90 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
    • 4.9 • 93 Ratings

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.

    90. Civil Rights Progress Isn't Linear. The Grove Museum Interprets Tallahassee's Struggle in an Unexpected Setting.

    90. Civil Rights Progress Isn't Linear. The Grove Museum Interprets Tallahassee's Struggle in an Unexpected Setting.

    The Grove Museum inside the historic Call/Collins House is one of Tallahassee’s newest museums, and it’s changing how the city interprets its own history. Instead of focusing on the mansion house’s famous owners, including Florida Governor LeRoy Collins, Executive Director John Grandage oriented the museum around civil rights. Cleverly tracing how Collins’s thinking on race relations evolved, the museum uses the house and the land it sits on to tell the story of the forced removal of indigenous people from the area, the enslaved craftspeople who built the house, and the Tallahassee Bus Boycott.


    Grandage says the museum’s interpretive plan and focus on civil rights wouldn't have been possible without the work of Black Tallahassee institutions like John G. Riley House Museum created by Althemese Barnes or the Southeastern Regional Black Archives built from FAMU Professor James Eaton’s collection.


    In this episode recorded at the museum, Grandage describes how historic preservation has always been about what the dominant culture finds worth persevering, the museum’s genealogical role, and the white backlash to Collins’s moderate positions on civil rights.


    Topics and Notes


    00:00 Intro
    00:15 Ian at the 1992 Springtime Tallahassee Parade
    00:55 White Supremacy in Tallahassee
    01:20 Smokey Hollow
    01:40 John Grandage
    02:35 The Grove Museum
    03:05 Developing the Interpretive Plan with a Focus on Slavery and Civil Rights
    03:30 Governorship of LeRoy Collins
    04:36 Tallahassee Bus Boycott
    06:08 Presenting the Narrative through Collins
    06:50 White Backlash to Collins’s Moderate Position on Civil Rights
    08:15 The Construction of the House by Enslaved Craftspeople
    09:45 The Genealogical Role of the Museum
    10:50 Forced Removal of Indigenous People in Tallahassee
    12:25 How Tallahassee Interprets Its History
    13:00 The John G. Riley House
    13:10 The Meek-Eaton Black Archives
    14:08 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 90. 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



    I found an old picture of me, taken about a block away from what is now the Grove Museum in Tallahassee, FL.


    The picture was taken in March 1992: I'm facing the camera as the Springtime Tallahassee parade -- Tallahassee's biggest annual celebration -- goes by behind me. Positioned in the frame is a confederate flag, proudly carried by two people parading down the middle of the street. My three-year-old self is blocking whatever group came after the flag -- maybe a club, maybe a mascot, maybe a group of Civil War reenactors?


    The fact that the confederate flag in a parade happened to be in the background of this candid shot hints at the white supremacy that undergirds Tallahassee, a city that had a majority Black p

    • 14 min
    89. Tehmina Goskar Critically Engages with Curation, Wherever It Happens

    89. Tehmina Goskar Critically Engages with Curation, Wherever It Happens

    Dr. Tehmina Goskar, director of the Curatorial Research Centre, co-founded MuseumHour with Sophie Ballinger in October 2014. The weekly peer-to-peer chat on Twitter “holds space for debate” for museum people all around the world.


    This month, Goskar officially steps back from her role at MuseumHour. This episode serves as both an “exit interview” for Goskar’s MusuemHour work and a chance to highlight other projects that she has founded based on her curatorial philosophy.


    In this episode, Goskar discusses founding the Curatorial Research Centre, democratizing culture through her Citizen Curators program (in association with the Cornwall Museums Partnership), and how over six years of MuseumHour conversations have shaped her work.


    Topics and Notes


    00:00 Intro
    00:15 MuseumHour at 6.5 Years Old
    00:50 Tehmina Goskar
    01:20 MuseumHour's Founding
    03:00 Mediums and Platforms
    04:35 Museum Conferences
    05:30 What is Curation?
    07:15 "To Care For"
    07:30 The Curatorial Research Centre
    09:20 Citizen Curators
    12:38 Archipelago at the Movies: How to Steal A Million (1966)
    14:05 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 89. 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



    For the past 6 and a half years, more or less weekly, museum people gather on Twitter for something called MuseumHour. Together, these people form a peer to peer community, supporting discussion and debate between those who work in, enjoy, and challenge museums in society.



    Tehmina Goskar: That's the beauty of MuseumHour. It is entirely independent. It is not an organization. It is just about holding a space so other people can talk with each other.



    This is Dr. Tehmina Goskar, who co-founded MuseumHour back in October 2014. Goskar also founded the Curatorial Research Centre.



    Tehmina Goskar: Hello, my name is Tehmina Goskar and I am the director and curator of the Curatorial Research Centre. And that's an organization I started back in 2018, very much to support fellow curators from around the world and also to make progress in modernizing curatorial practice.



    This month, Goskar officially steps back from her role in MusuemHour. I wanted this to serve as both an exit interview and a chance to highlight other projects that she has founded based on her curatorial philosophies.



    Tehmina Goskar: Museum Hour started back in October, 2014. Sophie Ballinger, who was the co-founder with me, got together over Twitter. We've never met in real life. Goodness knows whether we ever will. Sophie was based up in the North of England. I'm based in the far West of Cornwall. But we both decided we'd give the idea of these discussion-based hours that were kind of finding their feet on Twitter at that time. So we decided to

    • 14 min
    88. Jérôme Blachon Collects and Transmits Precious Memories at the Museum of Resistance and Deportation in Haute-Garonne, France

    88. Jérôme Blachon Collects and Transmits Precious Memories at the Museum of Resistance and Deportation in Haute-Garonne, France

    During World War II, a Nazi collbatoring regime governed the south of France, and the city of Toulouse was a Resistance hub. The Vichy Government promoted anti-Semitism and collaborated with the Nazis, most specifically by deporting Jews to concentration and extermination camps. Fragmented Resistance fighters organized to form escape networks and build logistics chains to sabotage and disrupt the regime.


