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Collections Vol 7 N1

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"Collections: A Journal for Museum and Archives Professionals" is a multi-disciplinary peer-reviewed journal dedicated to the discussion of all aspects of handling, preserving, researching, and organizing collections. Curators, archivists, collections managers, preparators, registrars, educators, students, and others contribute.

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From the Editor

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Collections readers, great news! The generosity of many publishers has enabled us to offer an entire issue of the journal devoted to book reviews! Contained within are fifteen reviews of recent publications from a range of publishers including University of Colorado, University of Pennsylvania, Routledge, Yale, and English Heritage as well as familiar friends, including AAM, SAA, Left Coast Press of Walnut Creek, and the publisher of this very journal, AltaMira Press. We also welcome word from a smaller press headed by Nina Simon, Museum 2.0.

This issue also ushers in a review of another kind, that of online content. The hope here is to add a second branch of critical response to supplement our already concerted efforts of reviewing leading texts in the field of archives and museums. First in the queue is the project spearheaded by Rachael Cristine Woody, Archivist of the Freer∣Sackler Archives, known as the Smithsonian Institution Blogathon to celebrate American Archives Month. During Archives Month (October 2010) daily posts were made by archives staff regarding institutional operations, remarkable projects, and collections stories. The Smithsonian teamed up with “sister blogs”, including Around the Mall, The Bigger Picture, Archives of American Art, and affiliates such as Telluride Historical Museum, Montana History Revealed, and others, to expand online content as well. Furthering the reach of this endeavor, we invited three reviewers to check the Smithsonian pages regularly and respond both to the idea of a Blogathon and to particular posts throughout the month. Kelly Caldwell, Dara Flinn, and Chelsey Reid visited the Smithsonian blog and provide us with their perspectives on the value of such a virtual project. Their points of view open this issue of the journal and call for another round of collective blogging during Archives Month this coming year! While the Blogathon is long over, the posts and comments remain online at http://si-siris.blogspot.com/2010_10_01_archive.html

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Article

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Reviewed by Dara Flinn, Associate Archivist, Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, M5 44, Rice University, P.O. Box 1892, Houston, TX 77251-1892 phone: 713-348-2542 ; fax: 713-348-6172; dflinn@rice.edu

October is Archives Month: time for the yearly campaign by archivists across the country to raise awareness about the value of the archives to their patrons. In honor of the month, the Smithsonian Collections Blog, in collaboration with archivists across the Smithsonian Institution, held a 31-day Blogathon to “unveil [their] hidden collections and share them with the public, while at the same time teaching the public how to take care of their own archival treasures.” I was curious to see how the enormous Smithsonian would handle communicating its varied activities with the public, and I was very interested in the behind-the-scenes view of operations. It seemed a perfect opportunity to leverage the expertise of the Smithsonian in order to enhance our own local programs.

As a (new) professional archivist, I found the posts profiling particular collections interesting but spent little time in them. (I recognize that these might be the posts that kept the general public coming back for more, since they focus on the Smithsonian Institution’s treasures). I was reading for the meat of the Blogathon: descriptions of workflow, details of best practices, problem-solving on various levels that I could compare to our own practices, from the archivists, museum specialists, cataloguers, and others that perform the work at the Smithsonian. I wasn’t disappointed, and the thought-provoking posts I read both encouraged and challenged me.

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Museum Registration Methods, Fifth Edition

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by Rebecca A. Buck and Jean Allman Gilmore, Washington, D.C., The AAM Press. 2010.516 pp. ISBN 978-1-933253-15-2

Reviewed by Deborah Rose Van Horn, Registrar, Kentucky Historical Society, 100 W. Broadway, Frankfort, KY 40601; email: deborah.vanhorn@ky.gov

Like many of my colleagues, I was first introduced to the book Museum Registration Methods while I was a graduate student in a museum studies program. Of course, the book was the fourth edition known as, The New Museum Registration Methods. It soon became one of the books I would repeatedly turn to in my studies and while researching my thesis. As I moved into the museum community, I returned to the text to answer questions that arose in my work. I also used it to refresh my memory on procedures for tasks I encountered for the first time on the job. When I learned that the new version, Museum Registration Methods, Fifth Edition (MRM5), was coming out, I found myself both looking forward to reading the text and dreading it. After all, I had been out of graduate school for almost a decade. I wondered if I would have to relearn a number of tasks that I did without questioning whether or not I was using the proper procedure.

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Metropolitan Museum Studies in Art, Science, and Technology, Volume One, 2010

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by Lawrence Becker and Deborah Schorsch et al. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010. 164 pp. ISBN 9780300151602

Reviewed by Tony Rajer, conservator, Madison, WI; email: rajert@gdinet.com

For decades the Metropolitan Museum has published short and interesting technical notes in their general Museum bulletin as part of an art historical interest in the museum’s vast holdings. In addition, the Sherman Fairchild Center for object conservation at the Met has published a helpful newsletter about their research and treatment procedures on objects under their care. Now through the concerted efforts of conservators, scientist, and curators the Metropolitan has its own proper publication dedicated to art, science, and technology. We applaud them for their efforts and congratulate the donor, Mr. Carl Hess who has underwritten this publication. Like similar technical bulletins published by the National Gallery, London and the Rénunion des Musees Nationaux, France, the Met’s new Museum Studies has an interdisciplinary tone to it. Through these interrelated fields of art history, conservation, and science we can now gain a deeper appreciation of the museums objects and how one discipline augments appreciation with another. Each article has an extensive extensive bibliography on the subject and helpful footnotes.

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Navigating Legal Issues in Archives

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by Menzi L. Behrnd-Klodt. Chicago: Society of American Archivists. 2008. 329 pp. ISBN: 1-931666-28-8.

Reviewed by Robert O. Marlin, IV; Archivist, Truman G. Blocker Jr., History of Medicine Collections, Moody Medical Library, The University of Texas Medical Branch, 301 University Boulevard, Galveston, TX 77555-1035 phone: (409) 772-2397; fax: (409) 772-9782; email: romarlin@utmb.edu

Menzi L. Behrnd-Klodt’s education and work experience provide her with an excellent background to author an important and discerning book for archivists. Her latest effort, Navigating Legal Issues In Archives, is thoroughly researched and well­written. Trained as both an archivist and as an attorney, Behrnd-Klodt holds advanced degrees from the University of Wisconsin in history, library and information science and law. She is an attorney who specializes in contract law, intellectual properties, entertainment law and licensing in addition to overseeing the corporate archives and records retention programs.

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Crossroads of Culture, Anthropology Collections at the Denver Museum of Science & Nature

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by Chip Colwell-Chanthaphonh, Stephen E. Nash, and Stephen R. Holen. Boulder, CO: The University Press of Colorado, 2010. 174 pp. ISBN 978-1-60732-024-1

Reviewed by Deborah Rose Van Horn, Registrar, Kentucky Historical Society, 100 W. Broadway, Frankfort, KY 40601; email: deborah.vanhorn@ky.gov

The book, Crossroads of Culture, Anthropology Collections at the Denver Museum of Science & Nature, is an overview of the museum’s Anthropology collections. The authors provide their audience with a brief history of the institution, the history of the Anthropology collections and a look at where the Denver Museum of Science & Nature intends to take its Anthropology collections in the future. This synopsis is enhanced by beautiful color photographs and first-person narratives by collections stakeholders.

The authors begin with a brief history of that institution and the goals of this publication. The main focus of the volume is to introduce the Anthropology collections to a wider audience. As part of this process, the authors provide information about and access to the collections through the volume. According to the authors, only one percent of the museum’s holdings are on exhibit at any time and only a fraction of this percentage is the Anthropology collections. This is why they have chosen to publish this volume and provide access to the materials in the collection in this way. They proceed to do a departmental breakdown of the Anthropology collections including the history of the departments, the scopes of the anthropology collections, and future goals for that department.

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Measured and Drawn: Techniques and Practice for the Metric Survey of Historic Buildings

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by David Andrews, Jon Bedford, Bill Blake, Paul Bryan, Tom Cromwell, and Richard Lea. Edited by Jon Bedford and Heather Papworth. Second Edition. Swindon: English Heritage. 2009. 70 pp. ISBN: 9781848020474

Reviewed by Craig A. Reynolds, Doctoral Student, Department of Art History, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA; email: reynolds.ca2@vcu.edu

English Heritage, the official government body charged with protecting England’s historic built environment, has recognized that emerging technologies have created an “interdependency” between computer based tools for recording history and the manner by which we evaluate history. With the ubiquity of computers and computer-based tools, it is nearly impossible to escape technology. Furthermore, it is undeniable that technology will continue to influence how we approach and evaluate history. It is only logical that we adapt these emerging tools to assist in our understanding of the past, particularly in aiding the preservation of historic buildings. The merging of technology and traditional academic fields such as history and art, however, is not always an easy one. For example, the sheer abundance of technological survey tools creates a situation where it may be difficult to determine which technique is appropriate to the chosen research methodology.

