UMAC (ICOM) Statement on Protection of Museum Infrastructure

Museu Nacional, a museum at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Museums are the custodians of the world’s artistic, cultural, and scientific heritage. They hold the evidence of human civilization, culture, creativity, imagination, and knowledge in their collections. Museums are institutions of research, investigation, inquiry, and learning.

A ravaging fire engulfed the Museu Nacional, a museum at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The incalculable loss of the collections of the largest natural history museum in Latin America has brought the fragility of many museums to the world’s attention.

At the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro, and in other university museums and collections across the world, irreplaceable objects, specimens, and repositories of knowledge have been lost to preventable disasters. The potential for future catastrophes is enormous as museum facilities age and economic stresses afflict nations and academic institutions. Financial pressure often results in the neglect of the infrastructure in museums.

The devastating fire in Brazil in September 2018 calls attention to the potential for the dire consequences of lack of attention to basic fire prevention systems. To delay any primary disaster prevention infrastructure system seems inexcusable if governments and institutions have any care at all for the preservation of the heritage of their country or institution.

As well as preventing the destruction of physical property, decision makers for governments and universities should be aware of the basic needs for preservation of collections and archives. Physical copies stored offsite are cumbersome and space intensive. A digital database of the collections and digital records of archives and research stored on several offsite servers will preserve at least some records of the accumulated knowledge and a record of the destroyed collections.

Governments and institutions can prevent the catastrophic loss of knowledge if they invest a relatively modest sum in basic disaster preparedness systems in museums and other areas where collections are held and invest in digital storage of collections records and other archives.

UMAC, the International Council of Museums committee on University Museums and Collections, reiterates its full solidarity and support to the Museu Nacional and calls upon national and academic leaders to take responsibility for the preservation of the heritage at risk in their museums. The investment is relatively modest compared to the potential for disaster that exists when these needs are neglected. The inattention of leaders to their responsibilities for the protection of museums and collections and the resources they hold leads to the loss of some of humankind’s greatest treasures–artistic, cultural, and scientific. The knowledge of humankind’s history is at risk. UMAC calls upon leaders—national and academic— to take on the responsibility that is theirs, that is, to protect these treasures.

UMAC Board, 8 September 2018

METABOLIC MACHINES at University of Copenhagen

Works by Thomas Feuerstein at Medical Museion

On May 22, Medical Museion opened the exhibition Metabolic Machines, which features works by the Austrian artist Thomas Feuerstein. It is centered on two of his living sculptural machines, in which microscopic life carries out processes of transformation. The machines are literally metabolisms: living systems in which the biochemical breakdown and remaking of matter takes place. The machines also provide the raw materials for the artist’s work, in which matter transforms into art: sugar becomes sculptures and algae become paintings.

Feuerstein explores the transformative processes of life through biological sculptures, paintings, and drawings. He creates artistic narratives, revolving around mythological themes, visions of possible futures, and the complicated relationships between our bodies and technology.

The exhibition is part of Medical Museion’s work with experimental approaches to science communication as part of The Novo Nordisk Foundation for Basic Metabolic Research at the University of Copenhagen.

Job opening: Tangible Heritage Conservation; University of Pretoria


In pursuit of the ideals of excellence and diversity, the University of Pretoria wishes to invite applications for the following vacancy.
The University of Pretoria’s commitment to quality makes us one of the top research Universities in the country and gives us a competitive advantage in international science and technology development.

