83 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, 94 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.

    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
    80. British Museum Curator Sushma Jansari Shares Stories and Experiments of Decolonising Museums

    80. British Museum Curator Sushma Jansari Shares Stories and Experiments of Decolonising Museums

    The British Museum’s South Asia Collection is full of Indian objects. Dr. Sushma Jansari, Tabor Foundation Curator of South Asia at the British Museum, does not want visitors to overlook the violence of how these objects were brought to the UK to be held in a museum.


    So for the 2017 renovation of the South Asia Collection, Jansari, who is the first curator of Indian descent of this collection, made sure to create unexpected moments in the gallery. She highlighted artifacts bequeathed to the museum by South Asian collectors and presented photographs of a modern Jain Temple in Leicester, where she’s from.


    In this episode, Jansari talks about giving visitors the tools to think about the colonial interest in items in the collection, why she started her excellent podcast, The Wonder House, and how not to let the decolonization movement’s momentum evaporate.


    Topics and Links


    00:00 Intro
    00:15 Seleucid–Mauryan war
    00:45 Megasthenes
    01:30 Dr. Sushma Jansari, Tabor Foundation Curator of South Asia at the British Museum
    02:00 How Events Are Transformed Through History
    03:00 Decolonising Museums and Collections
    04:21 39. Hans Sloane and the Origins of the British Museum With James Delbourgo
    04:50 Empire and Daily Life in the U.K.
    05:46 Being the First South Asian Curator of the South Asia Collection
    06:30 Working on the 2017 Renovation of the British Museum’s South Asia Collection
    08:00 Creating Unexpected Moments in the Gallery
    08:15 Mathura lion capital
    09:30 Visitation Trends Since the Update
    10:58 “Not Just One or Two Tweaks”
    11:10 Why Jansari Started The Wonder House Podcast
    12:10 “Every Movement Has Its Moment”
    12:30 Subscribe to The Wonder House Podcast Apple Podcasts
    13:30 SPONSOR: Pigeon by SRISYS
    14:28 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 80. 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]


    There’s a way to look at history that focuses on the events themselves.


    And then there’s a way to look at history that focuses on the fallout.


    In the 4th century B.C.E., Seleucus who was one of Alexander the Great’s successors, and Chandragupta, who was the first Mauryan emperor in Northern India, met for the first time by the banks of the river Indus, and they had some kind of military encounter.


    What kind of military encounter? Well we don’t r

    • 15 min
    79. The Future of Hands-On Museum Exhibits with Paul Orselli

    79. The Future of Hands-On Museum Exhibits with Paul Orselli

    The modern museum invites you to touch. Or it would, if it wasn’t closed due to the Covid-19 outbreak. The screens inside the Fossil Hall at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC say “touch to begin” to an empty room. The normally cacophonous hands-on exhibits at the Exploratorium in San Francisco sit eerily silent.


    Museum exhibit developer Paul Orselli of Paul Orselli Workshop says he’ll be reluctant to use hands-on exhibits once museums open up again. But he hopes that future hands-on exhibits are more meaningful because museums will work harder to justify them.


    In this episode, Orselli predicts what hands-on exhibits could become, the possibility that the crisis will encourage museums to adhere to universal design principles instead of defaulting to touchscreens, and how Covid-19 might finally put an end to hands-on mini grocery store exhibits in children's museums.


    Topics and Links


    00:00 Intro
    00:15 Hands-On Exhibits in Museums
    01:00 Michael Spock
    02:04 Paul Orselli
    02:40 The Growth of Hands-On Exhibits
    03:30 “The last thing I want to do is rush into a super-crowded museum”
    04:40 “Empty Interaction”
    06:50 27. Yo, Museum Professionals
    07:30 The Future of Touchscreens
    09:14 Universal Design Principles
    10:20 The End of Mini-Grocery Store Exhibits
    11:00 “Constraints Are A Good Thing For Creativity”
    11:40 Archipelago at the Movies : National Treasure is Now Free for Everyone
    12:15 SPONSOR: Pigeon by SRISYS
    13:10 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 79. 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]


    The modern museum invites you to touch.


    Or it would, if it wasn’t closed due to the Covid-19 outbreak. The screens inside the Fossil Hall at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC say “touch to begin” to an empty room. The normally cacophonous hands-on exhibits at the Exploratorium in San Francisco sit eerily silent.


    And the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia-- which is inviting you right there in its name--has presumably stopped running commercials.



    Please Touch Museum Commercial: “No need to keep your hands by your side here. Exhibits are rich in detail, encouraging children to touch, feel, and see the way everyday things in our lives work… to learn more and to plan your visit, visit pleasetou

    • 13 min
    78. How Museums Present Public Health with Raven Forest Fruscalzo

    78. How Museums Present Public Health with Raven Forest Fruscalzo

    Museums across the globe are now closed because of Covid-19. Some of those shuttered galleries presented the science behind outbreaks like the one we’re living through.


    As Raven Forrest Fruscalzo, Content Developer at the Field Museum in Chicago and host of the Tiny Vampires Podcast points out, the fact that museums are closed is an important statement: they trust the scientific information.


    In this episode, Forrest Fruscalzo discusses the people that make up public health, how museums can be a trusted source of public health information, and examples of museum galleries that incorporate public health.


    Topics and Links


    00:00 Intro
    00:15 Outbreak: Epidemics in a Connected World at the National Museum of Natural History
    01:06 Raven Forest Fruscalzo
    01:45 Public Health
    02:08 Information Deficit Hypothesis
    03:29 Museums and Trust
    06:10 Museums That Present Public Health Topics
    06:38 The Ancient Americas | Field Museum
    07:04 Northwest African American Museum
    07:40 Visitor Experience at Outbreak
    08:40 Museum Closings Because of COVID-19
    10:10 Tiny Vampires Podcast
    11:00 SPONSOR: Pigeon
    12:30 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.



    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 78. 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



    A few months ago, before reports of a new form of coronavirus now known as COVID-19 started appearing in the news, I visited an exhibit called Outbreak: Epidemics in a Connected World at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.


    The exhibit laid out the coordinated detective work that public health workers and many other professionals do as they identify and respond to infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, Ebola virus, and influenza. There was even a touchscreen game that invited me to work cooperatively with other visitors to contain an outbreak before it spread further.



    Raven Forrest Fruscalzo: So the funny thing about public health and a lot of the scientists that contribute to the knowledge that public health workers use, is that if you're doing everything right, nobody realizes that you're doing it right. It's the opposite of a glamorous job.



    This is Raven Forest Fruscalzo, a professional science communicator and writer who works as a content developer and production assistant at the Field Museum in Chicago, and hosts the excellent science podcast, Tiny Vampires.



    Raven For

    • 13 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
94 Ratings

94 Ratings

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.

kennallie_90 ,

Excited for Deep Time

This podcast is wonderful! The most recent episode includes a very interesting history lesson about the fossil hall at the Smithsonian, and it made me incredibly excited to (hopefully) visit the new Deep Time exhibit in the near future!

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