86 episodes

A tiny show guiding you through the rocky landscape of museums. Museum Archipelago believes that no museum is an island and that museums are not neutral.
Taking a broad definition of museums, host Ian Elsner brings you to different museum spaces around the world, dives deep into institutional problems, and introduces you to the people working to fix them. Each episode is never longer than 15 minutes, so let’s get started.

Museum Archipelago Ian Elsner

    • Places & Travel

A tiny show guiding you through the rocky landscape of museums. Museum Archipelago believes that no museum is an island and that museums are not neutral.
Taking a broad definition of museums, host Ian Elsner brings you to different museum spaces around the world, dives deep into institutional problems, and introduces you to the people working to fix them. Each episode is never longer than 15 minutes, so let’s get started.

    86. Nashid Madyun Fights the Compression of Black History at the Meek-Eaton Black Archives

    86. Nashid Madyun Fights the Compression of Black History at the Meek-Eaton Black Archives

    History professor Dr. James Eaton taught his students with the mantra: “African American History is the History of America.” As chair of the history department at FAMU, a historically Black University in Tallahassee, Florida, he was used to teaching students how to use interlibrary loan systems and how to access rare book collections for their research. But in the early 1970s, as his students' research questions got more in depth and dove deeper into Black history, he realized that there simply weren't enough documents. So he started collecting himself, driving a bus around South Georgia, South Alabama, and North Florida to gather artifacts.


    That collection grew to become the Meek-Eaton Southeastern Regional Black Archives Research Center and Museum on FAMU’s campus. Today, museum director Dr. Nashid Madyun presides over one of the largest repositories of African American history and culture in the Southeast.


    In this episode, Madyun describes how the structure of the gallery flights the compression of Black history, how the archive handles dehumanizing records and artifacts, and how a smaller museum can tell a major story.


    Topics and Links


    00:00 Intro
    00:15 Dr. James Eaton
    00:50 Starting The Collection
    01:35 Dr. Nashid Madyun
    02:44 Carnegie Library
    03:20 13 Galleries at the Meek-Eaton Black Archives
    04:56 The Compression of African American History
    05:20 Jim Crow and the KKK Exhibit
    06:02 Presenting Derogatory Material at the Museum
    07:00 How a Smaller Museum Can Tell a Major Story
    08:20 Manumission Exhibit and Reading Cursive Handwriting
    09:24 No Visitors During the Pandemic
    10:40 Museum Archipelago Episode 85
    11:00 The First Steps to Telling Hidden Stories
    11:50 SPONSOR: SuperHelpful
    12:45 Outro | Join Club Archipelago


    Museum Archipelago is a tiny show guiding you through the rocky landscape of museums. Subscribe to the podcast via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify, or even email to never miss an episode.



    Sponsor: SuperHelpful
    This episode of Museum Archipelago is brought to you by SuperHelpful, an audience research and development firm dedicated to helping museum leaders create more equitable and innovative organizations through problem-space research.

    Kyle Bowen, the founder of SuperHelpful, has brought together a team of designers and researchers to build a new community for museum folks who want to support one another as they reimagine what museums will be in the future. To join—and bypass the current waiting list—use this special link just for Museum Archipelago listeners!





    Transcript
    Below is a transcript of Museum Archipelago episode 86. Museum Archipelago is produced for the ear and the only the audio of the episode is canonical. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, refer to the links above.




    View Transcript



    [Intro]

    History professor Dr. James Eton taught his students with the mantra: “African American History is the History of America.” As chair of the history department at FAMU, a historically Black university in Tallahassee, Florida, he was used to teaching students how to use interlibrary loan systems and how to access rare book collections for their research. But in the early 1970s, as his students' research questions got more in depth and dove deeper into Black history, he realized that there simply weren't enough documents.



    Nashid Madyun: And that helped him to realize that the understanding of Abraham Lincoln, the KKK , the rise of the Black middle class, Jim Crow, all of the stories where will forever untapped properly if there is no repository. And he found that as people die, they had material in their attics. But in this region: South Georgia, South Alabama, Northern Florida, there was no place to present these wares. So he started to try to enhance his classroom with these artifacts. He took advantage o

    • 13 min
    85. The John G. Riley House is All That Remains of Smokey Hollow. Althemese Barnes Turned It Into a Museum on Tallahassee’s Black History

    85. The John G. Riley House is All That Remains of Smokey Hollow. Althemese Barnes Turned It Into a Museum on Tallahassee’s Black History

    During the period of Jim Crow and the Black Codes, a self-sustaining Black enclave called Smokey Hollow developed near downtown Tallahassee, Florida. As the first Black principal of Lincoln High School, John G. Riley was a critical part of the neighborhood. In 1890, he built a two-story house for his family—only about three blocks from where he was born enslaved.


