Panel: Advocacy and Bravery: Academic Museum Leadership

Museum leadership sometimes, perhaps increasingly, requires individual bravery and professional risk in the face of parent institutional and societal pressures to maintain a status quo often guided by risk aversion.  This Panel bridges topics experienced by museum leaders in their day-to-day work and with their staff/interns/volunteers that include and often combine issues of racism and bigotry; the rise of authoritarianism and the impact of rapidly shifting local, state and national political discourse; gender discrimination, sexism, sexual harassment, and Title IX; economic disparity and the growing power and influence of wealthy donors/alumni/collectors, weak or unprotected administrators and unchecked destructive politics within academia; misconduct, unethical pressures, or overreach by trustees; and cancel culture; among other timely concerns. In an era of explosive debate about power and civil rights, how are museum directors summoning bravery and assuming professional risks in the face of these challenges. This Panel is inspired, in part, by recent writing, including Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World (2019, Anand Giridharadas), Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators (2019, Ronan Farrow), She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement (2019, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey), NYT and other reporting on Operation Varsity Blues (FBI’s college admissions corruption case), On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century and The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America (2019, Timothy Snyder), Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger (2018, Rebecca Traister), Eloquent Rage: A Black Woman Discovers Her Superpower (2018, Brittney Cooper), Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era (2013, Michael Kimmel).

Moderator: Dr. Natalie Marsh, Director and Chief Curator, Gund Gallery, Kenyon College and AAMG Board Member

Dr. Leonard Krishtalka, Director, Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute and Museum of Natural History

Dr. John Wetenhall, Director, George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum