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“Interdisciplinary Museum Content” Creative Convening at the Oakland Museum of California June 8, 2012

Oakland Museum of California www.museumca.org 1000 Oak Street Oakland, CA 94607


Interdisciplinary Museum Content Oakland Museum of California June 8, 2012

Tr an scr ip t o f Gr o u p Discu ssio n Gu est Par t icip an t s: Marla Berns Robin Grossinger Nikki Silva of the Kitchen Sisters Walter Kitundu Elizabeth Lee Michelle Legro Roman Mars Julia Marshall Tim McHenry Sarah Rich St aff Par t icip an t s: Lori Fogarty, Executive Director & CEO RenĂŠ de Guzman, Senior Curator of Art Louise Pubols, Senior Curator of History Don Pohlman, Senior Exhibit Developer for Natural Sciences Cynthia Taylor, Assistant Director of Public Programs Mary Faria, Evaluator Ryan LeBlanc, New Media Producer Lisa Silberstein, Experience Developer Sasha Archibald, Oakland Standard Project Manager M o d er at o r : Darcie Fohrman [Transcript has been edited to improve readability. See page 47 for bios of guest participants.]

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Interdisciplinary Museum Content Oakland Museum of California June 8, 2012

D a r cie Fohr ma n: Everyone here represents such different perspectives. Why don’t we begin the conversation with discussing why you chose this route in your professional work. What’s your passion? If you started off in a specific discipline, why did you decide to break out of it, or expand it? The discussion can be freeform, and staff may chime in. Tim M cHe nry: Friction—that’s my passion. I like to put seemingly disparate things together, do a little rubbing motion, and see what sparks fly. It’s very akin to what Michelle’s doing at Lapham’s Quarterly in terms of identifying an idea, collecting multiple expressions of that idea, and then putting everything together in a way that creates an interesting energy. I think of programming very much as an editorial process, as a selection, but also as a recognition of how things work together and how personalities work together when they’re put together on stage. How do two people approach a common subject from their different vantage points? What we’ve come to sort of specialize in at the Rubin [Museum of Art] are unique or unexpected two-person conversations. For instance, we put a neuroscientist on stage with another expert person from an entirely different walk of life and they talk about, say, memory. So, they’re talking about the same thing, but of course, they’ve got different means of expression to give it voice. Watching two people who basically speak a different language inch their way to a common understanding is fascinating. It can sometimes be a train wreck, but that’s also fascinating. [laughter] More often than not, there’s a natural curiosity about each other. If you’re a psychoanalyst and you get a chance to sit with [actress] Debra Winger on stage, you’re going to be curious what she dreams about. The audience learns something new at the same time the people on stage are learning about each other. There’s a wonderful risk involved. In fact, the word “risk” is in a value statement attached to our mission. We certainly embrace that in our programs.

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M iche lle Le gro: I initially thought I was going to go into public radio, but when I was an intern at the Brian Lehrer Show, the economy collapsed and no one was hiring. So I got an MFA in non-fiction writing. Because of the economy a lot of people are deciding to stay in school and take their specialty as far as it’ll go. I’m actually very glad I didn’t specialize and I really enjoy working with non-specialists. It’s more interesting to work with people who don’t have the highest level of education in their field. Instead of narrowing, narrowing, narrowing, I wish people would look outwards. That would be far more useful to me as a magazine editor. It’s actually very difficult finding writers who can see history as expansively as I would want them to. M a r la Be rns: I come from the opposite perspective. I was classically trained and have a PhD in a very specific area of African Art. (Luckily, I found my way into a museum job.) For me, it’s the opposite situation: How do you take all that particular, specific knowledge and all that excitement that comes from knowing something very well, and make it exciting for other people—people who come to it knowing nothing? Or perhaps knowing something, but who knows what. That’s the great thing about museum work. You never know what your visitor brings. You have no way to entirely control the experience and that to me is very exciting. There’s nothing more thrilling than spending five years on a project, and then opening the doors and having people come in. Because you’ve worked on it so long!—perhaps not in total isolation, but in a way that feels a bit isolated. You’re dreaming about it, you’re thinking about it constantly . . . and then, you’re giving it away. It’s a gift. [gesturing toward Michelle] You’re giving a gift through your magazine and I think museum work is also a kind of gift. It’s a gift of experience. Wa lt e r Kit undu: [addressing the moderator] You use the word “choice” and I wonder if people felt they had a choice, or if their work feels more like an inevitability.

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Nikki Silva : I definitely never felt like I was choosing. But when I look back at all the things I’ve done, they’re all sort of the same thing. It’s all storytelling in one form or another. I don’t feel like I’m an expert in anything, particularly, but I am very curious. In learning about things myself I want to retell the story. I want to help other people tell their story. I feel like what I did is exactly what I was meant to do. Wa lt e r: I feel the same way. I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve been able to explore things I felt really compelled to explore. In my case, there’s really no “path” to recommend… [laughter]. What kind of schooling, or what kind of door you enter, that doesn’t matter. It’s just about being open and responding to the circumstances of your life in a creative and engaged way. I started out in school to get a studio art degree, and I left to be a DJ in a band in Minneapolis. But through the turntable I ended up back in the art gallery. So there’s a sense of inevitability somehow, even though I realize that I’ve been extremely fortunate in that my bumps and circumstances were propulsive and generative. I’m very grateful for that. Lori Foga rt y: You must have taken a good woodshop class somewhere along the way! Wa lt e r: No, actually, never. [Philosopher] Hubert [L. Dreyfus] has this phrase about having a conversation with the materials. That happens when you’re engaged. If you look closely at my first instrument you can see all the rough and unfinished edges. It was a matter of dipping in a toe and then trying to go deeper. D a r cie : I’m also wondering about the difference between individual work and collaborative work. Do you think collaborations lend themselves to interdisciplinary work? In some sense all museum work is inter-discipline because it’s work for the benefit of the collections and the audience.

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Eliza be t h ( Liz) Le e : I’ll speak up here because collaborations are necessary for CyArk to do its work. Building an archive [of 3D digital images of world cultural sites] is our mission, and we have to work with a number of different people and institutions to make that happen. We have an overall site director who is responsible for budgets, for example, but there are also people who manage the public perception of what we do, and the interpretation. Then we have the general public, which is as wide of a cut as you want to take. Our work lends itself fairly well to interdisciplinarity in that we’re trying to pull in different interests and listen to different audiences. I don’t think you can ever be 100% successful with all of them. That’s a huge challenge, but also a very rewarding part of what CyArk’s doing. D a r cie : How did you get into this line of work? Liz: My background is in archeology. I did traditional excavation and got a bit, I don’t want to say turned off, but disappointed in the limited public interaction. You’re trying to publish, but then things they go on a shelf and nobody ever sees them. At the same time, I was really fascinated with technology. Technology was undergoing huge strides in terms of cost and efficiency. I got into digital collections and through that, CyArk, which is a combination of everything. D a r cie : So you were following your passion. Liz: Definitely. I mean, I didn’t know this job existed when I started out. Well, eight years ago it didn’t exist. So it certainly wasn’t a predictable path. Sa r a h Rich: I think that both collaboration and multidisciplinarity are really enabled by the Internet. The Internet is an amazing resource, particularly being able to access archives online. When I’m writing something for the Smithsonian and I’m blocked, I can go to Google Patents and find some random patent drawing. I’m working on a piece right now about this crazy inventor who thinks that airports should be build

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on a hill with runways running down in all directions. He argues that it would drastically improve plane efficiency. And you can see the patent drawings online. When you have the patent drawing, you have an illustration. Then you call it “The Crazy Inventor” and perhaps call up the Ft. Lauderdale Aviation Department and ask them about their plans for their airport. Or you can put out something on Twitter and have someone reply in a minute, “Oh, I’m an expert in that.” Online resources open up all kinds of doors. In terms of creating material, there’s an amazing amount of expansiveness that comes from that connectivity. D a r cie : Sarah, did you start out as an artist? What’s your passion? Sa r a h: Writing. Definitely. But my path began when I got a job that I was completely unqualified for. I just figured out how to do it, hoping that my employer didn’t figure me out first. One thing lead to another. D a r cie : What was the job? Sa r a h: It was for a Norwegian architecture firm. Their posting said something like: “We’re illiterate. Need writer. Corporate hacks need not apply.” I was twenty-four and certainly not a corporate hack because I’d basically had like two jobs, ever. They hired me from Norway. I woke up in a panic every single night, thinking, “They’re going to figure out that I’m an idiot twenty-four-year-old who doesn’t know what I’m doing.” In the meantime, I read every book I could find on branding and every book I could find on architecture and then I did a pretty okay job. D a r cie : Did you go to Norway? Sa r a h: No, I never met them. [laughter]

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Tim: I’d like to add something to what Sarah said, about trying something new, just out of desperation, or maybe when a unique opportunity presents itself. That’s what the Rubin did. I knew nothing about Tibetan culture when I was hired. Nothing. I read Seven Years in Tibet when I was thirteen and that’s it. I’m really not qualified for my job. But on the other hand, I’m a generalist, and that’s actually what was needed at the museum. Generalism is a great attribute. Sa sha Archiba ld: If you’re putting together a team and you’re not looking for specialized knowledge, what are you looking for? What qualities do you want in your team members? Curiosity? D a r cie : Or perhaps taste? M iche lle : I also wasn’t qualified for a job. I was a web intern at the New Yorker and had very few actual web skills. But I had a great sense of what they’d find fun or interesting. I knew their taste. A lot of our editors [at Lapham’s Quarterly] have been interns first, because it’s really important that you’re not just smart about whatever topic, but that you know how to make the right selection. That takes a certain level of taste, and also an understanding of what’s perfect for that particular magazine. D a r cie : Your magazine, Michelle, has a very well-articulated mission. As you were talking it jumped out at me that it’s hard to know what the taste should be if that mission statement isn’t clear. Tim: Yes, there has to be an arbiter of that taste. Certainly. D a r cie : Well, there’s that.

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Tim: Darcie, I think what you’re saying is that in all these examples the taste was already defined, and you’re more curious about the question: “What if you don’t have an idea of what you’re looking for, or what your taste is, and you just want to make something happen?” I think that situation is a big problem. D a r cie : That is what I was trying to say, thank you. Lori: Tim, you said something in your presentation about knowing what the core is, because if you know the core then you can float around it more easily. Tim: For instance, let’s talk about this meeting. What’s the core we’re trying to reach in this conversation? Does anybody actually know? D a r cie : I think the core for me is how you have you all managed to work in such interdisciplinary fields, on amazing projects, and how your experiences can help the Museum expand its way of doing things. We just want to be inspired, so I don’t think we need rules. Do I have that right? Re n é de G uzma n: We do want to be inspired. Interdisciplinary practice is relatively new. It’s a fresh idea that people like the sound of, but it hasn’t had enough history to actually become a practice. We’re trying to advance the field a little bit further. We’re also looking at the connective tissue among the variety of cultural production represented here, so we can all better understand what it is we’re doing. M a r la : I would disagree with you, René, that interdisciplinarity is new or more fashionable now. I think it’s been around for a long time, although maybe earlier in the academy than in museums. As I see it, the problem is more that museums are conservative institutions with a lot of different forces acting on them to stay conservative. I give papers to the museum field with the title “Just Do It.” The reason that museums

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are held back is because we’re just not doing it. There are the real constraints of boards and funding and the size of your institution, and those realities have to be addressed. But what we’re hearing from the people in the room today is that people are making new meaning and finding new connections and museums have to do the same thing. They have to be willing to assume the risk and deal with audiences that are going to say, “I never saw that in that museum before.” Soon enough, the audience will get used to it. Borders will be crossed and new things can happen. A lot of this is attitude and instinct and bravery and guts—all those qualities that take civilization forward. Re né : I think we agree, but I’m just putting it in a broader timeframe. At the moment museums started becoming museums, they created formal subject areas that didn’t play well with other subject areas—silos of subject expertise. Specialization evolved through the twentieth century, but now I think there’s a desire for a much more fluid relationship between the fields. Wa lt e r : I consider museums repositories of human endeavor and expression, and I see an interdisciplinary museum approach as basically a human approach. This conversation mirrors a bit the resurgence of the notion of “making”—of tinkering and working with your hands as an activity that’s very valuable. It’s new now, but it’s a fundamental human experience and certainly part of our collective past. Things get subsumed culturally and then they re-emerge again because they’re fundamental to humans as a species. We’re compelled to find them again and learn how to re-integrate them back into our lives. Moving through the world as an individual is naturally an interdisciplinary endeavor. But when we begin to organize ourselves and become more specialized—when we’re institutions or large groups—then we have to make a concerted effort to have the same fluency and facility. Tim: I absolutely agree what Walter says. I always think of myself as “programming by association.” In other words, I develop programs by considering the way we think rather than the way we’re taught to think. The best

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ideas are those that seem to instinctively pop up, and then you put those things together and create some sort of interesting kaleidoscope. Julia M a r sha ll: Someone, I think it was Tim, used the word transdisciplinary… Tim: I wouldn’t dream of using that word! Julia : Is there a problem with that word? Tim: I’m not sure that I know what it means. I would never use a word that I didn’t understand what it meant. Julia : Perhaps Nicola used it in her presentation. I would actually suggest adopting “transdisciplinary” instead of “interdisciplinary.” To my mind, the transdisciplinary idea takes it beyond interdisciplinary. Interdisciplinary suggests separate things that rub up against each other and then they go back to their positions. Transdisciplinarity makes for a much more cohesive whole and a more flowing notion of influence. One of the characteristics of a transdisciplinary practice is that it has a holistic conceptual framework. The friction between the disciplines happens underneath this conceptual framework. I think that’s your core. For us in arts integration, our conceptual framework is inquiry and learning and coming to understand. One of the things that I love about transdisciplinarity is that it designates little spaces between the disciplines—the interstices—where the really creative things happen. Quite often, that’s where art comes into the school curriculum. Artists move into those undisciplined spaces in a way that upsets and disrupts and is very heretical. That’s why I would suggest maybe thinking in terms of transdisciplinary and perhaps defining that as your core, or your conceptual framework. Does that make sense?

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Roma n M a rs: For me, the value of an interdisciplinary approach is that it provides a looser framework. What’s most important to me is that joy is expressed and presented to an audience. The work represented this morning all has joyfulness in it. That’s what most impressed me. My experience of museums—as a go-er, not as an employee—is that they are often joy-destroying machines. [laughter] By the same token, I think radio is inherently a joyful and amazing medium and yet, there are radio stations that are soul-sucking places to work. What I love is trying to present material in such a way that the joy of working on it is part of the piece. You’re thinking about your audience and you’re thinking about the things that make you happy about the work, and combining those is the art. I believe it’s more possible to do that through an interdisciplinary approach. Nikki: To quickly return to the history of interdisciplinarity . . . I love cabinets of curiosities because I love that joyful sense of discovery when you see a hairball that’s been spit up by a cow next to a Victorian hair wreath, next to little vials of sand that some Victorian lady collected. What that does to your imagination is what I always want to happen, and what can happen in a museum. There’s not just one way to do it. A very traditional show of paintings by a single artist can still offer that sense of discovery and joy. M iche lle : As we were watching Nicola’s presentation and she showed the gallery display of various magic sticks it suddenly occurred to me, I do that! Magic wand set beside a staff, set beside a baton, set beside a scepter. Basically, you’re putting all those objects against the word “magic” or “stick” and seeing what happens. It’s especially interesting when you look at our image selection for the magazine cover. We always have one object on the cover and that object can change the entire meaning of the magazine. I sometimes think that if Lapham’s Quarterly was a museum project, it would be a Fred Wilson installation, in that you’re taking various things and

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juxtaposing them in new ways. Your core is the one word or concept that you test everything against it: How does that change it? What image upends the word entirely? Tim: I think we have multiple conceptions of core on the table. There’s core in terms of the broad thematic, under which the transdisciplinary interactions can happen. That’s definitely important. But the core of what should inform a brick and mortar institution is somewhat different. As you all know, you’re each choosing things that best fit your particular venue—a magazine is a venue, a radio program, etc. And that, I think, is essential. Yes, be as diverse as possible, but don’t do things that don’t work well in your venue. You have to exercise that discipline. Museums right now, by and large, are still physical sites. (True, they have a web presence, which is another thing. Our new mission statement defines the Rubin as a dynamic environment, by which we mean web as well as physical.) You have to look at the place where you are and see how you can best exploit it in unexpected ways. The physical site absolutely has to inform the core of what you present. D a r cie : Are certain formats more suited to interdisciplinary work? Louise P ubols: I was struck by the variety of formats that are represented here and noticed that some of them are very linear. For many of you, you can control how people receive what you want to tell them, and for others, the format is a bit more open-ended. I was trained as a writer and my challenge in museum work is that I can’t force people to walk in a particular path. Narrative storytelling can be challenging in the exhibition format, though it’s well suited to other formats. I just want to throw that out there.

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D a r cie : Louise, could you talk a bit more about the challenges of storytelling in a gallery? I know that labels are difficult because people never read them, but are there other ways of getting information across? Louise : Narrative is really the cornerstone of history. In text, that’s very easy to convey but, as I said, exhibitions are another story. Some things are very powerful and easy to do in a museum space: you can tell particular individual stories; you can have a lot of first person. There’s a lot of visitor voice in our [Gallery of California History]. Getting people to put themselves in the shoes of somebody who lived in the past and think about what they wore and how things looked works pretty well. There’s also a lot you can do with juxtaposition. But the challenge is that the gallery isn’t a cattle chute. I can’t force people to read or experience things in a particular direction. They’re going to bounce around. In fact, we designed it that way! They create their own meandering path and their own experience. D a r cie : That seems very interesting to me. Louise : It is! D a r cie : None of us learn the same way. I was just [in the Gallery of California History] and I love to see where people gravitate. You can feel people’s interests pulling them from one place to the other. Re né : If you look at the general layout of OMCA, natural science is on the bottom floor, second level is history, and third level is art. Within those galleries we’re mixing things up some, but we really need to contend with the structure of those separate galleries. They signal non-interdisciplinary. I’m sensitive to this because I’m working with Robin and Louise on the Bay show and we’re coming from totally different universes. My hope is not that we find one language, but that we develop a practice of rhymes and rhythms.

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D a r cie : Robin? Robin G rossinge r: What? [laughter] The opportunity to work like we are on the Bay show is fairly rare. I’ve been thinking a lot today about the difference between institutional settings and self-created settings. An historian and I were planning to write a paper together. It was going to be this cool interdisciplinary thing. But then he said he wouldn’t get any credit within his department towards tenure for something that wasn’t a pure history paper, or a paper that had multiple authors. What we were planning was still within academia—the paper wasn’t going to be that far outside the box—but unless it could appear in a standard history journal, it really had no value for his career. It would have been a lark and a waste of time professionally. There are a few institutions out there, like where I work, that are open to moving in a less traditional direction, but these are few and far between. I feel lucky that I’m measured on my impact towards the mission and not so much on how many papers I publish. But if I was in a slightly different setting, maybe north on [UC Berkeley’s] campus, none of this would apply. D a r cie : So, universities are worse than museums. [laughter] Nikki: I don’t know if this is jumping the gun, but can you describe the Bay exhibit a bit? It could be a really great thing to talk about. Is there someone taking the lead or are you all holding hands and forging forward together? Re né : Louise is the lead for the project and the principle investigator, then Robin and I sort of fill in the picture and help set a direction. Darcie makes sure that the cats are corralled. We also hold hands. [laughter] Robin: What’s working on that project is that although we have different backgrounds, we have similar interests. There’s a lot of dancing around, trying to figure out what makes sense and what we’re talking about, but there’s

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also a shared sensibility. So much of collaboration is about whether you get along with each other and whether you actually want to spend time together. [agreement all around] D a r cie : It would be interesting to hear more about “speaking the same language.” What sort of collaborative situations have worked well for you? Julia : I’m struck that some of the best work here seems to be by people who are just forging ahead on their own. Is it actually easier to do it by yourself or with a team of people? M a r la : It depends on what you’re doing. Sa r a h: One word that’s bouncing around in my head is “lens,” which is the word I tend to use when I’m thinking about how to pull disparate ideas together. For me, it’s usually a design lens, or sometimes it’s a food lens. But the lens doesn’t have to describe a discipline. It could also be a theme, like magic. If you have ecology and history and you want both of them in the exhibit, maybe you still need to decide the fundamental perspective—that’s your lens. Perhaps the most important lens here is history because the exhibition is about all of the years leading up to this moment in historical time. Then the question becomes more focused: how do you look through a history lens at Bay ecology? This doesn’t necessarily make ecology the lesser discipline, but it gives a focal thematic point of view onto the other disciplines. And now to skip over to the topic of collaboration: I’m definitely a collaborator by nature. I can forge ahead independently when I know I have people around me who are my collaborators. When I don’t have that, I’m extremely ineffective. Longshot Magazine is an example of deep collaboration. It’s a project that could not be done by one person. You’ve got forty-eight hours and as many people as decided to be on deck are on deck and

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everybody’s working really hard. But although it’s very collaborative, there also has to be an organic hierarchy where somebody makes a decision when a decision needs to be made. D a r cie : Who makes those final decisions? Sa r a h: My two co-founders would probably say I am the executive decision maker. That’s sometimes true, but the three of us really do it together. It’s never come to blows. Roma n: I got better at collaborating when I got more confident in my own voice. That had to happen first. I work with great people, but for the collaboration to work, they have to know what I want the show to sound like. It needs to sound like my show. That requires me to really articulate what makes my show what it is. My collaborators bring ideas and that’s essential, because if they didn’t bring ideas, there’d be nothing for me to react against. I’m an editor. But to make good editorial decisions, I have to know what I want. I think you have to have a real vision. That’s how collaboration works for me. It’s about really knowing what I want. Liz: I want to jump on that, because in terms of collaborations and new ways of working, I think one of the most helpful things is to have a new format or new show or new platform. It gives you a chance to scrap everything and start over. [At CyArk] we’ve got developers, architects, historians, educators, technology people, and since they’re working together a new platform, it really opens things up. The Bay show is a new area to try out new things. You’re not trying to integrate three different floors here at the museum. I think that could be really freeing.

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Wa lt e r : Collaboration has become fashionable in a way that’s detrimental to its nature. It’s like telling kids, “OK, have fun right now.” Institutions do the same thing: “You three get together and collaborate. It’s going to be a great process and it’s going to make great work.” Collaboration has to come from a place that’s organic, and it needs time to develop. That’s not saying that people who are assigned to work together can’t build collaborative relationships, but it’s certainly more difficult. I understand why collaboration is fashionable, but it’s problematic when it’s seen as a formula. I collaborated with [artist] Alice Wingwall. She is an incredible visionary and has an indescribable mind. Her sphere of imagination overlaps with mine in one tiny little corner. We went into that corner and everything that came out of that corner we didn’t have to explain to one another. We just understood. We worked from that understanding and we brought our respective strengths to the piece. When we were done, we had something that neither of us would have developed on our own and we felt honored to have been a part of it. That’s my finest example of engaging in collaboration. Roma n: It seems to me that the key is creating a singular vision of some kind, however that comes about. I have a real sense of the danger of collaboration. You can add too much to the stew and have it not turn out. The end result can really lack focus. Tim: I agree very much with Walter that collaboration has become a little too worthy and therefore fundable. We’ve talked about personal or individual collaborations so far, but we should also talk about institutional collaborations. They’re also fraught with all sorts of complications. In my experience, it’s important that each institution has something the other doesn’t have. There has to be a genuine dependency for the collaboration to work. I’ll give one example from my own experience: The PEN World Voices Festival wanted to collaborate with the Rubin because they thought we were cool. They were basing all their activities on the High Line, which is the elevated

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train in West Chelsea that was abandoned for a while and then recently remade into a public park. The only virtue of the High Line is that it’s very long. [laughter] Maybe not its only virtue, but its prime virtue. Very linear and narrow shape; not much wiggle room. That said, it appealed to the Rubin, because we could do something outside our walls, a rare thing. So, my idea was that we should play a game of telephone on the High Line. We’d give it the Rubin stamp, which is to basically have a Tibetan Lama whisper the last three stanzas of the Dharmasutras in the ear of the first person and the message will travel down 300 people, as it turned out on that very windy April morning, until it reached the ear of [author] Salman Rushdie, who would then Tweet the results to the world. It was fun and funky and the New Yorker wrote a piece about it. There were three institutions involved—Friends of the High Line, PEN, and the Rubin—and the problem was that in the end we all wanted the same thing: attention. The Rubin came out with volunteers wearing Rubin Museum of Art t-shirts and banners and signs. We were determined to make a stamp on the High Line, because otherwise, why would we have done this? And the PEN came out with a flyer that had the PEN logo slapped all over it. It was a pretty design, but you know, there are tensions in that. So, even though the core element was quite beautiful and worked gorgeously, it was difficult to manage each institution’s expectations. M iche lle : I can speak to collaborating with Tumblr. We collaborated with Tumblr on an event for our “Futures” issue. We needed Tumblr because Tumblr has money and an audience; they need us because we have content. It was a good arrangement. They like the fact that we’re using their product in a smart way, and we like that they can provide drinks and space for our event.

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I asked people on Tumblr: “What do you think was left out of Lapham’s Quarterly’s “Futures” issue?” People sent in things, we picked our favorites, and the winners came to the event and read them aloud. It was kind of like Lapham’s Quarterly Live. [Several people help explain what Tumblr is and how it works] Tim: Darcie, I have a question for the group, if that’s OK with you. D a r cie : Sure. Tim: I think there’s general support for the philosophy around collaboration because it’s a democratic model. It allows the greatest number of ideas to get on the table for consideration. But too often it ends up as a situation where no one owns the thing, so therefore, things are left undone or critical decisions aren’t made to actually push the project forward. I’m curious within each of your experience bases, are there moments when you realize, “The spirit of collaboration is not enough. We need this other element”? You know, I’m just curious . . . Particularly for those who put together magazines. Editorial is so critical to making a magazine worth the money we pay for it. How do you bring back all this amazing idea styling into something that’s coherent and compelling and charming? Nikki: I feel very strongly that there needs to be a curator. There needs to be one person, or maybe it can be a team, but there has to be a sense of “the buck stops here; this is the vision.” Louise : [to Nikki] How do you do it in your work? When you’ve got different stories coming at you and different people you’re working with, and the priorities of the radio station… Nikki: We fight a lot!

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Roma n: I will testify to that. Nikki: It’s not an easy thing to collaborate. Davia and I know we’re going to fight. We know it, we get it, and we totally love and trust each other. We understand that it’s going to be all right in the end, and that the work is better, much better, and more unique because of our process. The end result truly represents both of us and both of our perspectives. Right now, we’re involved in a big collaboration funded by the Creative Work Fund, between the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music and the Kitchen Sisters. As part of our Hidden World of Girls series, they hired four women composers to compose music inspired by our stories. They re-underscored our stories. This is a big deal because the choice of music is critical to us. The stories aren’t narrated by our voices but by the editing and the music, which is to say that the music is very much part a central part of our vision. The collaboration has been an extremely painful process, mainly because of the need to let go of what you’ve done. I can see that here at the Museum too, in that you’re letting go of the ways you’d normally do something—letting go of the art way or the history way or the natural science way. The point is, I think there needs to be a bigger person at the helm who has a vision and can work creatively with the artists or the other creatives involved. D a r cie : Someone has to carry the spark. M a r la : The same holds true when you make an exhibition. Typically, someone has the idea; someone is the visionary for the project. But then, you sit down at the table with a group of people who work together on how to physically convey that idea.

