One afternoon earlier this year, Wendell Yellow Bull received a call from a longtime friend with word of a troubling discovery. Objects from one of the most notorious massacres of Native Americans in U.S. history were in the collections of the American Museum of Natural History, his friend said. Some of them appeared to be children’s toys, including a saddle and a doll shirt. Memories of what Yellow Bull had been told about the incident throughout his life came rushing back. Yellow Bull is a descendant of Joseph Horn Cloud, who survived the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee.
In late March, workers at Philadelphia’s Please Touch Museum (PTM), one of the top ten ranked children’s museums in the country, voted to join the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees District Council 47 (AFSCME DC 47) Local 397. The landslide win (85% of workers voted to unionize) follows other recent union victories in Philadelphia— including at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Penn Museum) and the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA)— as well as at other museums and cultural institutions around the country. The win at the PTM marked the third museum union victory for AFSCME in the month of March.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - After a 19-day strike, members of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) union voted overwhelmingly in October to approve their first contract. Daily pickets had cut into the museum’s attendance and impacted preparation for an anticipated exhibit on the works of French painter Henri Matisse. After two years of stalled negotiations, the 180 workers of AFSCME Local 397 forced the museum’s hand and attracted public support that placed the museum’s well-crafted reputation at risk. The agreement includes a 14 percent raise over three years, an extra $500 for every five years of employment, a larger employer contribution to health care coverage, and, for the first time, four weeks of paid parental leave.
London - Children and families have held a die-in at the Science Museum in an Extinction Rebellion protest against air pollution. Protesters, including children as young as two, staged the peaceful demonstration at the Making The Modern World gallery in the central London museum on Thursday morning. The group lay on the floor for 20 minutes wearing bespoke gas masks reading Enough Is Enough On Air Pollution on and holding signs referencing the impact on children's health including poor lung development. Other signs quoted the government's figures on air pollution in London, which found there are around 9,400 excess deaths in the capital due to long term exposure to particulates and harmful gasses.
Museum Workers Across The Country Are Unionizing. Here’s What’s Driving A Movement That’s Been Years In The Making
“Let us in! Let us in!” chanted a small crowd of visitor services associates dressed in black. They stood at the locked gate of the Marciano Art Foundation (MAF) on Friday, November 8, at 11 a.m., the time the museum normally would have opened to the public. Three days earlier, the austere contemporary art foundation had closed abruptly—less than a week after the visitor services associates announced their plan to unionize. The foundation, a private nonprofit opened in early 2017 by the two art-collecting brothers behind the denim brand Guess...
The newly expanded Museum of Modern Art in New York has yet to officially reopen to the public—and already finds itself under siege. Dozens of protesters plan to crash its opening preview party on Friday 18 October, calling upon the museum to divest itself from private prisons by severing its ties with Bank of America and the investment management firm BlackRock, whose CEO Laurence Fink sits on the museum’s board. Fidelity Investments, which manages MoMA’s pension fund, is also a large owner of private prison stocks.
On a bustling spring Sunday, with the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's Cherry Blossom Festival and the Brooklyn Museum’s popular David Bowie exhibit in full swing, some 65 protesters from 20 different New York City activist groups descended upon the museum for a lively demonstration against "imperial plunder," among other things. Purchasing tickets and entering in small groups, activists surreptitiously gathered in the Brooklyn Museum's grand third floor atrium. At the sound of a whistle, the cavernous chamber was suddenly flooded with noise and movement, as demonstrators unfurled huge painted banners from the floor above, singing, and passing out leaflets to curious museum-goers. Through a series of mic checks led by protester Shellyne Rodriguez, the coalition issued their list of demands...
By John Zangas for DCMG - Washington, DC–A free exhibit called “Protest Matters” was organized by a local anthropologist to showcase items used at protests and how they promote change for public benefit. Siobhán McGuirk, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, assembled the exhibit from local activists’ contributions. A large collection of buttons, protest signs, pamphlets, political t-shirts and a puppet were on display to show what resistance looks like. The “pop-up,” or temporary, museum consisted of hundreds of items important to activists’ personal experience in movements with their own description of their meaning. It was open to the public for three days at Potter’s House, a local coffee house, from Nov. 30 to Dec. 2. It’s now available for viewing online. Every item in the museum holds significance to its contributor and was created by those working directly on their causes. Many were handmade. McGuirk envisioned the museum as an instructional tool to show that protest takes many forms, including prominent public demonstrations, street protests, blockades, sign drops, or personally worn items to make a point.
By Steve Early for Counter Punch - My favorite Helena Bonham Carter film is called Margaret’s Museum. In it, she plays Margaret MacNeil, the young widow of a Nova Scotia coal miner killed, on the job, like others in her family before him. Margaret’s grief leaves her mentally unhinged in a community steeped in fatalism and acceptance. After her release from an asylum, she turns her seaside cottage into a museum depicting the human toll of underground mining. The sign outside, drawing few tourists in the late 1940s, says simply: “The Cost of Coal.” As the movie opens, a man and woman drive up to Margaret’s home on Glace Bay and seek admittance. A moment later, the female vacationer comes running out the front door, screaming in horror. As we learn later in the film, the exhibits include fluid filled jars with the damaged lungs of Margaret’s grandfather, her late husband’s tongue, and her young brother’s penis, preserved because, as she explains, “it was the most important thing he had” before his untimely death on the job. I thought instantly of this movie, in late July, when I was the sole Sunday morning viewer of exhibits in a Winsted, CT. museum similarly suffused with righteous indignation over the human cost of hazardous products and dangerous occupations. The American Museum of Tort Law was created by Ralph Nader to remind visitors how workers, consumers, and our environment have all suffered when auto and asbestos manufacturers, Big Pharma, the tobacco industry, or fast food chains put corporate profit ahead of public health and safety.
By Go Fossil Free - To the American Museum of Natural History, the Field Museum, California Academy of Sciences, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, & the Natural History Museum of Utah: In the face of climate catastrophe, we urge you to take leadership by doing more than observing and documenting history — by standing up to help make it. Please divest your funds from the fossil fuel industry. This spring The Natural History Museum, a new mobile museum that champions climate action, released an unprecedented letter signed by dozens of the world’s top scientists calling on science and natural history museums to cut all ties to the fossil fuel industry. Now we’re joining our voices with theirs to call for divestment. This moment calls for leaders that are willing to do more than observe and curate history — it calls for leaders who are ready to help make it. We believe museums of science and natural history can be those leaders.