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Private History in Public: Exhibition and the Settings of Everyday Life

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by Tammy S. Gordon with a Foreword by Harold Skramstad. New York: Alta Mira Press, 2010. 153 pp. ISBN: 978-0-7591-1935-2

Reviewed by Paul Kahan, Adjunct Professor of History, Montgomery County Community College, Blue Bell, PA; email: kahanpe@gmail.com

Private History in Public is an intriguing new publication in the American Association of State and Local History’s (AASLH) well-respected book series. Aimed at practitioners, the AASLH book series aims to address “. . . issues critical to the field of state and local history.” Not only are the issues Tammy Gordon addresses in Private History in Public critical to the field, they are largely unexamined, making this book essential reading for anyone seeking to better understand the role historical exhibition plays in local communities. Formerly assistant curator of exhibits at Michigan State University and now assistant professor of history at the University of North Carolina, Gordon had the ideal professional and educational background to produce an exceptional piece of scholarship.

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Preventive Conservation for Historic House Museums

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by Jane Merritt and Julie A. Reilly. Lanham; New York: Toronto; Plymouth, UK: Aitamira Press, 2010. 201 pp. ISBN 978-0-7591-1216-2

Reviewed by James D. Birchfield, former president of The Warwick Foundation and Curator of Rare Books, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington, Kentucky 40506-0039; phone (859) 257-8408; fax (859) 257-6311; email: klijdb@uky.edu

After years of experience at such places as the Smithsonian Institution, Colonial Williamsburg, the National Park Service, the Textile Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Jane Merritt and Julie A. Reilly have collaborated expertly to produce a rich digest of essential information on the subject of Preventive Conservation for Historic House Museums. The book is developed with the small museum in mind, and those who will benefit most from it — volunteers, community board members, site managers, and other employees — need not have completed a graduate curriculum in historic preservation to grasp its accessible concepts and advice. And with historic preservation a growing economic interest for communities that are developing destinations for heritage tourism, this book addresses an increasing market.

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Connecting Kids to History with Museum Exhibitions

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by D. Lynn McRainey and John Russick (eds.). Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press. 2010. 333pp. ISBN: 978-1-59874-383-8.

Reviewed by Roger J. Lerch, retired teacher of Ancient and Medieval History, Modern History, Cincinnati (1968-2003); email: rjlerch@gmail.com

What history teachers would not swoon at hearing their charges lament that “three hours in the museum wasn’t nearly enough.” Setting loose well-prepared kids in galleries and exhibitions to visualize and underscore their appreciation of the history studied in the classroom can produce memorable results. This instructor readily recalls two art history students returning from a non-scripted museum visit — excited and puzzled by their “discovery” that Guercino’s Mars showed the deity posed as the Hellenistic Dying Gaul. What intriguing historical issues were raised by this museum experience. Why might a painter (c. 1648) choose to challenge the viewer with this juxtaposition — the war god as war victim? What an opportunity to stimulate imagination and historical investigation. That there was a companion painting (now lost) of Eve, could suggest to both teacher and student ideas for an exhibition (real or imagined), “Make Love, Not War” — in which the Guercino would share gallery space with works like Oldenburg’s Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks.

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The Participatory Museum

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by Nina Simon. Santa Cruz, California: Museum 2.0. 2010. 352 pp. ISBN-13: 978-0-615-34650-2

Reviewed by Anna Heineman, Adjunct Professor of Art History, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida; FAD 233, School of Art + Art History, PO Box 115801, Gainesville, FL 32611; (641) 990-0950; email: anna.m.heineman@gmail.com

Although the old adage recommends readers not to judge a book by its cover, in this case, one should. The cover of Simon’s book is a drawing of a museum, complete with people everywhere. Kids and adults are painting the book’s title on the pediment, hanging out the windows, and peering over the roof. This is a wonderful and apt image of a “participatory museum”; it is not sterile, not quiet, and not empty. Through her well-researched and written book, Simon explains in brilliant and understandable ways how one can achieve an alive and vibrant museum.

The readers of Collections will find numerous creative suggestions for how to enliven museum exhibitions. The author’s background is in exhibit design, museum consultation, and successful blog writing. The research and perspective of The Participatory Museum combines all three of these backgrounds; Simon neatly wove her past experiences together to present to the public a museum world that into which the reader can’t help but want to jump. Throughout the pages, Simon gives concrete examples of successful exhibits and instillations that have enlivened museums across the globe. In a society full of desired immediate entertainment, Simon paves a path for museums to follow to make themselves more relevant and enjoyable without sacrificing content or education.

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Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience

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by John H. Falk. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press. 2009. 301 pp. ISBN: 978-1-59874-163-6.