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Exhibitions have to be something that visitors encounter with all of their senses and exhibitions have to transport you somewhere. We do everything with an educator in the room and a designer in the room. One comment about design: in every job I’ve ever had I’ve noticed that a designer will want to put their mark on the thing. It makes sense; they’re artists. They feel a kind of creative imperative, except without collaboration and an open process. The designer can take curatorial ideas and misshape them. There really needs to be a constant discussion and meshing together of people’s individual goals. Curators have their intellectual property that they’re concerned about, designers have their career . . . We have project meetings together over and over again to make sure that we’re speaking the same language and ultimately creating a product that represents everyone’s voice. So, I completely agree with Nikki. Sometimes it’s an unhappy process. And sometimes people don’t respect each other’s ideas. That happens a lot. Rya n Le Bla nc: I come from a design background and I’ve experienced what Marla’s described. When you’re a fledgling designer you have this urge to make every project your project. But as you design and work with clients more, you start to understand that it’s through collaboration that you actually create stronger designs. I realized that the ideas I came to the table with were actually weaker than the ideas that came from working closely with the clients. I had to compromise a lot, but in the end, almost every time, the work was stronger when I was open to their point of view and relied on their expertise. Cynt hia Ta ylor: I can’t help but chime in here on the importance of acknowledging your role in a particular project. You need to understand what you bring to a particular collaboration. If you’re a singer and you’re working with a composer, then you’re coming in as a translator of that person’s work. So you’re trying to find that composer’s voice and you’re translating it through your voice, perhaps in the same way a designer is translating the concept of a project. That’s where the communication has to be extremely clear about people’s roles. Whose

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vision are we following at this moment? Do we have the vision yet? Or do we have a stew full of vision that we can’t find our way out of? Honoring the level of respect that’s necessary for a collaboration to work—that’s also crucial. You have to acknowledge your professional role in a particular collaboration and understand that you may play a different role in every collaboration. It’s about being flexible and understanding how you can serve that particular project. Robin: I want to describe a collaboration [the San Francisco Estuary Institute] did recently with KQED’s QUEST radio program and the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford. It was a collaboration that worked pretty well and had three different disciplines represented. One part was computer-based visualization tools, another was journalism, and the third field was science. We each clearly had different perspectives and it wasn’t particularly clear who was in charge. As scientists, we had to sign off scientific credibility because they were presenting our research, but KQED had the journalistic final word because it was their story. The computer visualization piece had its own concerns, of course. It was an interesting process. It’s an example of a project that none of us could have done without the other partners—it was very much a three-legged stool. Of course, there were inevitable tensions between the disciplines. For instance, journalists wait until the last minute—they’re deadline driven—whereas scientists usually have weeks and months to review things. There was a lot of tension around that. But overall, it worked because there was mutual respect and everyone had a clear role to play. Rya n: Do you think it’s more important to have one overarching definitive vision for a collaboration to be successful or is the most important piece the attitude of each contributing vision—to be open to compromise and open to creating that vision together? Nikki: Well, I think you’ve got to have a great team. You have to really work to get along. All I do in my life is collaborate—I live in a commune, I work on a team, my husband and I do exhibits together—and my gut feeling

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about all of this is that you have to come at it from “yes.” You have to walk in with the attitude that “Yes, this is going to work.” Or “OK, I know you’ll whittle me down, but we can do this.” Wa lt e r : I completely agree. I think that a lot of collaborations, particularly institutional collaborations, are prone to a culture of fear. You want to make sure that your contribution is good and that everyone feels good, so the risktaking drops away. A culture of yes is really important. Respect is also key. As others have said, if there is mutual and palpable respect among the collaborators, that shifts the dynamic. Egos are a little bit dulled, which helps (though you’ve got to maintain your personality and presence in a way that contributes to the group). It’s navigating the craft and each other, and respect is the thing that makes it possible. When respect begins to fracture, all the other problems stem from that. I don’t know if that’s an oversimplification… Roma n: I agree, and I want to add that maybe the person who sets up the respect and builds that feeling of noncompetitiveness is almost as important as the vision of the project. When I work with people, they’ll pitch a story and they’re so excited. But then they send me a script in their NPR-style, which is basically like: this happened and then this happened. And their opinion is completely removed from it! That’s what they’ve been trained to do. In that situation, my job is to say, “You know that thing you were excited about? Tell me more about that thing.” They need me to say that. As you work in the world and work with other people, you lose that personal voice. You acquiesce to the group or your employer. It’s important, I think, to create an environment where people feel like it’s OK to express their true opinion. Wa lt e r : And maintain their joy. Roma n: And maintain their joy. Exactly.

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Julia : I think we’re talking about lots of different kinds of collaborations and it’s getting confusing. I’m hearing some talk about collaborations where someone has an idea and they bring other people in to shape a collaboration that will execute their idea. Then there’s a different model…I’m part of a collaboration, for instance, between the California Academy of Sciences, the San Francisco School District, deYoung Museum, and now, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Most of the collaboration has really been about trying to figure out what we’re collaborating about. That’s a little different than having someone with a vision who brings in the people they need. These are two different formats. The success of the latter is that there’s a creative team working together in a very informal and very respectful way—everybody’s on equal footing. There’s an investment and a friendship that grows through being part of a little core team that’s developed all the ideas together. Nikki: Does leadership rotate? Julia : Leadership…there’s never really been an issue. D a r cie : I’d like to let the staff chime in. We have a few more minutes before we take a break. Lisa Silbe rst e in: I’m an Experience Developer at OMCA. Experience Developers are a new role in this institution and I see the position as marriage between curatorial and interpretation. I only know collaborative work here at this institution, and one of the things that’s helped me collaborate is trusting my collaborators. You need to trust their opinion and trust their work. No matter where we’re coming from, you have to genuinely feel that everyone is bringing something to the collaboration. D a r cie : Thank you. Maybe there’s another question—Lori? Lori: I find this so fascinating! It feels like I’m in therapy. [laughter]

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Tim: You are in therapy! [laughter] Lori: It’s our collective therapy. We’re certainly grappling with all these issues [at OMCA]. Your presentations today have made me really think more about our galleries. We completely reinstalled and re-envisioned, but they’re still the art, history, and natural sciences galleries. What I’m hearing is that in all of your work you’ve actually created something new by bringing together these different disciplines. It’s almost something that transcends content or perhaps the content is just the medium. You’re doing radio but it looks very different from traditional radio or you’re doing a magazine that’s not much like a traditional magazine. I think that’s what we’re also trying to move toward. We’ve talked a lot about the Bay exhibition, but we have other projects in the works. Two staff, Sean [Olson] and Carin [Adams], are collaborating on an exhibition that will relate to “making” and it will be somewhere between a program and an exhibition and a Maker’ Faire and an art project and other things that we’re still trying to figure out. One thing that we try to do in all of our work is to make the visitor a part of the collaboration. You may have that strong auteur perspective as an artist or painter or musician, but it’s another thing when you’re always trying to insert the visitor: Where is the visitor’s voice in this? Is the visitor going to get this? It’s great to have curator who wants to tell a story about the Bay, but if that story has nothing to do with people’s experience of the Bay, it doesn’t work. It requires a whole different level of collaboration and facilitation to be able to somehow bring that visitor perspective to the table. That’s part of the role of the Experience Developer, to help us think through the needs of the visitor. D a r cie : That might be a good question wrap up with: How do you consider your audience and do you test things with your audience? Do you have any process for how you incorporate your audience into the collaboration?

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Tim: No. [laughter] Visitors are absolutely important. I mean that’s why we’re there. But it’s not like we go out to a potential audience and ask them, “What do you want to see?” I’m not sure how we would test out something in advance. Exhibitions are whole-hearted, full-blooded things . . . Expecting a visitor to react to a half-formed idea seems actually very dangerous. Lori: Well, that’s exactly what we’ll be doing, come Fall 2012! M a r la : I think visitors are very important but there is no “Visitor.” There are many, many visitors. The complicating question is, Which visitor are you working for? We’re working on an exhibition about contemporary Haiti with Haitian artists who have responded in very powerful ways to the dilemmas of life in Haiti, especially after the earthquake. A lot of the work involves a particular Haitian deity who’s the deity of death and rebirth and sexuality, so the work is very explicit. Basically these are big, powerful sculptures with very large penises. They’re all about power but they’re not gratuitous. They really show a way that artists are trying to comprehend how people cope in the world. My initial feeling was that we would not allow children in the exhibition, but we didn’t want to make that decision on behalf of the schools, so we brought in a group of high school teachers and had a really fascinating discussion about the appropriateness of the work. Basically, the teachers said very clearly, “We want to show our kids this work. They need to see what it’s like to live in a place like Haiti. Our students need to understand how artists respond to crisis. If we train the teachers to talk about the work, it’s going to be fine.” It was an incredibly brave and bold reaction that totally surprised me. That’s the context in which testing and talking and being open can help an institution better serve their audience. Liz: One of the powers of digital content is that it’s very easy to collect comments from the public, as well as a lot of passive information about how and where they move online. We use Google Analytics. It’s free, it’s great, and you get a ton of information about where people are going, where they’re coming from, how long they stay on certain

