May has come and gone, and here we are at the beginning of another month. You can check out all the posts from May on Aus GLAM Blogs, (and register your own blog while you’re there) but here are some highlights:
- Ellen Forsyth on documenting COVID-19
- Clare O’Hanlon is singing solidarity forever
- Alisa Howlett is back, baby, after her life changed forever when she created a whole other human
- Jane Cowell started a totally different club
- Alissa McCulloch will be reading things from her Pocket list forever but at least she shares the good stuff
- I wrote about why Peter Brannen has a totally different idea to other people of just how long forever is
- Nathan Mudyi Sentance teased us with one he prepared earlier, but later shared some ideas about non-Indigenous writers citing the Indigenous knowledge that has been on this country forever.
Don’t forget to tag your posts with GLAM Blog Club and use the hashtag #GLAMBlogClub when sharing them. Now here’s guest author Jenny Scott with some blog inspiration for our June theme, risk:
Thoughts on Risk
In the words of Kelly Clarkson, we’ve gotta take a risk, take a chance, make a change, and break away [from colonialist narratives, outdated exhibits, and irrelevant collecting practices].
It is clear that so many of us in the GLAM sector need to step out of our comfort zones and look to other disciplines to find new ways of engaging communities, forming partnerships, and telling stories.
Otherwise we run the risk of losing our relevance to the communities that we exist to serve; of losing our purpose.
It is a risk if we don’t promote diverse stories, if we don’t address the less-than-savoury pasts of our institutions, if we don’t produce exhibitions and texts that actively engage with the manifold, nuanced, and often dark histories of this country. (Not to be too dramatic, but we run the risk of our reputation in popular culture becoming a reality – of people who live to sternly shush visitors from behind dusty stacks of boxes).
With these risks in mind, here are some Perth-based projects and organisations that inspire me (because the rest of Australia tends to forget we exist).
I’m definitely not implying every cultural institution should transform into a travelling caravan or devote themselves entirely to posting endless ‘recreate our famous paintings’ memes on social media. Rather, these are examples of agile organisations and projects that respond to the needs and interests of their communities – who work to empower, hold relevance, and promote layered and accessible histories beyond any official singular narrative.
- The Museum of Freedom and Tolerance – a multidisciplinary organisation (a ‘museum with no boundaries’) with a mission that specifies creating ‘positive actions and meaningful change’. They hosted the fabulous Invisible Ink symposium in 2019.
- The Chin Wagon – a custom-built traveling recording studio designed to capture community-led conversations, from the team behind the wildly popular Barefaced Stories platform.
- The Centre for Stories – a cultural institution dedicated to inclusive storytelling, with an empowering program of events, publications, and projects providing platforms for a vast range of diverse and under-represented communities (disclaimer: I sometimes volunteer here).
- Contemporary art projects in general! As one specific example, ‘The Lion Never Sleeps’ was a show at Fringe World 2020 offering a silent-disco-style walking tour of Northbridge exploring queer histories of the area during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. Presented by Noemie Huttner-Koros, this was a deeply engaging example of re-introducing hidden and subversive histories into the spaces they once occupied.
- The Perth Aesthetics Facebook Group (admittedly this is a stretch to include) – a user-led celebration of shared cultural landscapes in all their kitschy, cringey, and bizarre-o glory. This is probably common to many place-specific social media groups (although this one is great because there are less racists).
I guess I want to raise some questions – how can we maintain long-term relevance as GLAM institutions?
What needs to change for us to embed the contemporary values of accessibility and inclusivity into our work?
How can we improve our ‘bad vibes’? (See The White Pube piece that inspired this blog post).
Note: the topic of ‘risk’ takes on a particular poignancy in our current age of COVID-19, while so many aspects of our sector (and indeed wider society) appear to be at risk. I think it’s worth acknowledging that everything is very hard right now – really it’s amazing that anyone still has the capacity to remain productive during these especially trying times. So perhaps this blog is an attempt at offering inspiration, rather than a call to action (for now!).