    In the 1960s, the city of Tallahassee seized and destroyed the neighborhood as part of an urban renewal project through eminent domain. Riley's house was all that remained, thanks to activists who fought its demolition. Althemese Barnes was determined to not let the history fade: as founding director of John G. Riley Research Center and Museum, she transformed the building into a place where people can learn about Smokey Hollow.


    In this episode, Barnes talks about creating a museum to connect with young visitors, the process of becoming familiar with Florida's museum organizations which are often resistant to interpreting Black history, and the long process of building a commemoration to Smokey Hollow in Tallahassee’s urban landscape.


    Topics and Notes


    00:00 Intro
    00:15 John Gilmore Riley
    00:50 Althemese Barnes, Founding Director of the John G. Riley House and Museum
    01:15 Tallahassee in 1857
    02:45 Why The Name Smokey Hollow?
    04:00 The John Gilmore Riley House
    05:00 Jim Crow and the Black Codes
    05:40 Growing Up in Tallahassee
    06:00 The Destruction of Smokey Hollow Through Eminent Domain
    07:26 Barnes Steps Forward to Found the Museum
    08:10 Interpreting Black History at the Museum
    09:10 Dred Scott v. Sandford
    09:25 Brown v. Board of Education
    10:00 The Development of Cascades Park
    11:40 Smokey Hollow Commemoration
    12:15 Florida African American Heritage Preservation Network (FAAHPN)
    12:30 Barnes Becoming Familiar with the Museum World
    12:45 Resistance to Teaching History
    13:44 SPONSOR: Ian Elsner
    14:20 Outro | Join Club Archipelago 🏖️


    Museum Archipelago is a tiny show guiding you through the rocky landscape of museums. Subscribe to the podcast via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify, or even email to never miss an episode.



    Unlock Club Archipelago 🏖️


    If you like episodes like this one, you’ll love Club Archipelago. It offers exclusive access to Museum Archipelago extras. It’s also a great way to support the show directly.

    Join the Club for just $2/month.

    Your Club Archipelago membership includes:
    Access to a private podcast that guides you further behind the scenes of museums. Hear interviews, observations, and reviews that don’t make it into the main show;
    Archipelago at the Movies 🎟️, a bonus bad-movie podcast exclusively featuring movies that take place at museums;
    Logo stickers, pins and other extras, mailed straight to your door;
    A warm feeling knowing you’re supporting the podcast.










    Transcript
    Below is a transcript of Museum Archipelago episode 85. Museum Archipelago is produced for the ear, and only the audio of the episode is canonical. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, refer to the links above.




    View Transcript



    John Gilmore Riley was born enslaved on a Tallahassee, Florida plantation in 1857.



    Althemese Barnes: John Gilmore Riley was born into slavery about three blocks from here. After slavery ended, he chose education for a career and became the first black principal of the Lincoln high school that was built to provide an education for newly free slaves and their descendants.



    Here - where we’re sitting right now -- is the John G. Riley House and Museum in what is now basically downtown Tallahassee, and this is Althemese Barnes, the founding director of the museum.



    Althemese Barnes: Hello, my name is Althemese Barnes and I am the founding director of the John Gilmore rally research center and museum. And I've also been, I'm

    • 14 min
    84. On Richmond’s Transformed Monument Avenue, A Group of Historians Erect Rogue Historical Markers

    84. On Richmond’s Transformed Monument Avenue, A Group of Historians Erect Rogue Historical Markers

    Near the empty pedestals of Confederate figures that used to tower over Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia, a new type of historical marker now stands. The markers have most of the trappings of a state-erected historical plaque—but these are rogue markers erected by a group of anonymous historians called History is Illuminating.


    History is Illuminating decided to use historical markers as a medium to talk about the Black history taking place while those statues were erected as monuments to white supremacy.


    In this episode, an anonymous member of History is Illuminating discusses the ubiquity of the Lost Cause narrative, the reasons for being anonymous and going rogue, and the means of historical marker production.


    Topics and Notes


    00:00 Intro
    00:15 Historical Markers in the U.S. South
    01:00 History is Illuminating
    01:20 Rogue Historians
    02:10 Lost Cause Narrative
    03:13 Monument Avenue
    05:15 The Origins of History is Illuminating
    06:10 Studio Two Three
    06:20 Naming History is Illuminating
    08:10 Constructing the Historical Markers
    08:30 Episode 42. Freddi Williams Evans and Luther Gray Are Erecting Historic Markers on the Slave Trade in New Orleans
    09:05 The Markers
    09:45 John Mitchell Jr.
    10:30 Going Rogue
    11:00 Means of Historical Marker Production
    12:35 Learn More and Donate to History is Illuminating
    13:05 SPONSOR: Pigeon by SRISYS 🐦
    13:52 Outro | Join Club Archipelago 🏖


    Museum Archipelago is a tiny show guiding you through the rocky landscape of museums. Subscribe to the podcast via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify, or even email to never miss an episode.



    Sponsor: Pigeon by SRISYS 🐦
    This episode of Museum Archipelago is brought to you by SRISYS Inc - an innovative IT Apps Development Company with its Smart Products like Project Eagle - an agile messaging platform and PIGEON - a real-time, intelligent platform that uncovers the power of wayfinding for your museum, enabling your visitors to maximize their day at your venue.

    Using SRISYS's Pigeon, the museum's management can gather real-time data for managing space effectively about visitors while improving their ROI through marketing automation. Visitors can navigate the maze of a museum with ease, conduct automated and personalized tours based on their interest, RSVP for events, and get more information about the exhibits in front of them.

    Pigeon is a flexible platform and can be customized to work for your museum. And because the platform takes advantage of low-cost Beacon technology, the app works offline as well! This means less data transmission costs for the museum and bigger savings for visitors when using this app outside their home territory. Click here find out how Pigeon can help your museum.





    Transcript
    Below is a transcript of Museum Archipelago episode 84. Museum Archipelago is produced for the ear and the only the audio of the episode is canonical. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, refer to the links above.




    View Transcript



    [Intro]


    Over the past few weeks, near the empty pedestals of confederate figures that used to stand on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia, a new type of historical marker started appearing. The markers have most of the trappings of a state-erected historical marker--etched letters and an iconic shape.


    But there is no official logo, just a bright sun icon at the top, text in the middle describing a past event, and at the bottom simply the words: History Is Illuminating.



    History is Illuminating: If you start looking at historic markers that were installed in the 60s, 70s, 80s across the South, not just in Virginia, but in states all across the South, they're so biasly worded and the subject matter is so biasly chosen.



    History Is Illuminating is a group of anonymous historians from the Richmond area who, as the confederate sta

    • 14 min
    83. Chris Newell Forges The Snowshoe Path as the First Wabanaki Leader of the Abbe Museum

    83. Chris Newell Forges The Snowshoe Path as the First Wabanaki Leader of the Abbe Museum

    Chris Newell remembers the almost giddy level of excitement he felt when he visited the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, Maine as a kid. Every summer, the family drove for more than two hours for his father to perform songs about their Passamaquoddy language at the Native Market and the Native American Festival hosted by the museum.


    But even as a young person, Newell could clearly see the difference between the the Native Market and the Festival, which were run by members of the Wabanaki Nations, and the Museum itself, which was not.


    Today, Chris Newell, a Passamaquoddy citizen, is the first member of the Wabanaki Nations to lead the Abbe Museum. When he took on the role, the museum changed his title to Executive Director and Senior Partner to Wabanaki Nations, one of many steps toward decolonizing the museum and shifting power. In this episode, Newell describes how to spot a colonial museum, how museums’ default colonial mindset—including when it comes to maps and language—harms everyone, and his plan for his tenure.


    Image: Beadwork by Kristen Newell (Mashantucket Pequot). Wabanaki double-curve motif with dawn time as the background.


    Topics and Notes


    00:00 Intro
    00:15 Visiting the Abbe Museum
    01:40 Chris Newell, Executive Director and Senior Partner to the Wabanaki Nations
    02:05 Akomawt Educational Initiative
    02:29 Museum Archipelago Ep. 68 with endawnis Spears
    02:46 What is a Colonial Museum?
    04:30 The Abbe Museum’s Decolonization Process
    05:45 The Wabanaki Nations
    06:31 What It Means to be Senior Partner to the Wabanaki Nations
    08:07 Museums’ Default Colonial Mindset
    09:06 How Do You Know If You’re Visiting a Colonial Museum?
    09:30 Maps in the Abbe Museum
    10:39 The Use of Language in the Abbe Museum
    12:05 “There’s No Book”
    13:24 SPONSOR: A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green, Available Wherever Books Are Sold
    14:27 Outro | Join Club Archipelago


    Museum Archipelago is a tiny show guiding you through the rocky landscape of museums. Subscribe to the podcast via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify, or even email to never miss an episode.