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pages and whether they share it through social networking or not. That passive information collection that helps us decide everything from what content to highlight to which language we might want to translate into next. It really informs our decisions. Wa lt e r : Someone mentioned earlier about the museum being a gift and the conversation about research reminds me of asking somebody what they want for their birthday. I’ve only known all of you as of today but I get the sense that you pride yourself in creating revelatory experiences—experiences that illuminate or share something new. I think that’s something you can’t really ask about. You just have to be bold and do it. Aside from the situation that Marla describes, where content is socially sensitive. M iche lle : I know my audience well enough to know in advance what content will do well on the Internet. The formula is basically someone from history having a feeling that everyone will relate to today. For instance, a piece that went viral from our last issue was about monks complaining in the margins of these manuscripts—basically writing, “Oh, god, my hand hurts!” “It’s time for a drink.” “This parchment is so damn rough.” [laughter] Like Liz said, you can measure visitor interest by how well something does online. Another piece that did very well online were some writings from Martin Luther complaining that his Theses were attracting too much attention. We called it “Martin Luther Goes Viral.” He’s basically moaning, “You put my Theses out there and now they’re going crazy. I didn’t really want everybody to read it.” He’s having a very contemporary experience. People love reading about that kind of thing and they share it everywhere. One more example: A letter from an astrologer the State Department, using astrological signs to predict what Hitler was going to do next. We cut it from the magazine, but we knew it would be perfect for the Internet and it was. Sa r a h: I definitely want to speak to the inclusion of the crowd. It feels to me that there’s a lot of emphasis [at this Museum] on the user having an inclusive experience. I sense that there’s some concern that you’re going to put an exhibition together and people are going to come and feel it doesn’t relate to them, and that that would be a

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failure. But I definitely think—I’m totally in agreement with Tim on this—that there is also an expectation on the user’s part that you’re going to make something cool for them. If they want to make it themselves, they can. There’s Tumblr and blogs, and all sorts of places where you can make your own cool thing. Your visitors are coming to a museum for a different reason.

Long Shot is 100% crowd-sourced material, and we print only about 3% of the material that gets submitted. For our first issue, we had 2,000 submissions and chose 50. That’s what editors do. We included things that we thought would make an excellent final product. Then the third time we did it we decided that all of the rejected pieces would go up on the Web (because my husband and collaborator—his heart breaks every time something gets rejected). But that actually caused a huge uproar! A lot of people who submitted said, “It’s totally OK that it didn’t get accepted. I like your selections and I don’t need my stuff dumped online just to demonstrate that I was a part of a crowd-sourcing experience.” What I learned from that is that it’s important to balance the interactive, experiential, inclusive kind of urge with the fact that people go to cultural places in order to have something presented to them that was created by other people—people whose job it is to create cool things. Tim: The programs that we present at the Rubin are formulated with a view to what the public is likely to come to. For example, I know I’m going to get an audience of sixty people for a history of Newar architecture in Kathmandu Valley. That’s why we don’t present a lot of those lectures. I also know I’m going to get a full house if Billy Corrigan from the Smashing Pumpkins interprets a page of Carl Jung’s Red Book with a psychoanalyst. (And I would price it accordingly.) In events, you certainly plan things with an audience in mind, because you’ve got a budget to balance. Revenue stream is very important as far as programming is concerned, so thinking about audience is at the heart of what I do.

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That said, I don’t believe that asking people what they want is particularly useful. I think that people don’t know what they want most of the time. We are in the very lucky position of being able to guide them to things that will create a spark. Re n é : There are certainly competing theories about audience represented here. How do you engage them? Do you engage them? If we rely on the realities of our own subjectivity, will that touch other people’s subjectivities? Are mechanical kinds of research a way for us to better understand the public? These different philosophies around audience potentially affect how we engage the public. One thing I recently read that tries to link the various approaches is Jonah Lehrer’s book [Imagine: How Creativity Works]. Lehrer’s argument is that intuition is not necessarily separate from reason and experience, but actually part of the same continuum. My sense is that the people at this table are deeply linked to the intuitive side of the continuum. It’s not that we don’t care what the public thinks, it’s just that we’re not responding to the public in such a direct way. Roma n: I agree. I certainly don’t ask my audience what they want, but I’m always thinking about audience. I do mass communication, so thinking about audience is what I do! The way I see it, my job is to make mundane things exciting. It’s my job to make it exciting for them. They don’t come to me and ask that of me; I entice them. Re né : You’re also communicating your own excitement. Roma n: Absolutely! I get seduced by my interviewees. I’m like a cipher. I get really excited when I’m learning something for the first time. And then I use that excitement to drag people in with me, people who don’t naturally care about these things.

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Julia : I come from the world of assessment and evaluation education: Test, test, test, test, test. But what I’m thinking as I listen is that on the one side, there’s what your audience wants: you can evaluate success by seeing how many people you get interested. And on the other side is: What do you want them to get? You’re a public institution, a cultural institution, so you must have some kind of purpose in mind. Why are you here? It’s not just about how many people get interested. You’re not putting out action movies, right? If you were, that would be different. [laughter] In your business, you really have to evaluate. What we do in education, of course, is build rubrics. I hate rubrics because they really screw with your mind, but they do make you lay out your objectives, goals, and the different levels of success. Once you have a rubric, you can go back and try to evaluate. Using the rubric cues you as to whether you’re audience is really getting the reason for your exhibit. We also do something called Performance-Based Assessment, which means that we assess the performance of understanding. How does your audience perform their understanding? Performances of understanding are also a process of coming to understand. If there is some way that you can build this interactivity into your exhibits, so that you can actually watch people come to understand, then you’ll have a great evaluation tool. D a r cie : That is a wonderful way to end before our break. When we start up talking again, maybe Mary [Faria] could talk a little more about the way she evaluates and the structure we have in place at the Museum for evaluation. The next session will be a very informal brainstorm. [10 minute break] D a r cie : Lori, I’m curious about what you meant when you said, “Wait until Fall 2012.” What happens then?

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Lori: We’ll be testing an exhibition in process. We are opening a new natural sciences gallery in the fall—Don [Pohlman] over there is our Senior Exhibit Developer. We decided to begin with some prototyping events, where the exhibition will be deliberately and explicitly still in design and we’ll bring in different audiences to test various components. Which is not to say that we’ll be asking, “What would you like?” And of course they’d like lions and tigers and so all of a sudden lions and tigers are in the California biodiversity gallery. No, it won’t be that. We are heavily relying on rubrics and logic models and impact evaluations to test what people learn and what experience they have in the galleries. Mary is our in-house fulltime evaluator. We see her position not so much from a step-back-and-evaluate perspective, but from a research perspective. Her position is explicitly designed to help us improve exhibitions and aid the development process. She can say, “I know you love that idea, curator, but nobody understands what you’re saying.” D a r cie : We talked about the [Gallery of California Natural Sciences] a bit before the break. One of the goals of that project, which Sasha briefly described in her emails, is that we’d like to build the gallery in such a way as to create empathy for the natural world. We thought the question—How can a museum create empathy with the natural world?—was one we could explore a bit together. We’re also trying to incorporate interdisciplinary ways of working, or perhaps transdisciplinary ways of working. Perhaps we could begin with Mary talking a bit about what she’s been thinking. M a r y Fa ria : As I’ve come to understand, it’s fairly unusual for a museum to employ a full-time evaluator. This museum is very invested in understanding how visitors and community can play a significant role in shaping exhibition development. (I’m not very involved in evaluation that’s related to marketing goals and new audience development, though that may come in the future). I’m glad to have the opportunity to say a little bit about what I’ve been thinking because I think that your ideas about collaboration are very much at the heart of how I see evaluation and the role of evaluation in a museum.

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As Julia said, there are different kinds of collaborations. I think we collaborate partly to have our creative ideas fulfilled and partly to expand and have something bigger than any of the sum of the parts happen. But I find myself thinking especially about what Walter said about finding that one shared corner. I really think that whatever the kind of collaboration, the urge to collaborate reflects an authentic desire to connect with people—connect with the people in the collaboration and connect with the people you might reach through the collaboration. Helping find that corner is how I see evaluation informing the development of exhibitions. To get into the nuts and bolts, we’re taking a very rough form of an exhibition component, and we’re inviting visitors to experience it. We introduce it by saying, “This is something very rough, still in development. We’re interested in what you think and we’d appreciate your honest feedback.” We have a few specific questions that we ask. We put a lot of thought into those questions because they have to be based on where we want to go with it that particular exhibition component. There is always a thought that we want to convey, whether it’s a concept or a value or information or very specific information. I came to this as an artist with a practice in photography. I’ve always been interested in the art-science integration. I was also an educator at the elementary level, where we really need to understand learning psychology. Evaluation is similar, in that it’s about trying to understand how people are experiencing things: Are we accomplishing our goal for this? Are we communicating what we’re trying to communicate? What can we learn from these very carefully considered tests with these very scripted questions? What are we going to learn that we didn’t expect to learn? How will that take us to the next step? I bring the results of this process back to the exhibition developers, in hopes of making the development process quicker, more on target, more smooth, and in the end, achieve that connection with visitors that we really hope to make.

