Performing the DIY public museum
Performing the DIY public museum

Kathryn is an artist, and a tutor and programme manager in the School of Visual Arts, Film and Animation. She has a Master of Fine Arts from the Otago Polytechnic School of Art and brings her considerable experience in art practice to her teaching and research. Her current area of research looks at the challenges and opportunities in reorienting museums from the periphery to the heart of their communities, initiating social action and facilitating public access to cultural heritage.

In August 2014 she attended a conference facilitated by the Inclusive Museum Knowledge Community which aimed to draw together a community of those who are passionate about ensuring public museums are engaging and accessible civic spaces for all people irrespective of their backgrounds. This year’s conference was hosted by the Autry National Center of the American West, and had a distinctly interdisciplinary focus, bringing together a diversity of scholars, researchers and practitioners to discuss challenges, new initiatives, and most importantly and more specifically how museums are addressing relevance in the their respective communities. Papers were presented under the themes of ‘Visitors’, ‘Collections’, and ‘Representations’. The paper Kathryn presented was titled “Performing the DIY Museum: Shirting the Frame of Conception, Production and Representation”. It reflected Eilean Hooper-Greenhill’s notion that ‘the museum in the future may be imagined as a process or an experience. It is however, not limited to its own walls, but moves a set of process into the spaces, the concerns and the ambitions of communities.’

Kathryn says that some of the highlights for her included hearing plenary speaker Charmaine Jefferson’s address reflecting on her significant experience in the sector. ‘Jefferson recently concluded 11 years as the Executive Director of the California African American Museum,’ says Kathryn, ‘and issued a challenge to the sector to discard preconceptions about what a museum should be and do and focus on what museums need to be and do in the here and now’. The Natural History Museum tour was particularly enhanced for her by the evident passion and drive of its staff who have developed a number of initiatives that reach out into their community including, for example, Zombee Watch. ‘This project is a partnership between the Museum and the San Francisco State University’s Department of Biology to discover more about zombie fly parasitized honey bees,’ explains Kathryn. ‘Participants can become “ZomBee hunters” in order to contribute to research around this issue and to this end the Museum website provides instruction on, for example, safe handling of bees, the construction of a light trap and how to collect, store and share the collected information with the Museum.’

‘There were numerous conference paper presentations I found inspirational which will continue to inform the development of my own research,’ says Kathryn. ‘I am grateful for the support of the Southern Institute of Technology in attending the Inclusive Museum conference.’