There is an urgent need for training and knowledge production in the conservation of tangible cultural heritage resources (TCH) on the African continent. This need is precipitated by the problem of the scarcity of resources (human, intellectual and financial), the urgency to preserve, restore and repair valuable TCH objects, and the important social and human responsibility to sensitize communities about the long-term benefits of conservation focused on our tangible heritage. Diverse forms of material culture, both moveable and immoveable, offer material, social, and psychological links between the past, present and the future.
The University of Pretoria (UP), an accredited higher education and research intensive institution with extensive art, archaeological and anthropological collections, is ideally located and positioned to train, nurture and develop a new and diverse cohort of conservation professionals in South Africa and the broader African continent.
The Faculty invites applications from appropriately qualified persons who comply with the relevant requirements for the position of Chair in Tangible Heritage Conservation. The Faculty is implementing a Master’s degree in Tangible Heritage Conservation, the first of its kind at an African university. A key objective of the programme is to prepare students to take up leading roles as professional conservators and conservation managers in museums, libraries, archives, and other sites that care for cultural heritage.
The Chair oversees an academic programme that will build the research capacity of a new generation of conservators and will aid in diversifying the demographic representation in the current conservation profession. Funding from the AW Mellon Foundation has been committed to support this pioneering Programme.

The successful candidate will have academic, managerial and administrative responsibilities and, will work closely with the Dean and Deputy Dean: Postgraduate Studies and Ethics. The incumbent will take responsibility for implementing and executing the Faculty’s plans for implementation of the degree and to provide academic leadership in Tangible Heritage Conservation studies.
The Chair will also work with a range of stakeholders within the University (notably Humanities and the Sciences), as well as with non-university partners and practitioners to encourage, enable and support interdisciplinary teaching and research in Tangible Heritage Conservation. The Chair will promote and establish international academic links in the Faculty in the area of Tangible Heritage Conservation Studies and assist in enhancing the quality of postgraduate offerings and research in the Faculty in this area. We anticipate the successful candidate to be an individual who will provide mentorship and support to students, as well as assist in developing current staffing for future leadership of this programme.
Responsibilities will include:
• Providing vision and leadership in respect of the proposed Master’s Degree Programme in Tangible Heritage Conservation at the University of Pretoria;
• Serving as Project Co-ordinator in taking charge of planning and implementing the proposed conservation programme;
• Co-ordinating the workshops, round-table discussions, seminars and meetings;
• Chairing all meetings relating to the implementation of the proposed programme;
• Enhancing the syllabus as a multi-disciplinary model to ensure the newly proposed curriculum meets international conservation standards;
• Collaborating actively within faculty, across Faculties and departments, as well as within a regional context, national institutions and on international platforms to advocate conservation at UP;
• Providing direction and advice within the internal advisory committee at UP and working closely with an external advisory committee in on-going curriculum development;
• Providing leadership in respect of the research related to the proposed programme;
• Participating in creating the teaching and scientific research agenda of the new conservation programme;
• Growing a tangible heritage conservation network in South Africa and across the African continent, in partnership with institutions, museums, archives, libraries and governments.

• A senior academic ideally with a PhD in the conservation of art or tangible cultural heritage (or a relevant cognate field) from a reputable academic institution. Candidates who only possess a Master’s degree in this area and who meet the requirements will also be considered;
• A successful track record at this level with proven, on-going excellence in research and postgraduate supervision, interdisciplinary skills, community engagement and public humanities;
• Appropriate experience in liaising with internal and external stakeholders;
• Appropriate experience and evidence of successful fundraising.

• Appropriate communication and language skills;
• Proven strategic development, planning and implementation skills;
• Facilitation and negotiation skills;
• Good interpersonal, change management, and conflict management skills;
• Management and leadership skills.

• An understanding of the importance of the role of the Humanities in a changing tertiary education sector;
• Managerial / administrative experience relevant to the higher education environment;
• Demonstrable administrative skills;
• An understanding of the vision of the Faculty and a commitment to achieve the strategic goals of the University.

The Chair in Tangible Heritage Conservation Studies is a term appointment for five years and is renewable based on a combination of performance and funding.

The all-inclusive remuneration package for this contract position will be commensurate with the incumbent’s level of appointment, as determined by UP policy guidelines.