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It’s a creative building process. It’s also very much a blend of intuition and information, and intuition and analysis. It’s not a big, extremely scientific process, but it does let us constantly check in and see if the feedback is confirming our hunches or telling us something new. D a r cie : Let’s open this to discussion. I know a prompt was sent to you in advance, so maybe you already have some thoughts to share. We don’t expect you to solve our problems, but we’d love to hear your thoughts or experiences. M iche lle : One thing that I thought of right away was one of the greatest exhibits I’ve ever seen: an exhibition about Manhattan at the Museum of the City of New York called The Greatest Grid: The Master Plan of Manhattan, 1811–2011. There was also a book with the same title [edited] by Hilary Ballon. The book and the exhibition were about the topography of New York before it was a city. With this exhibit, I could connect where I knew I was today with what the land had looked like far, far back in the past. Maybe the entire topography of the land had been changed, but yet one little rock was just the same. In the book version there’s a passage that talks about how on 86th Street, you could walk north to a certain point, but then you had to stop because there were huge rocks in the way. The book explained the process of excising those rocks, and suddenly, when I read it, the natural world and the City really become one for me. I’m trying to remember the components of the exhibit . . . there was a beautiful model of the entire Manhattan Island, as it existed in nature. I looked and looked at it, trying to find anything that I recognized, that was related to real life. I also participated in an event on a related topic. It was hosted by Atlas Obscura and it was a guided walk about the hidden streams of New York. The guide described where old watering holes or old streams were located. It was all about the fact that nature was deep, deep underneath this ground, if you could possibly remember it.

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My final idea is based on one of my favorite iPhone apps, which is about constellations [Star Walk]. You can position the phone and it points out the various constellations you might be seeing. We were discussing over break how this app could be used in a historical sense, to see what used to be there. For instance, if you were at Manzanar, you could only see ruins and then you put the phone up and suddenly, you see the same buildings before they were ruins. Tim: Michelle, you’re talking about a sense of awe of the transformational process of time. To create empathy you have to put yourself in a radically different time zone and I think that can induce a certain sense of awe at what we’ve done with our landscape. To return to the Bay, I recently read Diana Reiss’s book about dolphins [The Dolphin in the Mirror: Exploring Dolphin Minds and Saving Dolphin Lives]. So, I’m thinking that if you’re trying to give people a different view of the Bay, and trying to create empathy with the natural world, and perhaps trying to explore the Bay and how it’s changed, and also, of course, talking about what dangers lurk in the Bay—because danger is always a good one for getting people’s attention—why not put yourself in the position of a lost whale? There was that whale who found herself in the Bay not once, but three times in the 1980s. They gave her a male name for the longest time because they didn’t realize… Louise : Humphrey. Tim: Humphrey, that’s right. Louise : Humphrey Bogart. [laughter] Tim: Put the visitor in the mind of Humphrey Bogart—and it’s an intelligent mind. Humphrey explores every bloody inlet of that bay, trying to find a way out. Also the dangers Humphrey faced—danger from not only submerged

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refuse, but the narrowness of the pylons of the bridges . . . Also the danger of humans, and the Coast Guard supervisors who had a different idea about how to treat Humphrey, as opposed to Diana Reiss’s. Through that story you can establish a connection with a creature that isn’t human and also explore the Bay in a way that is drawn from historical fact. That’s just one thought of how to tell a narrative. We learn from narratives. Julia : This may seem self-serving but I want to point out that you’re using the creative strategy of projection. [laughter] You are also using the creative strategy of layering. What I would do is go back and think about the different kinds of creative strategies and how you might use those for sparking ideas. How about different ways of formatting and reformatting? How about using metaphor in some way? We have two really beautiful examples right here and we could maybe start from the strategy and see if something bubbles up. Wa lt e r : It might be more beneficial to think of the task as helping people to recognize the empathy they have for the natural world, rather than trying to generate empathy. It does exist in there somewhere, it’s just been… Tim: Dormant. D a r cie : That’s a nice thought. It’s already there, we’re not imposing it; our work is to bring it out. Wa lt e r : Wonderment and awe are a very basic and inherent human responses to the natural world, and I think they’re present even if you haven’t had much exposure to nature. You might report that you don’t have any empathy, but then you recognize that you do. Tim: That’s what theater does too. M a r la : Are you dealing with the human encounter with the Bay over time? Are you looking at Native people’s history?

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Louise : Yes. M a r la : That’s one angle that I was thinking about—the perspective of people that live close to the land. People who have lived close to the land take advantage of its natural resources and respect its dangers. That’s reflected in their material culture. I don’t know whether you’ve got baskets or objects that have actually come from the flora and fauna that are indigenous to the Bay. I don’t know the specific history, but I imagine that California First Peoples must have lived here. Are you including objects from their culture? Louise : I can speak to the specifics of the Bay exhibition. First, I want to comment on how well I think this process is working as an interdisciplinary project. Robin and I in particular agree completely on what we think the exhibition thesis is, even though he’s coming to it from science and I’m coming from history. Basically, we’re looking at the Bay as the product of both natural and human processes over time. Since the last inundation, there have always been people on the Bay, which means that the landscape we’re looking at has always been a story of humans and nature coming together. We’re not interested in covering everything or presenting it chronologically, but in presenting just the stories that we find juicy and interesting. Through those individual stories, the overarching themes come out. One of the stories we’ve chosen is the story of the Emeryville Shellmound. The Shellmound really is the artifact, rather than a basket or other piece of material culture (there’s actually very few Ohlone baskets that ever survived; they simply don’t exist anymore). The Emeryville Shellmound was completely demolished and there’s now a shopping mall on the site. We’d like to work with CyArk to visualize the Shellmound that used to be there. We’re also working with the local Ohlone group to make sure the story reflects their perspective, and we’ll include native language in the exhibition. The Shellmound is very interesting because we believe it’s one of the earliest examples of human presence affecting a dramatic change in the landscape. It was the result of consumption (of

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shellfish) but it was also a cultural site and a burial ground. With the visualization, people will be able to understand the size and scope of the Shellmound—it was about as big as the Bay Street Mall, which now sits on top of it. There’s also the longer story of what happened in the interim. First, the top got lopped off and a dance pavilion was built there as part of an amusement park. The park closed with Prohibition because liquor was paying the bills. Then the Shellmound was completely razed and a paint factory was there for years and years, polluting right into the Bay all kinds of corroding, chemical stuff. Then the factory was abandoned and the mall was built. A bit of the Shellmound is still there, underneath the surface. The story also raises contemporary conversations about who gets to decide what happens to the landscape. All: That’s a great story. Wow. D a r cie : One thing we don’t want to do is say: “Here’s a treasure map of the Shellmound. Dig here.” It’s not a big secret that it’s the site of a shellmound, but I think it’s less known that there are human remains on the site. M a r la : Were there ever any protests about this? Louise : Yes, and we have documentation. All: It’s a wonderful story. Louise : The history of the Emeryville Shellmound seems to make people feel excited and passionate right away. We’re hoping to find more stories that have the same resonance. D a r cie : I think this kind of story will create empathy, but I’m wondering if any of you have specific thoughts on that. It seems to me that empathy will depend not just on the story itself, but how we approach it and what we do with it.

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Nikki: This is where a CyArk becomes an art piece. [laughter] Liz: Projects like this are so interesting because we can use the resources that still exist. There are still shamans, for instance, and we can use their knowledge as a reference for creating, or recreating, the Emeryville Shellmound. But then how do you represent that in the physical space of a Museum? Nikki: Project it! Louise : We’d like to have some element on the actual site. M a r la : Some people don’t know what a shellmound is. See? [gesturing to others] They’re googling it right now. [Several people help define a shellmound as a sacred pile of debris, artifacts, and burial remains, created over centuries.] Liz: It’s very interesting that so many people for so long have taken it to be a garbage dump. I think that’s why it was easy to knock the whole thing down. It created a calcium deposit that was actually used to build roads. Nikki: What about at the Emeryville site itself? Can you do a billboard or something? Tim: Maybe you create a massive hologram over the shopping mall. Nikki: It seems to me that’s where your audience is. They’re in Emeryville, shopping at the mall. Liz: I’d love to build something physical there.

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All: There! Yes, it has to be there. Sa sha : The discussions about this exhibit often circle back to how we can educate people about the natural world when they’re standing in a very unnatural place—a concrete fortress of a museum. If we can bring them to nature, the work is done for us. Everyone knows the magic of the National Park Service, or the effects of actually hiking outdoors. I guess I just want to make sure we don’t circumvent the main challenge, which is that somehow the connection with nature has to be forged from within a building. That’s far more difficult for my mind to grapple with than brainstorming a creative intervention in the real landscape of the Bay. Nikki: I was thinking of it as a two-way street. You get the shopper, you tease them in with this amazing thing, and then you tell them where to go find out about it. You’re talking about a very limited group of people who are actually going to come to a museum exhibit. But the billboards and your shopping centers, how many millions are being hit by those? Lisa : There is a monument down there. My friend calls it the Ohlone Guilt Monument. It’s a sculpture next to the mall and it completely blends in with the corporate aesthetic. You wouldn’t even notice it. It might be the perfect place to bring attention to the history of the place. Wa lt e r : Focusing on the leveling off of the mound interests me, but I’m also interested in the people that formed it and how it got formed and if there’s a parallel with what our culture leaves behind. What’s our equivalent to a shellmound? I think you need to create a personal investment in that site and connect it to today. If there were shells in that site, how were they acquired? How were they used? What became of them? I’m searching for a parallel because I don’t know very much about this topic, but I’m curious how you might help people identify with how the Shellmound was created.

