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Modupe Labode Summary

Summary written by student participant Katherine Rieck

During the Future of Collections Roundtable, Dr. Labode reminded us to include multiple voices and perspectives as we rethink the purpose of museum collections. She warned against loosing diverse perspectives in our collections and making sure we notice the silences in our collections. Dr. Labode ended with her vision of an accessible database for academics, museum professionals and the public.

As we rethink our collections, Dr. Labode made sure that we do not remove different perspectives and create a monoculture that represents only a single story. Those who work in museums need to be aware of the problems of creating a monoculture with a curated collection, chosen stories represented, the select people who visit, and limited staff perspectives. This monoculture can also refer to an object that is used to only evoke one emotion; we should think about how we can acknowledge and make use of emotions that are complex in human existence – such as guilt, humility, shame, and gratitude – in our collections.

Next Dr. Labode discussed the silences in museums: What are the objects and stories that are missing and what is the consequence of changing our relationship to objects to deal with these silences? As collection managers and curators, we are making historical interventions; we choose what objects do and don’t get placed in an exhibit. Commonly, museums are missing basic infrastructure objects such as telephone poles. As museums do not include these objects in their collection, visitors are missing discussions that rise beyond the progressive story of technology; they are missing stories that have the potential to discuss the telephone pole’s significant use in urban lynching. Historic houses, when giving tours of parlors, remain silent on the bloody and cruel history of their ivory pieces in their pianos and fans. Instead of talking about how ivory shows the family was wealthy, why not make this an opportunity to acknowledge ivory’s link to human trafficking, smuggling, drugs, ISIS, and warlords. How can we use these interdisciplinary stories to enliven basic interpretations of our objects?

Dr. Labode concluded with proposing that academics and museums work together to create an accessible database that could attach the local, national, and transnational histories to objects while also including emotions, feelings, oral histories, sound recordings that relate to each object. This inclusive and wide-ranging database should not be barred by payment, but accessible and open for academic research, museum’s interpretation use, and the public’s interest. This way, academics, museum professionals, and anyone could harness the amazing things that are out there.