    In 1977, former Resistance members created a community museum in Toulouse about their experience. Today, that museum is called the Museum of Resistance and Deportation in Haute-Garonne, France, and is run by the regional government. Museum director Jérôme Blachon is reimagining how the museum tells the story of the French Resistance as the people who experienced firsthand pass away.


    In this episode, Blachon describes the challenge of presenting the fragmented nature of the resistance to a modern audience, the 2020 renovation of the museum, and his focus on transmitting precious memories.


    Topics and Notes


    00:00 Intro
    00:15 Memorials in Toulouse
    01:00 Toulouse During World War II
    01:32 Jérôme Blachon, Director of the Museum of Resistance and Deportation in Haute-Garonne, France
    02:20 "Engage, Collect, Transmit"
    02:50 France During Nazi Germany's Administration
    03:38 Museum Archipelago Ep. 51
    04:08 Presenting the Difference Forms of Resistance in the Museum
    05:25 2020 Renovation
    05:35 The Disappearance of the Last Witnesses
    06:26 The Museum as Transmission
    06:45 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.



    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 88. 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



    Toulouse, France has many memorials, covering hundreds of years of history. There’s a statue of Joan of Arc, there's monuments to the soldiers of the Franco-Prussian War, and there’s memorials to the dead of World War I.


    But look closer, and you’ll also find sites covering a very specific slice of history: the years between 1940 and 1944, the period of Nazi Germany’s military administation of France. There’s the building where the Gestapo secret police made their local headquarters, there’s a monument to the Glory of the Resistance, and there’s the Shoah Memorial, the Hebrew word for the Holocoust, that honors the Jews who were deported and killed during this period.



    Jérôme Blachon (speaking French): Toulouse, during World War II, was a Resistance hub in the South of France. A lot of Resistance fighters came to Toulouse to form a Resistance unit and many then left for the rest of France or Spain. A number of escape networks began in Toulouse and took English airmen, for example, or Resistance fighters across the Pyrenees to London or the United States.



    This is Jerome Blachon, speaking French. Blachon i

    • 7 min
    87. The Vitosha Bear Museum Lives in a Tiny Mountain Hut

    87. The Vitosha Bear Museum Lives in a Tiny Mountain Hut

    Vitosha Mountain, the southern border of Sofia, Bulgaria, is home to about 15 brown bears and one bear museum. According to Dr. Nikola Doykin, fauna expert at the Vitosha Nature Park Directorate, the bear population is stable—if humans stay away and protect their habitat. To Doykin and his team, teaching children about the bears is the best way forward, and the Vitosha Bear Museum does just that.


    Founded in 2002 by repurposing an abandoned mountain shelter for the Vitosha mountain rangers, the Vitosha Bear Museum provides “useful tips on how to meet a bear.” It’s also sparse: the entire gallery is a single room, and the gallery lighting is powered by a car battery.


    In this episode recorded at the museum, Dr. Nikola Doykin describes why the location is so useful for eco education, how groups of schoolchildren react to exhibits, and what the museum plans to do when it installs solar panels.


    Topics and Notes


    00:00 Intro
    00:15 Vitosha mountain
    00:50 The Viosha Bear Museum
    01:05 Dr. Nikola Doykin
    02:10 The Location of the Museum
    04:00 "Useful Tips On How To Meet A Bear"
    04:35 Bear Markings in the Museum
    06:40 Ep. 6 Muzeiko
    06:50 Ep. 46 Vessela Gercheva Directs Playful Exhibits at Bulgaria’s First Children’s Museum
    08:30 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 87. 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



    Towering over the Bulgarian capital of Sofia is Vitosha mountain. Connected to the city by several public buses, residents like me love hiking the numerous mountain trails to get away from the hustle and bustle.


    [Hiking Sounds]


    And it was on one of these solitary hikes that I first came across The Vitosha Bear Museum. At first I didn’t quite know what I was looking at: a cute little hut halfway up the mountain with a locked door and boarded up windows.


    But the sign said Bear Museum in Bulgarian, and also that the museum was closed because it was “hibernating” for the winter.


    So I sent some emails and that’s how, a few days later, I met Dr. Nikola Doykin at the museum.


    добър ден! (Good day!)



    Dr. Nikola Doykin: добър ден! (Good day!)



    Dr. Nikola Doykin is a Fauna expert at the Vitosha Nature Park Directorate, the organization that runs the museum. And he also had a key to open the museum door, which he wasn’t sure would work because it had been a month since he last used it.


    [Key Unlocking Sounds]



    Dr. Nikola Doykin: “And as you see, our museum is how to say, very simple.”



    The museum is as small on the inside as it looks on the outside. There’s no electric connection at the museum -- the LED lights that illuminate the gallery are powered by a car battery that Doykin switched on when we entered.


    The rustic

    • 9 min
    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 fights 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 of

    • 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

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
93 Ratings

93 Ratings

sofiaApartment ,

That voice!

Bison on Horseback brought back some great memories.

Great podcast!

Adam Jared ,

Museum archipelago

I love this podcast. Ian Elsner takes me on a journey to museums all over the world. I look forward to every new episode!

<<a.morris>> ,

Better than the msueum placard!!

I love listening to Museum Archipelago because it approahes cultural institutions with such an open mind. It has changed how I think when I go into a museum myself. Bonus: the host has a great professor voice.

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