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Louise : It’s fascinating to think that these are cemeteries ringing the Bay. The Emeryville Shellmound isn’t the only one. And you can put that in context of what we do with our dead. What are our rituals and how do they relate to these rituals of the past? Like Liz said, it’s pretty fascinating that everybody thinks of it as a garbage dump when it’s really a burial mound. Nikki: Was it exclusively a burial mound? Louise : Among archeologists there’s some debate about what shellmounds were used for. Nobody really knows. Because of epidemic diseases the people that built them weren’t around by the time Europeans came and started recording things. Some people have argued that permanent settlements were built on top of them. Most archaeologists and historians are tending towards seeing them as ceremonial sites because there’s definitely evidence of structures and fire-burning, probably in a ceremonial sort of way. There’s also the possibility that they were more like political markers, visible from anywhere in the Bay and sending a message: “We’re here and this is where our ancestors are.” You know, I find it interesting that the question we’re asking is about creating empathy for nature, because I’m a historian and I try to create empathy for people! The conversation we have over and over is: Who’s the actor in this? When is the Bay the actor and when are people the actor? Every story we tell is a dialogue between place, environment, and people. D a r cie : It’s an ongoing story. That interaction is still going on today. Louise : We think of the Bay as being a fixed place so we build bridges and shopping malls . . . but it’s not a fixed place. We’re building a new bridge because the old one fell down in an earthquake. Nature is going to continue to happen.

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Robin: When the sea level rises, the Bay is actually coming back. We’ve pushed the Bay away and made it stable and restricted and contained, but soon it’s going to be coming back into our cities and neighborhoods. Before we make huge decisions about seawalls and letting the Bay grow in certain places, we need to bring it back into our lives as something we value. This topic will be a big part of our cultural debate in the next few decades. M iche lle : I’m just thinking about that exhibition I mentioned [The Greatest Grid], which really changed my conception of New York. It laid it out: in one day this will start to happen; in one week, this will start to happen; and so on. I think projecting forward with the Bay will be as important as projecting backwards. I would love to see a collection of things in the process of getting broken down, set beside timelines. You could see the process of decomposition as a visual record of time passing. If you could convey that the things in the Shellmound were once things, and that our things will once not be things, I think we’ll better understand the purpose of this mound. Wa lt e r : There’s no longer any sense of reliance on the Bay. We’ve insulated ourselves. It used to be that the Bay was the provider and our relationship was very direct. Now you drive over it. You take the ferry. It’s something to get around, or a place to entertain yourself. But I’m wondering if this is just a dip in the pulse. Eventually, when the Bay starts to come back, I wonder if we’ll gain that sense of reliance again. I mean, perhaps we still do rely on it; we just don’t think we do. Tim: It’s interesting that people assumed the Shellmound was a refuse site, whereas the Bay has been used as a human refuse site. I’m thinking of Alcatraz as a place for the humans we reject from our society. D a r cie : That’s a nice metaphor. Louise, what are some of the other focal points or lenses for the exhibit? Louise : Islands is actually one of them. We’ve been thinking a lot about the natural isolation of islands. That’s where you put your prisoners, immigrants, people who are sick. Another is bridges, obviously, because that’s where

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our money comes from. [laughter] But that actually enables us to talk about infrastructure and this very heroic age of the progressive era through the 1930s when people were creating giant dams and huge infrastructure projects like the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge. Another focus is the story of the military, because the Bay Area was at one point a very militarized urban environment and now it’s completely demilitarized. Another that I’m gravitating towards is the story of Hunter’s Point. Hunter’s Point is one of the few places where the water level doesn’t grade up gradually but goes straight to deep water, which means that it’s an easy place to bring ships in and out from the Pacific. It’s not only an industry story, though, it’s also an environmental justice story because the people who live there, very working class people, now live in a very toxic environment because of that industrial history. There’s the story of the salt ponds and how they were transformed into a natural wildlife refuge, which has been a model of success nationally and internationally. And then a jewel-box story about Drawbridge, which is another of my favorites. Drawbridge is a ghost town in the marshes. In the 1880s and ‘70s, most of the traffic in and out of the Bay was on ships. The ships went up the slews to landings. They built a railroad across a couple of the slews, which meant they had to build bridges that would open so that the boats could come in and out. That meant that someone had to work the bridges. This guy, whoever he was, realized how great the duck hunting was. He invited his buddies to come out on the weekend and suddenly there’s a little town, Drawbridge, catering to duck hunters. Up until the 1910s, market hunting was allowed. People would come to Drawbridge, shoot a bunch of ducks, and sell them on the market. There was something like a quarter of a million ducks sold in San Francisco markets every year. They eventually realized duck populations were dwindling and instead made duck hunting a sport. Also, Drawbridge began to sink down into the marsh because the water table was altered for Santa Clara Valley irrigation. Eventually

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the town was abandoned. The last resident moved out in the 1970s. It’s a funky, interesting little place that opens up all these other portals. [Louise explains exactly where Drawbridge is.] Robin: What we’re really trying to get at is our relationship with the Bay. It’s the unifying, defining feature of this area, but it’s also this kind of awkward blob in the middle—a void you don’t really interact with. And it’s not necessarily celebrated in the way you might think it would be. It’s not a beautiful peak or a vista, though it’s certainly used as a backdrop. It’s kind of an odd, strange kind of awkwardly-shaped thing that takes up a lot of space. Yet, it defines the Bay Area. The Bay needs to be revitalized in our imagination. D a r cie : Don [Pohlman], maybe you have something to say about your issues in the natural science gallery reinstallation? D on P ohlma n: We’re challenged with trying to do all of California, so we have a sampling strategy of seven places in California that are distinctive in one way or another and the two that we’re trying to prototype for Fall 2012 are Oakland, which should be familiar to most of our visitors, and Cordell Bank, which is actually underwater—it’s a marine sanctuary off Point Reyes. The challenge for us has been to create a human presence in a natural science gallery, which by and large doesn’t happen. It’s very crucial that we not set up the same old opposition between humans and nature but get to the point of acknowledging that humans are a part of nature. With the Oakland area, we’re trying to not only put a human presence into the gallery but to empathize with the nature we’ve got in this urban area. One of the things we’re featuring are so-called urban critters. We’re putting some animals in the museum that you don’t usually see in museums because they’re not exotic. For instance, the night herons that hang out in Chinatown.

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We also have a plan to use the museum’s campus as a kind of “first domain of investigation.” The things happening in the environment of the Museum garden are very specific things happening in a very specific place at very specific times, but if you start to pay attention, you begin to see the larger patterns that connect the Museum garden environment to the world at large. We’re hoping to model a few things that people will be able to replicate on their own, in their backyard or in the park. We want them to start paying more attention as a prerequisite to caring. The gallery has to be inside in a concrete box, but we’re brainstorming ways of getting people out . . . self-guided tours or scavenger hunts or other activities could take people outside, even for a brief time. D a r cie : I love the idea of featuring the Chinatown herons. D on: A few weeks ago, the herons ate all of our baby ducks—the ones that were born in OMCA’s Koi pond. G r oup: Oh, no! D on: Fourteen baby ducks, I think. Se ve r a l st a ff: It happens every year. The ducks are born, the ducks get eaten. Tim: Find some empathy in that! [laughter] D on: The Disney version of nature is much more boring than the real thing. Julia : You obviously have family programs and I wonder if you’re thinking about bringing things in from the outside? For instance, there’s a wonderful film, done with a local film artist named Trina Novell and a number of children, called The Land Beneath our Feet . It’s about the history of the Bay from different eras and different points

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of view. You can find it on YouTube. It lasts for maybe ten minutes and it’s really quite wonderful. Funny too, because it’s made by kids. Wa lt e r : Have you heard of the Reggio Emilia schools in Italy? They did a project called the Amusement Park for Birds where they asked kids what they wanted to do and that’s what they wanted: to build an amusement park for birds. The kids had to figure out what the birds liked and then actually build the thing in an outdoor space at the school. Tim: They asked the public what they wanted?! [laughter] Wa lt e r : Well, the public was under three feet tall, so I think it was acceptable. [laughter] Julia : The Reggio Emilia schools are great interdisciplinary models for education. D a r cie : I’m supposed to be the moderator here but I can’t resist speaking up. I’ve been thinking about the difficulties of collaborating on interdisciplinary projects, which is what I’ve done for forty years—yes, I’m a masochist—but my sense is that working in this vein is much easier for younger people than it is for my generation. I blame it on our education. If we’d perhaps had Reggio Emilia instead of [Jean] Piaget, I think we wouldn’t be having this conversation. We would all be interdisciplinary, holistic viewers of the world. Do you agree with that? Julia : Oh, absolutely. Totally. D a r cie : Struggling with that background and then having the opportunity to invite those of you here who have managed to see through those paradigms and overcome the limitations of our educational structure, I think that’s very remarkable, and I thank you. So I’m ending it. [laughter] Thank you. [applause]

