Displaygrounds 2008-2013

Elisabeth Cameron served as the Rebele Endowed Chair from
2008-2013 with a museum-oriented project titled “Displaygrounds.” This
five-year series of undergraduate and graduate classes and seminars, workshops,
and symposia highlighted the increasingly contested relationship between Art
History/Visual Studies and art or cultural history museums.  The overall project had three goals:

 

  • Promote and strengthen the HAVC graduate program by
    bringing attention to one of the possible concentrations in curatorial studies.
  • Promote the establishment of a Center for Art and
    Visual Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, with the
    History of Art & Visual Culture Department playing a prominent role.
  • Strengthen existing ties with the Museum of Art and
    History (MAH) and establish a collaborative relationship that will result
    in strong ties between MAH, the future CAVS, and HAVC. This collaboration
    would make each institution stronger and richer.

 

In working toward these three goals, the project engaged
both campus initiatives and broad-based community interests.

 

In the first year, the Chair sponsored “The Museum Strikes
Back,” a symposium that encouraged dialogue between museum professionals and
academic critics. One day of the symposium focused on academic presentations
and discussion at UCSC and the second day addressed community concerns in a
roundtable at MAH. 

 

The Chair teamed with the Arts Dean in 2012 to organize and sponsor
The Dean’s Lecture Series titled “Reshaping
the Museum, Creating New Knowledge, Engaging the Mind”

What is a true interdisciplinary center/institute/museum
that explores both the arts and the sciences? This provocative series delves into
the effect of display as an image, object, or concept moves between intellectual
environments. It encourages consideration of a space that fosters research across
the disciplines, allowing visual imagery to be at the forefront of discovery and
thus creating a very different environment than the traditional museum. In this
place, curiosity, innovation, and new ideas are fostered and new knowledge is created
through research. We engage not only the senses but the mind. How can this place
accomplish all these things and become an exhibition, research and collaborating
environment? How does the source alter what we think about an object? Does being
presented as “art” transform the discussion? How does an astronomer, for example,
perceive an image in her lab and how do her perceptions, and those of other observers,
change when that same image moves into a more formal space such as a gallery or
museum setting? The same questions will also be explored in moving images and objects
between cultures and contexts.

 

Believing that critical studies must be combined with experience,
the Rebele Chair has sponsored a three-quarter series of Museum Studies classes
(HAVC 40, 141M, 191M). The first quarter, Museum Cultures (40), examines the
history and theories of display and museums. Taking the information gained in
the classroom, the second quarter (141M) takes the students behind the scenes
at museums where they meet and interview museum professionals. History and
theory from the first quarter combined with more advanced readings and
discussion in the classroom critically engage the student’s experiences in the
museum. The final quarter (191M) leans more heavily on practice as the students
curate and execute an exhibition at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History
(MAH).

 

In 2011, the students completed two exhibitions, “Our Threads
of Allegiance,” an examination of the role of textiles in Santa Cruz during
World War II and “Alexander Lowry Documentary Photographs of Santa Cruz
County,” an online exhibition (mahshow.ucsc.edu). These projects force the
students to not just critique the work of museum professionals but to put their
own ideas into practice. They work with the excellent MAH staff to carry out
their designs, but still have to think critically about their own plans. The
end result is not only an exhibition but also a research paper where each
student uses their academic research, readings, and discussions to look at
their own work.