Applicants are requested to apply online at, and follow the link: Careers@UP.
In applying for this post, please attach:
• A detailed cover letter motivating suitability against the criteria, requirements and responsibilities;
• A complete and updated Curriculum Vitae in UP format (available on request from;
• The candidate’s vision for the position of Chair of Tangible Heritage Conservation Studies within the Faculty, the national and international contexts;
• The names and contact details (e-mail addresses) of three referees who can attest to the candidate’s academic stature and leadership ability. The University reserves the right to appoint additional referees.

Candidates may be expected to make a 10-minute presentation to the Appointments Committee on his / her vision for the Department during the interview.

By applying, candidates agree to the appointment process as set out in the relevant UP policy document. This process can be accessed at .

CLOSING DATE: 31 May 2018
No application will be considered after the closing date, or if it does not comply with at least the minimum requirements.

ENQUIRIES: Prof Vasu Reddy, Tel: +27 12 420 2360, or e-mail:

Should you not hear from the University of Pretoria by 30 June 2018, please accept that your application has been unsuccessful.

The University of Pretoria is committed to equality, employment equity and diversity.
In accordance with the Employment Equity Plan of the University and its Employment Equity goals and targets, preference may be given, but is not limited to candidates from under-represented designated groups.
All candidates who comply with the requirements for appointment are invited to apply.
The University of Pretoria reserves the right to not fill the advertised positions.

Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota Forges New Relationships with University’s Medical School

Boris Oicherman, WAM’s Ihlenfeld Curator for Creative Collaboration, and Academic Health Center’s Director of Infectious Disease Center Timothy Schacker have proposed and received approval from the medical school (Academic Health Center) Dean JakubTolar and WAM (Weisman Art Museum) Director Lyndel King to proceed with developing a platform for incorporating the arts in the Academic Health Center.

Academic Health Center and Weisman Art Museum will collaborate on establishing a platform for sustainable, long-term collaborative relationships of artists and researchers dedicated to developing innovative approaches to healthcare. Short-term (1-2 years) objectives:
Establish a number of collaborative relationships between artists and researchers that will provide a basis for creating a long-term program. Special attention will be given to developing sustainable models of support for the arts at AHC that go beyond fixed-term grants and projects. Three projects have been identified as the first to be explored.
• Artist Peng Wu collaborates with Prof. Michael Howell, a researcher of sleep, to combine artistic and scientific perspectives on how to enhance and improve sleep therapy.
• Dancer and choreographer Anna Marie Shogren engages with the Center for Aging Science & Care Innovation at the Nursing School to research how dancers and caregivers can collaborate on developing better care protocols for patients.
• Artist Alyson Hiltner works with biological matter and life forms as with her sculptural material. She would develop a conversation with Prof. Paul Laizzo (Visible Heart Lab) and Brenda Ogle (Bioengineering) to establish a broad platform for biological arts in the AHC.

WAM’s Education Director, Jamee Yung, has been asked by AHC Assistant Dean for Curriculum Ann Pereira to be part of the planning team for updating the medical school curriculum. AHC is particularly interested in using fine arts to enhance visual diagnostic skills. Jamee’s expertise is a perfect fit. She trains students and teachers in developing observational skills that help make meaning from works of art. These are the same skills necessary for diagnosis. Research at the Yale University has established that using experiences with artworks is successful in developing diagnostic skills in medical students. Jamee has worked with a few medical school classes over the last few years, but this update would integrate WAM’s program into the curriculum.

These projects could make the U of MN AHC one of the leaders in innovative medical education.

Southern Illinois University Museum Reopens

After being forced to close for six months due to budget cuts, SIU’s University Museum has reopened its doors to the public. SIU is located in Carbondale, Illinois, USA. 

WM Weston Stoerger, the Curator of Exhibits, said, “We’re looking to become that cultural point for southern Illinois again.”

He’s looking to help the museum, which shuttered its doors in July because of the state budget impasse, return to its former glory.

