Leadership in Museums and Museology
Curiosity leads to travel, research, course development, and sometimes fund-raising in order to apply emerging ideas to old collections, galleries, and institutions. Even museums that I have only had a fleeting relationship with sometimes provoke me to spend days rethinking them. I have proposed moving the Pitt Rivers Museum and encasing it in a glass cube as part of the Taylor Institution that is situated next to the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; flipping Toronto’s ROM so the main entrance looks out over the university park and splitting it into different natural and cultural history museums; and reorganizing and mixing the collections of the different museums that make-up the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden to represent different historical periods and themes in global intellectual history. At Brighton, my proposal to relocate the entrance of the museum, moving it from the street to one facing the park and the Royal Pavilion thus forming an arts campus, was eventually accepted. Leadership, I envisage, is not partial but holistic requiring organizational, financial, scholarly and imaginative capabilities.
Throughout my career, I have re-envisaged the roles of colonial ethnographic collections and museums in a supposed post-colonial world, in favour of an interdisciplinary focus on culture; diversity, dialogue, collaboration, and contemporary and social justice issues. I am a founder of critical museology as a discipline specifically focused on understanding operational museology and heritage regimes. I have applied critical museology in teaching and in curatorial practices to develop new approaches to exhibition-making.
At the UBC Museum of Anthropology I implemented a full staff reorganization, creating a departmental system with heads responsible for a newley devolved budget process. I jointly crafted strategic five-year plans which were coordinated by a newly established management committee. I created interdepartmental committees for repatriation, acquisitions, exhibition development, and visioning of the museum’s future. I initiated the compilation and centralization of all data on the museum’s organization structure, staff responsibilities, procedures and policies, ethics, and formats for all museum forms which are all periodically updated. (2005)
At the UBC Museum of Anthropology I rebalanced museum organization and programs to play a more active public role in disseminating multicultural and Indigenous perspectives to wide audiences. I championed the provision of new public facilities and services, café, shop, multilingual signage, professionalization of unique temporary exhibition programs, new exhibition galleries and enhanced and diversified public programs. I oversaw an increase in the size of museum from 82,000 sq. ft. (2003) to 120,000 sq. ft. (2018); an increase in admissions from 139,000 visitors (2002-3) to 191,000 (2018-2019); an increase in budget from $2.8 million (2002-3) to $6.2 million (2018-2019); and increase in collections from 35,000 works (2002-3) to 51,000 (2021).
I drafted a proposal for former UBC president Stephen Toope on an integrated approach to the University of British Columbia’s museums and collections (2012-2013) and I advocated for a Canadian National Museum Policy, (2017-2021)
At the Royal Pavilion, Art Gallery and Museums, Brighton (1991-1995), the Horniman Museum, London (1995-2001), and as at the UBC Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver (2004-2021), I implemented critical and collaborative museological principles. (1985-2021)
At the Horniman Museum as head of collections, research and development, I restructured curatorial departments in natural history, ethnography and musical instruments into one research and collecting unit to focus on interdisciplinary and thematic exhibitions and programs. (1998)
At the Horniman Museum I established annual conferences on interdisciplinary themes that cut across ethnography, ethnomusicology, and natural history. (1997-2001)
At the Royal Pavilion, Art Gallery and Museums, the Horniman Museum, and at the UBC Museum of Anthropology I founded and edited three museum-based publication series. These have resulted in a total of 26 books on collection history, museology and material and visual cultures by diverse authors.
At the Horniman Museum, I completed the first systematic descriptive survey of ethnographic collections in England and Scotland and edited a two volume work on aspects of their history. As part of this project, I plotted the inter-relationship between anthropological paradigms and their application to museum displays between 1900-1992. (1992-2001)
At the Royal Pavilion, Art Gallery and Museums, I founded and established the James Green Centre for Non-Western Art. (1991)
I was the Portuguese Representative to Asia-Europe Museum Network (ASEMUS). (2001-2003)
I am a co-founder and joint organizer of the World Museologies Workshops. Established in 2017, workshops are intended to bring into dialogue small groups of about 20 practitioners trained in different schools of museology to exchange insights from different museological approaches on issues of contemporary concern. The first workshop (museums and migration) held in Mexico City, was followed in 2019 by another in Osaka, Japan on museums and critical exhibitions. The 2020 workshop on museums and extinction, planned for Oaxaca, Mexico was postponed due to COVID-19. The workshops build international networks that seek to diversify and help decolonize dominant Anglophone museologies. (2017 - ongoing)
I have served on international advisory boards for the Humboldt Forum, Berlin (2009-2019) and the Asian Culture Complex, Gwangju, Republic of Korea (2010-2016), two of the world’s largest cultural projects. I have been a member of the board of the Vancouver International Film Festival (2006-2011), and of the advisory board for the Sapporo International Art Festival, Hokkaido, Japan (2018-2020). I am currently a board member of the Americas Research Network (ARNET).
I was a consultant on the interpretive strategy for the Academic Museum, University of Coimbra (2008-2010); the future of the Cumming Museum, London (1994); the future of the Toy Museum, Rottingdean, Sussex (1992); the development and future of the Phoebe Hirst Museum, University of California, Berkeley (2006-2007); the report: The Future of Museums and Galleries in British Columbia (2006), for Ken Dobell and the Pacific Gateway Project (Government of British Columbia); for the evaluation of the collections of the Victoria Maritime Museum, British Columbia Arts Council (2011); and I was a committee member for the external review of the Belkin Art Gallery, University of British Columbia.