As part of the Community Partnership Exhibition Program THE NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM–GRAND OPENING (On View September 13 – October 4), a panel of researchers will be convened to Corporate sponsorship of museums and science education can compromise the basic idea of museums as reliable sources of common knowledge. By considering historical as well as contemporary examples of museum funding, we look at the power structures embedded in practices of collecting and display.
ABOUT THE PRESENTERS
Dr. Alice Bell is a freelance journalist, specializing in the politics of science and technology. She writes about innovation for How We Get to Next and climate change for the Road to Paris. She’s a science policy blogger for the Guardian and columnist for Popular Science UK, and is working on a short history of the radical science movement for the Wellcome Trust’s Mosaic magazine. She previously worked as an academic, lecturing in science communication at Imperial College, where she also set up an interdisciplinary course on climate change, and acting as Head of Public Engagement at the Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex. Before that, she worked extensively in science education, including at the London Science Museum, and completed a PhD on children’s science media.
Wayne Modest is the director of the Research Centre for Material Culture at the National Museum of Ethnography and the Head of the Curatorial Department at the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam. Previously he was the Head of Anthropology at the Horniman Museum in London and Director of the Museums of History and Ethnography at the Institute of Jamaica. Recent publications include ‘Slavery and the (Symbolic) Politics of Memory in Jamaica: Rethinking the Bicentenary’ in Laurajane Smith et al. (ed) Representing Enslavement and Abolition in Museums: Ambiguous Engagements.
ABOUT THE NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM–GRAND OPENING
On View September 13 – October 4
The Natural History Museum is a new museum that does exhibitions, expeditions, educational workshops and public programming, but includes the social and political forces that shape nature, yet are left out of traditional natural history museums.
The Natural History Museum borrows from the legitimating aesthetics, pedagogical models, and presentation forms of natural history museums in order to support a perspective on nature as a commons. From this perspective, it lifts up the work of socially engaged artists and climate activists so that their interconnections appear.
The museum is a new ongoing project initiated by arts collective Not An Alternative. Members of the collective perform as anthropologists in the museum and as museum anthropologists, interrogating the influences that affect both the atmospheric climate on Earth and the political climate within natural history museums.
Like many of the collective’s previous projects, this one will employ the strategy of mimicry”originally a scientific process among animal species, now powerfully deployed by activists to exert pressure on predatorial actors. In this case, they will mimic traditional natural history museums with an aim to politicize the aesthetics of the re-presentation of nature.
The Natural History Museum will have its grand opening at the Queens Museum September 13th – October 4th. It is timed to coincide with the People’s Climate March, an historic march through the streets of New York City, with an anticipated hundreds of thousands of people calling for climate justice.
To celebrate the launch, a series of panels, workshops, and performances with artists, activists, scientists, anthropologists, historians, and theorists will introduce the public to the historical and theoretical framework that informs The Natural History Museum’s programs. Presenters include authors Christian Parenti and Astra Taylor, scientist Michael Mann, artists Mark Dion and Liberate Tate, historians Fred Turner and Stuart Ewen, media/political theorist Jodi Dean, activists Eddie Bautista and Elizabeth Yeampierre, and others.
In tandem with the museum’s opening will be the launch of The Natural History Museum’s online museum, (to be found at http://thenaturalhistorymuseum.org), and The Natural History Museum’s mobile museum, a 15-passenger tour, expedition, and action bus.
Curation: Not An Alternative
Exhibition Design: Not An Alternative
Design: Not An Alternative and The Public Society
Event Production: Paul Amitai
ABOUT NOT AN ALTERNATIVE
Not An Alternative is a ten year-old Brooklyn-based arts collective and artist-run non-profit organization with a mission to affect popular understandings of events, symbols, and history. Through engaged critical research and design, the group curates and produces interventions on material and immaterial space, bringing together tools from architecture, theory, exhibition design, and political organizing.
All of these efforts are enacted with an eye toward social change and strategies for creative political intervention that involve creating participatory points of entry for arts audiences and everyday citizens alike”not through a typical head-on (or head-butt) approach, but through the co-optation of popular vernacular, semiotics, and memes.
Not An Alternative’s creative actions, installations, and presentations have been featured within art institutions such as Guggenheim (NY), PS1/MOMA (NY), Tate Modern (London), Victoria & Albert Museum (London), and Museo Del Arte Moderno (Mexico City), and in the public sphere, where they collaborate with community groups and activist mobilizations.
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