“Because there are so few places like this in southern Illinois it’s really important that they stay around because arts are integral in any society,” he said. “You need to have them.”

Right now only the museum’s north hall is open but Stoerger says the south hall is currently under construction and will reopen in the future.

LaSalle University In Pennsylvania, USA, Plans to Sell Masterpieces From Its Museum Collection

Adapted from a Jan. 6 article by Susan Snyder in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

LaSalle University in Pennsylvania has announced plans to sell 46 paintings from its art museum in order to raise money for other strategic priorities of the university.


The university estimates it will raise between $4.8 million and $7.3 million, much of it for masterpieces including Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’ Virgil Reading the Aeneid Before Augustus from 1865; Dame Elisabeth Frink’s sculpture Walking Madonna; Dorothea Tanning’s Temptation of St. Anthony;Georges Rouault’s Le Dernier Romantique (The Last Romantic); and  Albert Gleizes’ Man in the City (L’Homme Dans la Ville).

The Association of Art Museum Curators slammed the plan in a statement. “This decision goes against fundamental best practices of museums, the very standards that have built and shaped the country’s tradition of establishing and preserving art collections for the public trust,” the group wrote.

Both the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) and the Association of Art Museum Directors followed with a statement, and the Task Force for the Protection of University Collections also informed La Salle of its opposition to the plan, said Lyndel King, director and chief curator of the Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota and cochair of the task force.

“Our major role is making sure that institutions understand the implications and potential consequences of what they are proposing to do,” King said, noting that other museums could refuse to lend traveling exhibits to the museum and essentially isolate it from collaboration with its peers. “We also want to make sure that donors and others know that this is being considered. It’s a black mark on the university. If I were a donor, I would certainly think about making another donation to a university that did that.”

Often university trustees and administrators don’t understand how inflammatory it is to sell art for purposes other than improving its collection and museum, or that the museums are an integral part of a college’s teaching, she said.

The task force formed around 2009 when Brandeis University in Massachusetts, like many schools stung by the recession and a loss in its endowment, proposed to close its Rose Art Museum and sell off the art. The museum, opened in 1961, had a loyal following who complained. Legal action ensued, and the plans eventually were scrapped.

For La Salle, a 3,200-student Catholic university that has struggled with a projected deficit and layoffs in recent years, criticism isn’t just coming from the art community. Alumni from other fields also have sounded off on social media. “Pretty soon it will be a trade school. Sad times,” Tierney Kelly, a 1998 graduate from Philadelphia, posted on Facebook. Kelly, a film publicist who majored in English literature at La Salle, said she visited the museum frequently as a student. Her projects for a class on Shakespeare took place there. “It was amazing to be able to conduct a class in a place like that,” she said. Later, she worked in La Salle’s admissions office and touted the museum as a selling point. “It was a gem for the university,” she said.

La Salle, in the Logan section of Philadelphia, intends to keep the museum open and replace works on display that are being sold with other pieces from its collection. But alumni worry that with the sale of such prominent pieces the museum won’t be the same.

Vinny Vella, a 2012 communications graduate who currently works as a reporter at the Hartford Courant, said the “paltry” amount La Salle stands to raise isn’t worth it. “La Salle has certain assets that make it valuable to the students and one of those assets has always been its art museum,” said Vella, a former Daily News reporter. “If La Salle is willing to sell off parts of its art collection, what else is it willing to sell?


Davis Museum at Wellesley College, USA, Wins Best Soft Power Cultural Activation Award

On Friday, September 29, at the Leading Culture Destinations Awards event in London, the Davis Museum at Wellesley College won the Best Soft Power Cultural Activation Award. The honor recognizes the ingenuity and global impact of ART-LESS: the Davis Without Immigrants, an initiative, and intervention launched by the Davis Museum in February 2017.