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Gu est Par t icip an t B io s M ar la B er n s is the Shirley and Ralph Shapiro Director of the Fowler Museum at UCLA. The Fowler explores global arts and cultures, with an emphasis on works from Africa, Asia, the Pacific, and the Americas—past and present. The Fowler enhances understanding and appreciation of the diverse peoples, cultures, and religions of the world through practices informed by interdisciplinary approaches and the perspectives of the cultures represented. It also features the work of international contemporary artists presented within the complex frameworks of politics, culture, and social action. Before coming to UCLA in 2001, Berns was director of the UC Santa Barbara University Art Museum, where she oversaw an exhibition program distinguished by its global diversity and emphasis on contemporary art practices. Berns received her PhD in art history at UCLA. Her research and writing have concentrated on women’s arts in Northeastern Nigeria. Throughout her career, she has curated exhibitions on topics as wide-ranging as women’s inventions, 1930s fashion, the history of underwear, Japanese prints, 20th- century design, and her specialty, African art. Dar cie F o h r m an consults with museums of all types to create multidisciplinary, interactive exhibitions. Her clients include the Exploratorium, Bay Area Discovery Museum, California Academy of Sciences, Skirball Cultural Center, and the Getty Center. Fohrman’s award-winning exhibitions include Daniel’s Story: Remember the Children at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC; Revealing Bodies at the San Francisco Exploratorium; and COURAGE: The Carolina Story That Changed America at the Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte, North Carolina, which received the American Association of Museums Excellence in Exhibition Award and the American Association for State and Local History Award for Best Exhibition. Prior to consulting, Fohrman was the director of exhibitions at the San Diego Museum of Art, where she introduced the team approach to exhibition development. She was also director of exhibitions at the Spertus Museum of Judaica in Chicago, where she designed the first permanent Holocaust exhibition R o b in Gr o ssin g er is an environmental scientist at the San Francisco Estuary Institute, where he directs the Institute’s Historical Ecology Program. The program studies how California landscapes have changed since European contact, using innovative approaches to synthesizing history and science, and materials such as historical maps, travelers’ accounts, photographs, and paintings. SFEI’s work has influenced restoration projects throughout the Bay Area and coastal California, and has been profiled by

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New Scientist magazine, KQED, and the recent Saving the Bay documentary. Grossinger is the author of the Napa Valley Historical Ecology Atlas (University of California Press, 2012), a visual tour of the Napa Valley from the early 1800s to the present. Th e K it ch en Sist er s are Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva, co-producers of Hidden Kitchens, an award-winning National Public Radio program about vernacular food traditions. In addition to the Hidden Kitchens series, their work includes Lost & Found Sound, narrated by Francis Ford Coppola; the Sonic Memorial Project , narrated by Paul Auster; Waiting for Joe DiMaggio; WHER: The World’s First All-Girl Radio Station; and most recently, The Hidden World of Girls. The projects collectively chronicle hidden bits of history and subjects that have shaped our diverse cultural landscape. Nelson and Silva met in Santa Cruz in 1979 where Silva was curating museum exhibits about local history and Nelson was recording oral histories for a community radio station. They began co-producing weekly radio shows about California regional culture. The Kitchen Sisters’ many awards include the duPont-Columbia Award, two Peabody Awards, and three Audie Awards. The anthology Hidden Kitchens: Stories, Recipes and More was published in 2005 by Rodale Books. Walt er K it u n d u is a sound artist, installation artist, and inventor of original musical instruments that navigate the boundary between live and recorded performance. Kitundu’s signature “phonoharps”—turntable and stringed instrument hybrids—allow digital manipulation as well as percussive and string resonance. He was commissioned by the Kronos Quartet to create a series of phonoharps, with which he has performed internationally. In 2008, he won a MacArthur “Genius Award” for his interdisciplinary approach to art- making. Kitundu is also an accomplished avian photographer. His most recent project is a large-scale interactive musical mural commissioned by the San Francisco Arts Commission for the San Francisco International Airport. E liz ab et h L ee is the Director of Operations at CyArk, an international organization that digitally preserves cultural heritage sites through collecting, archiving and providing open access to data created by laser scanning, digital modeling, and other state-of-theart technologies. CyArk uses the data captured to create educational and cultural tourism media, which are broadly disseminated via the CyArk website. By educating visitors and potential visitors, CyArk has a positive impact on cultural heritage sites through the promotion of responsible cultural tourism. Local communities also benefit directly from CyArk’s digital media, as content can be used for local education about a community’s history and culture. M ich elle L eg r o is an associate editor at Lapham's Quarterly, a magazine founded in 2007 by former Harper's Magazine editor Lewis H. Lapham. Published four times a year, each issue explores a single theme using primary source material from history. A

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typical issue features approximately 100 “Voices in Time” — selections drawn from the annals and archives of the past — alongside newly commissioned commentary and criticism from today’s preeminent scholars and writers. Lapham’s Quarterly draws not only from traditional sources, such as literary narrative and philosophical commentary, but also from history’s underutilized scrapbooks: letters, diaries, speeches, navigational charts, menus, photographs, bills of lading, writs of execution, etc. The magazine recognizes and promotes Cicero’s notion that to know our history is to know ourselves. Legro is also the online editor of LaphamsQuarterly.org and the Lapham’s Quarterly Tumblr. Her personal projects include the online Lisa Simpson Book Club and My Dageurreotype Boyfriend. Nico la L ep p is a cultural scientist and exhibition curator based in Berlin. Since 2001 she has been a partner in the curatorial office Praxis für Ausstellungen und Theorie. She is the curator of many exhibitions, including WUNDER (Miracles): Art, Science, Religion, Everyday Life at the Deichtorhallen, Hamburg; Work: Meaning and Care at the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum, Dresden; PSYCHOanalysis: On the Occasion of Sigmund Freud’s 150th Birthday at the Jewish Museum, Berlin; and The New Human: Obsessions of the 20th Century at the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum, Dresden. She was also the exhibition designer for 100 Years: Max Frisch at the Museum Strauhof, Zürich and Akademie der Künste, Berlin; and 10+5=God: The Power of Signs and Numbers at the Jewish Museum, Berlin. Her lectures and publications focus on theories of material culture, and exhibition theory and practice. She was a lecturer for many years at the University of Applied Sciences, Potsdam and currently teaches exhibition design and dramaturgy at the FH JOANNEUM in Graz, Austria. R o m an M ar s is a public-radio producer and reporter. He is the host and producer of KALW’s 99% Invisible , which he describes as “a tiny radio show about design, architecture, and the 99% invisible activity that shapes our world.” The 99% Invisible podcast recently reached #2 in the iTunes rankings for all podcasts. Mars is also the host, producer, and program director of Public Radio Remix from PRX. His reported and documentary work most recently aired on Radiolab, The Story, Snap Judgment, Morning Edition, Weekend America , KALW’s Crosscurrents and WBEZ’s Re:sound. Before “going rogue,” Mars spent over three years at WBEZ’s Third Coast International Audio Festival as the project senior producer and sound designer, developing their weekly documentary radio program and producing the TCF national broadcast specials for Public Radio International. Mars started his radio career at KALW in San Francisco and was best known as host and executive producer of Invisible Ink, an independent literary audio zine that received numerous recognitions from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters and was named “Best of the Bay” by the San Francisco Bay Guardian.

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J u lia M ar sh all is Chair of Art Education at San Francisco State University and a national leader in the field of integrated art curricula. Marshall taught for many years as an artist in the schools, where she specialized in art integration for elementary, middle, and high school. She also has extensive experience working with children and adolescents in museums and cultural centers. Marshall’s scholarship and interests lie in contemporary art and art-based research as they relate to art education, integration of art with the academic curriculum, and the intersection between creativity and learning. Her writings include articles in Studies in Art Education, Art Education, and numerous art education anthologies. Marshall has written integrated arts curricula based on concepts and practices in contemporary art for the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, the University of California at Davis, and KQED, San Francisco’s public television station. Tim M cHen r y, program producer at New York City’s Rubin Museum of Art, presents theater-going audiences with what the Huffington Post has called “some of the most original and inspired programs on the arts and consciousness in New York City.” The Rubin is dedicated to the art of the Himalayas; McHenry’s public programs explore the wider implications of the museum’s collection and art exhibitions through music, film, performance, and intimate conversation. To mark the exhibition and publication of psychiatrist C.G. Jung’s Red Book, for example, McHenry put Jungian psychoanalysts on stage with the likes of Alice Walker, Sarah Silverman, and David Byrne. He brought physicists together with Philip Glass, Charlie Kaufman, Laurie Anderson, and filmmaker Shekhar Kapur to explore the universe in connection with an exhibition on the cosmos. He has invited great minds such as Oliver Sacks, Mike Nichols, and Ken Burns to come to the museum to “talk about nothing.” The museum’s popular series of Brainwave talks pairs renowned neuroscientists with writers and artists such as Tom Wolfe, Lou Reed, Moby, Amy Tan, and Paul Simon. McHenry specializes in art experiences that break the traditional mold, such as the Dream-Over—a sleepover at the museum for grown-ups— and an event that converted the museum building into an olfactory Memory Palace. Sar ah R ich is a writer, editor, and digital strategist. She is a co-founder of Longshot Magazine and the Foodprint Project, and the editor of the Smithsonian Magazine blog, Design Decoded. She is a former senior editor at Dwell; former managing editor of Worldchanging ; and currently the digital editor for Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture . As a senior researcher at Webbmedia Group, she co-authored the bestselling Worldchanging: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century (Abrams, 2006). Her most recent book, Urban Farms (Abrams, 2012), is a profile of sixteen innovative farms in metropolitan cities. Her work has been published in the Atlantic, Wired, Gourmet, Businessweek, Details, Globe & Mail, Huffington Post, Creative Revie w, and elsewhere. She serves on the board of directors for Project H, a non-profit organization working to promote humanitarian design, and Ambidextrous, the quarterly journal of the Institute of Design at Stanford.

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