    Unlock Club Archipelago 🏖️


    If you like episodes like this one, you’ll love Club Archipelago. It offers exclusive access to Museum Archipelago extras. It’s also a great way to support the show directly.

    Join the Club for just $2/month.

    Your Club Archipelago membership includes:
    Access to a private podcast that guides you further behind the scenes of museums. Hear interviews, observations, and reviews that don’t make it into the main show;
    Archipelago at the Movies 🎟️, a bonus bad-movie podcast exclusively featuring movies that take place at museums;
    Logo stickers, pins and other extras, mailed straight to your door;
    A warm feeling knowing you’re supporting the podcast.










    Transcript
    Below is a transcript of Museum Archipelago episode 83. Museum Archipelago is produced for the ear, and only the audio of the episode is canonical. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, refer to the links above.




    View Transcript



    Chris Newell remembers visiting the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, Maine as a kid. His father was hired to put on educational performances, to perform songs about their Passamaquoddy language, history and culture at the Native Market and the Native American Festival hosted by the museum.


    So every summer, the family would drive the two and a half hours from their home Motahkmikuhk. Newell looked forward to it year after year with an almost giddy level of excitement.


    But even as a young person, Newell could clearly see the difference between the surrounding events, like the Native market and the Festival, which were run by members of the Wabanaki Nations, and the Museum itself, which was not.



    Chris Newell: Back then, the Abbe Museum was more of a traditio

    • 14 min
    82. Statues and Museums

    82. Statues and Museums

    In the wake of the racist murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Black Lives Matter protesters in Bristol tore down a statue of Edward Colston, a prominent 17th Century slave trader. Protesters rolled the statue through the street and pushed it into Bristol Harbor — the same harbor where Colston’s Royal African Company ships that forcibly carried 80,000 people from Africa to the Americas used to dock.


    In this episode, we examine the relationship of statues and museums. Why do so many call for statues of people like Colston to end up in a museum instead of at the bottom of a harbor? Looking at examples from Dr. Lyra Montero’s Washington's Next! project in the United States, American Hall of Honor museums for college football teams, and statues of Lenin and Stalin in Eastern Europe, we discuss the town-square-to-museum pipeline for statues.


    Image: CC Keir Gravil - Black Lives Matter Protest, Bristol, UK


    Topics and Notes


    00:00 Intro
    00:15 Tim Tebow Statue at the University of Florida
    00:50 Football Hall of Honor Museums
    02:02 Tearing Down Edward Colston’s Statue in Bristol
    02:44 Dr. Lyra Monteiro
    03:00 Episode 77. Washington's Next!
    03:12 The “Slippery Slope” Argument
    04:56 Dr. Sadiah Qureshi
    05:33 Should Colston’s Statue End Up in a Museum?
    05:58 Episode 5. Stalinworld
    06:42 Grūtas Park
    07:32 Episode 25. Museum of Socialist Art
    08:20 Museums of Bristol Website
    08:40 Number of Confederate Statues in the United States
    09:55 Archipelago at the Movies : National Treasure is Now Free for Everyone
    10:25 Outro | Join Club Archipelago


    Museum Archipelago is a tiny show guiding you through the rocky landscape of museums. Subscribe to the podcast via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify, or even email to never miss an episode.



    Unlock Club Archipelago 🏖️


    If you like episodes like this one, you’ll love Club Archipelago. It offers exclusive access to Museum Archipelago extras. It’s also a great way to support the show directly.

    Join the Club for just $2/month.

    Your Club Archipelago membership includes:
    Access to a private podcast that guides you further behind the scenes of museums. Hear interviews, observations, and reviews that don’t make it into the main show;
    Archipelago at the Movies 🎟️, a bonus bad-movie podcast exclusively featuring movies that take place at museums;
    Logo stickers, pins and other extras, mailed straight to your door;
    A warm feeling knowing you’re supporting the podcast.










    Transcript
    Below is a transcript of Museum Archipelago episode 82. Museum Archipelago is produced for the ear, and only the audio of the episode is canonical. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, refer to the links above.