ART-LESS responded to President Trump’s first executive order on immigration, issued on January 27, 2017—a proposed “Muslim ban” on entry to the United States that left many feeling alarmed, threatened, and frightened. The goal of the ART-LESS initiative was to demonstrate the critical role that immigrants to the United States have played in the arts, via both their creative contributions as artists and their philanthropic roles as museum donors. It also articulated the Museum as a public space for critical discourse on matters of national importance.


Dr. Claire Whitner, Assistant Director of Curatorial Affairs and Senior Curator of Collections, says “the Davis puts cultural pluralism at the heart of our mission; to take that seriously means to create programming that emphasizes that value and defends it when threatened.”


During this six-day event, which encompassed the American “Presidents’ Day” holiday, the Davis Museum de-installed or shrouded all works of art in its permanent collections galleries that were either created by or given to Wellesley’s art collection by immigrants to the United States. Approximately 120 works of art—roughly 20 percent of the objects on view in the Museum’s permanent collections galleries—were either taken down or covered in heavy black cloth. Signage was posted next to each affected piece to indicate “Made by an Immigrant” or “Given by an Immigrant.” The concept and its impact were dramatic, particularly in light of a sluggish response among most American museums. The initiative garnered extensive international media coverage.


“I believe that museums can be important political spaces,” said Lisa Fischman, the Ruth Gordon Shapiro ’37 Director of the Davis,” for generating discourse, social engagement, and smart activism. Through actions like ART-LESS, the Davis takes a stance on contemporary issues, modeling social activism and political integrity for students—for the next generation—and for the larger community. Particularly at this moment in the nation’s history, it is extremely important to demonstrate the impact of immigrants—past, present, and future—on American cultural life. ART-LESS posed an invitation: taking the Davis as a microcosm, one might extrapolate out and consider the tremendous impact of immigrants on the nation as a whole.”

At Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota, USA, a new take on curation and collaboration

Boris Oicherman, the Weisman’s new Cindy and Jay Ihlenfeld Curator for Creative Collaborations, is throwing tradition out the window.  The position is the museum’s first endowed position,  which means that it will be funded in perpetuity.  Funds to endow the position were given by Cindy and Jay Ihlenfeld, both former employees of 3M corporation that is headquartered in Minnesota.   While 3M may be best known for”Scotch tape,” today its biggest sales are business to business.  3M is known around the world for innovation and creativity. 

Boris Oicherman is a practicing artist with a Ph.D. in color science and an extensive background in printing technologies, computer programming, and digital color imaging. He recently completed a Master’s Degree in Fine Arts at Stanford University in California. Hired in July  2018,  he has a big project ahead of him.

“I want to create an environment where you do not need to define your project,” Oicherman said. “You will need to define your ideas, your agenda, why you want to do this and what direction you want to go, but you’ll be absolutely free to develop it over a year at least, and after that year, we’ll see what happens.” His job is basically to engage professors from diverse disciplines with artists in a collaborative process.

“When you think about a university, you think about education and what education can be, and the role the museum can have on that education, in changing it and making it better,” Oicherman said. 

Oicherman challenged the current role of the museum and its potential by asking over-arching questions like, “Why have a museum at a university?”

“Art, I believe today, is a totally unique thing that can be absolutely anything. There’s not a thing that you point a figure on and say ‘hey, this cannot be art,’” Oicherman explained. “That gives amazing freedom to artists.” 

Oicherman aims to manifest this freedom by organizing strategic interactions among different fields of knowledge within the University of Minnesota. Artists will interact with biologists, neuroscientists, engineers, designers—the possibilities are endless.

Over the course of a year, Oicherman will budget and plan for the space to become a center point for creative collaboration and will begin the project’s implementation mid-June 2018. Rather than an application that is proposal and submission based, Oicherman prefers to hold open office-hours where he hopes conversations, ideas, and relationships may be developed. 

“I’m looking for artists that are interested in very open-ended projects, that are interested in working with other people and that have crazy ideas because this is what the whole place is about,” Oicherman said. “The crazier the better.”