richness, through selected research items:

- The evolution of the health system from the medieval hospitals onwards;
- Work and technics in the pre-industrial age;
- The evolution of the rural landscape;
- Archives, architecture and city;
- Naturalist collections and control of the territory.
The above project is seen also as a model to extend the cooperation to the Adriatic region (Croatia, Slovenia, Albania, Greece, ...) to enhance the scientific and artistic heritage of that culture.

Eduardo Ramirez: Video Recordings & Collections Management.
The aim of this presentation/paper is to present our experiences in museum video documentation and start discussion on future standards and procedures for video (multimedia) recording, storage and exchange at our Natural History and Science Museums. The procedures describe here can apply to all other museums. Museums are facing problems of limited funding for storage and displaying collections. Moreover, in view of the emerging Broadband networks, many museum would like to electronically share collections for research or display purposes. This paper presents a proposal and procedures for the use of video recording as multimedia items for the new millennium. A procedure for video recording is described here with suggestions for the best video encoded format for info extracting (OCR, morphological post processing, etc), and internet transmission. To show some examples, an URL address with demo video documents will be provided. Finally, it will be proposed a global video-database to assist small museum with limited economic resources.

Rafaella Similli: The Palazzo Poggi Project - Reconstructing Science.

Nuria Sanz: Europe, a Common Heritage, the Route of Ancient Universities in Europe and ICOM/UMAC

Antonio Garcia Belmar: Spanish University Museums and the History of Science

Sonya Finnigan: Exposing the Museums and Collections at Macquarie University.

Wednesday 4 July 2001

Theme: Increasing Audiences, incl academic/student, local, specialised, new & international.

Keynote Address: Dominique Ferriot. Increasing Audiences.
[Text][In French]
For a long time, university-based museums have given priority to a public of students and researchers who have already acquired a minimum of culture in the fields in question: for example, engineers at the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers in Paris, or medical students for the anatomy collections housed in Universities. The conditions in which these - often numerous - publics have been received has allowed them to develop research projects and consider the historical collections as material for innovation. Nowadays, university museums are faced with a dual demand: that of researchers wishing to have access to premises suited to the consultation and study of the collection, which has led to the creation of new tools, "visitable reserve stores", which also group together the restoration workshops or the indispensable photo laboratory; and that of the "public at large" whose general knowledge is often weaker is the field in question and who wish to discover a pleasant place equipped with the appropriate educational systems. Since many university museums were set up on historical sites, there is often a need to devise and complete a general renovation project that recreates a whole new exhibition design while preserving "the spirit of the place". Within the institution's walls however, human mediation remains irreplaceable in science museums where "demonstrators" can set the instruments and machines in operation. Outside its walls, "knowledge screens", and in particular the Internet, are remarkable tools in providing a maximum of people with access to information on the collection. A few examples will be developed to illustrate this idea, while not concealing the operational problems faced by museums which, for the most part, do not have the level of management autonomy required to deal with the legitimate expectations of the broader public.

Lyndel King: Engaging University Students.
The hardest audience for university museums to engage is often the one closest at hand - university students. There is much competition for the time of our 40,000 students. Most work, at least part time, and they live in a large urban area. Studies show that most have not regularly attended a museum before they enter university. Our attendance is 150,000 annually, educate all students, not just those studying art or related disciplines. They include collaborating with student organizations; engaging faculty from diverse disciplines to make assignments and hold classes in the museum; inviting students to social events (such as dances for new students to meet each other) that also involve looking at art; collaborating with unlikely departments (such as chemical engineering and materials sciences) to sponsor lectures (on topics such as elegance in the arts and sciences) and other programs; and offering cash prizes for student essays about art on display. While our initial success might have been the attraction of our new Frank Gehry designed facility (1993) continued success involves programs. My paper will describe ways for university museums to widen student audiences, particu-larly from non-art students.

Marilyn Norcini: Reorganising University of Pennsylvania Museums.
Of interest to our discussion of university museums, is the recent and on-going reorganization of the University of Pennsylvania Museum. Our institutional change is directly pertinent to the ICOM conference theme. The change is from the management of collections by professional museum staff to a faculty administrator. The Director wants me to continue my studies of university museums and indigenous forms of community museums. My intellectual interests in both fields focus on defining the core community (stakeholders), relations of collections to the stakeholders, and structural issues of governance.

Sally MacDonald: Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaelogy.
The Petrie Museum has conducted significant quantitative and qualitative research with academic audiences and with the general public, and is experimenting with new ways of presenting its collections to address a broader audience. Ancient Egypt: Digging for Dreams is one such experiment - a travelling exhibition of objects from the collection showing at public galleries in London and Glasgow. This paper looks at public and academic responses to the exhibition and some of the issues these raise for the university museum.

Adriana Mortara Almeida: University Art Museums in Brazil.
I intend to compare the number of visitors in Brazilian university and non-university art museums and explain how universities strive to increase their audiences, inside the university community (sometimes old/new audi-ences) and outside - school groups, professors, elderly people, etc. (sometimes new/old audiences)

Ofra Keinan: Museums & Immigrant Absorption.
This research study is part of a wider research project which is directed to understanding the role and contribution of the museum for immigrant absorption / emigration in the modern society. The wide-reaching goal of this research is to examine this question through a comparative study of different societies, which include museums with a definite cultural direction. This article examines the theoretical aspect as well as offers an analysis of the role and contribution of the museum in three museums in the State of Israel, during the last decade of the 20th century. The museum, as an institution, exists within modern culture. As such it creates a process in which society "faces unremitting questions about whom they [the museums] are for, what and for whom their roles should be" (Sharon Macdonald, 1996). Over the last decade, during the evolution of the "World Village", many changes have occurred in the traditional museum, which brought about the development of new museum interests. Museums began to deal with controversial issues, according museum expression to new population groups that had not previously been able to achieve museum attention. These processes have special implications in the State of Israel, in which groups of immigrants from many diverse countries have gathered; each with a specific life style which reflects their source of origin. The principle goal of this research study is to examine the manner in which the museum functions or can function as a tool for immigrant absorption.

Peter Tirrell: University Museum as Social Enterprise.
The ultimate operational objective for museums-their bottom line-is a positive social outcome or an improvement in the quality of life. Museums must demonstrate that these outcomes are being achieved on a consistent basis. There are no safety nets for worn-out and out-dated institutions. How can the university museums develop solid managerial techniques and creative strategies to be efficient and effective in meeting new economic and social challenges?

Carol Mayer: Seduction & Abandonment - Collaboration with Communities.
For many communities collaboration with museums has been litle more than a process of repeated seduction and abandonment. Once I have explained what I mean by this I will discuss an ongoing collaboration between the Museum of Anthropology University of British Columbia) and some Pacific Islands communities whose material culture is represented in the museum's collection. I will illustrate how ideas about collaboration have changed over the years, and how these have initiated a rethinking of the curatorial prerogative.

Top of page Last update: 18 September 2001.
Peter Stanbury, OAM, PhD Museums, Collections & Heritage
Vice Chancellor's Office
Macquarie University NSW 2109 Australia
Phone: +61 2 9850 7431
Fax: +61 2 9850 7565
Email: Peter.Stanbury@mq.edu.au
Web: http://www.icom.museum/umac

Copyright (c) 1999-2001 by Macquarie University. All rights reserved.

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