    View Transcript



    The statue appeared in 2011 on the path of my daily commute to the University of Florida, where I was a student.


    It was a statue of a football player named Tim Tebow, and the strange thing about it was that Tim Tebow was still around. In fact, it was just a few months after he graduated, and it was commemorating events, like touchdowns, that I remembered. I remembered seeing him around campus, and now I was looking at him as a statue.


    But it wasn’t just a statue. Behind the statue was the entrance to a Hall of Honor which featured football trophies.


    But the space was not just a room with trophies, it was a story about the football program where the trophies were an inevitable consequence. In short, it looked like a museum. Reader rails and old pictures of the early days of the program were presented alongside pigskin footballs from the 1930s with good lighting.


    But this wasn’t just at one university. All across the football conference, these trophy rooms looked like museum spaces.


    At Florida State University, just a few hours away, the trophy room begins with artifacts from

    • 11 min
    81. Living History in a Pandemic at Old Sturbridge Village

    81. Living History in a Pandemic at Old Sturbridge Village

    Old Sturbridge Village is a living history museum in Massachusetts depicting life in rural New England during the early 19th century. But the early 19th century isn’t specific enough for the site’s historical interpreters—to immerse visitors in the world they’re recreating, knowing exactly what year it “is” matters.


    Tom Kelleher, Historian and Curator of Mechanical Arts at Old Sturbridge Village was tasked with choosing that “default” date. He chose 1838 in part because the social and political change of that time period would resonate with today’s visitors. But there’s another aspect of the year that will resonate with visitors today once the museum reopens after closing due to Covid-19: how people in New England responded to the Cholera Pandemic of the 1830s.


    In this episode, Kelleher describes the difference between first and third person interpretation, and how visitors might react to seeing 19th century costumed interpreters with modern facemasks.


    Topics and Notes


    00:00 Intro
    00:15 What does the word interpreter mean?
    00:56 Tom Kelleher, Historian and Curator of Mechanical Arts at Old Sturbridge Village
    01:34 Old Sturbridge Village
    02:30 First-Person Interpretation
    03:30 Third-Person Interpretation
    05:35 “Who’s the president?”
    06:50 Picking a default year
    07:40 How people in New England responded to the Cholera Pandemic of the 1830s
    09:30 Living History Museums Interpreting Pandemics
    10:00 Interpreters in facemasks
    10:44 Archipelago at the Movies 🍿
    11:56 Outro


    Museum Archipelago is a tiny show guiding you through the rocky landscape of museums. Subscribe to the podcast via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify, or even email to never miss an episode.



    Unlock Club Archipelago 🏖️


    If you like episodes like this one, you’ll love Club Archipelago. It offers exclusive access to Museum Archipelago extras. It’s also a great way to support the show directly.

    Join the Club for just $2/month.

    Your Club Archipelago membership includes:
    Access to a private podcast that guides you further behind the scenes of museums. Hear interviews, observations, and reviews that don’t make it into the main show;
    Archipelago at the Movies 🎟️, a bonus bad-movie podcast exclusively featuring movies that take place at museums;
    Logo stickers, pins and other extras, mailed straight to your door;
    A warm feeling knowing you’re supporting the podcast.










    Transcript
    Below is a transcript of Museum Archipelago episode 81. Museum Archipelago is produced for the ear, and only the audio of the episode is canonical. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, refer to the links above.




    View Transcript



    [Intro]
    Tom Kelleher first learned what the word “interpreter” meant when he applied for a job at Old Sturbridge Village, a living history museum in Massachusetts.



    Tom Kelleher: They posted a job for a research historian and being young and firstly minted as a historian. I thought I knew everything and I applied and they called back a few weeks later and said, I'm. Sorry, you didn't get a job. Tom. Um, and I went to hang up saying, thank you because it was nice of them to tell me. And they said, would you be interested in being an interpreter? And I thought for a minute and said, well, my Spanish isn't that good. I don't think I could do that. And they said no you don't understand. The people who explain the past are called interpreters. They interpret the past for the present.



    Today, over thirty years later, Kelleher is Historian and Curator of Mechanical Arts at Old Sturbridge Village and one of the museum’s longest-serving employees.



    Tom Kelleher: Hello, my name is Tom Kelleher. I’ve been working in the living history field, which is wearing the clothing of people of the past and trying to have the pas

    • 12 min

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