Reviewed by Patricia Guardiola, Instructor of Art History, Indiana University Southeast, 4201 Grant Line Road, New Albany, Indiana 47150; email: plguard82@gmail.com

In his recent publication, education specialist John H. Falk takes on the complicated terms of “identity” and “experience” and applies them to a study of museum visitors. The author wishes to put a face to the museum visitor, an entity that is usually treated as a demographic for use in a museum’s development of exhibits. In Falk’s book, “museum” is used broadly to include the array of institutions such as zoos, aquariums, and museums of art, history and science. This can seem like a very broad approach to the analysis of visitors’ experiences. However, throughout Falk’s text, the objective is to explain not necessarily what the museum visitors were seeing in terms of science or art, though that is provided for context, but why they were seeing it. In other words, what moves someone to choose a visit to a museum, especially when there are so many other demands on one’s free time?

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Do Museums Still Need Objects?

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by Steven Conn. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010. 262 pp. ISBN: 978-0-8122-4190-7

Reviewed by Kimberly Rhodes, Associate Professor of Art History and Director, New York Semester on Contemporary Art, Drew University, Madison, New Jersey, 07940 phone: 973-327-2292; email: krhodes@drew.edu

Steven Conn’s response to the titular question of his provocative text, a collection of six loosely related essays, is a melancholy yes: “Museums — some of them anyway — may not need objects anymore, but without objects we all miss the delights and surprises that come with looking.” (57) The author’s commitment to objects stems from at least two of his primary motives for discussing, albeit diffusely, the current state of museum practice and studies in the United States. First, to provide an inclusive discussion of museums that encompasses institutions devoted to art, natural history, history, and science and thereby demonstrates their overlapping functions and concerns. Second, to promote a renewed humanistic vision of museums as public spaces that perpetuate civic duty through shared experiences of “objects,” what Conn calls “object-based epistemology.” In his introduction, Conn positions the latter imperative as a direct challenge to what he believes to be the recent textual and cynical turn in museum studies perpetuated by scholars employing poststructuralist theory to interrogate the histories and ideologies of museums. While it is useful for Conn to initiate a dialogue about the utility of various approaches to the study of museums in the United States, some readers may be irked by the author’s derisive attitude toward theory and disappointed that he does not fully examine the changing status of the “object,” especially in the visual arts. By extension, the author does not consider the role of technology and our twenty-first century immersion in the virtual world in diminishing the significance of the material world for institutions and audiences.

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Artists, Patrons and the Public: Why Culture Changes

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by Barry Lord and Gail Dexter Lord. Lanham, MD; Plymouth, U.K.: AltaMira Press. 2010. 216 pp. ISBN: 978-0-7591-1848-5

Reviewed by Susan Martis, Ph.D., SAGES Fellow, Case Western Reserve University, Crawford Hall 110 LC7178, 10900 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44106; email: susan.martis@case.edu.

Artists, Patrons and the Public: Why Culture Changes by Barry Lord and Gail Dexter Lord features an examination of aesthetic culture while elucidating its relationship to life experiences in general. By focusing on cultural change and the people who participate in it, this book provides a distinctive analysis of aspects often marginalized in textbooks and exhibitions. The authors utilize familiar works of art and their creators from art history, music, theater, and literature to explain their statements, but concepts emerge from and will appeal to a broad range of academic and general interests. Indeed, the last two chapters address topical issues of the environment, globalism, urbanism, and technology.

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Intangible Heritage

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by Laurajane Smith and Natsuko Akagawa, editors. London; New York: Routledge, Taylor Francis Group. 2008. 336 pp. ISBN: 978-0-41 5-47396-5

Reviewed by Jennifer Way, Associate Professor of Art History, College of Visual Arts and Design, University of North Texas, 1155 Union Circle #305100, Denton, TX, 76203-5017 phone 9405654029; email: JWay@unt.edu

Intangible Heritage belongs to a series called Key Issues in Cultural Heritage that its publisher Routledge says “aims to identify interdisciplinary debates within the changing and under-theorized field of Heritage Studies and to explore how they impact on the practices not only of heritage management and conservation, but also the processes of production, consumption and engagement with heritage in its many and varied forms.” Although individually, its sixteen authors write mainly from their various, respective disciplines — anthropology, archaeology, architecture, folklore, heritage studies, philosophy, history, Indigenous studies and museum studies, together, their essays provide a lively scholarly discussion that pushes towards “something altogether new, distinctive, apart from, and beyond the limits of any discipline and, thus, [is] additive to knowledge;”1 including to museum and collections work and related humanities research. In this, they are aided greatly by what distinguishes Intangible Heritage from the other titles in the series: Places of Pain and Shame, Dealing withDifficult Heritage’, which Routledge published the same year as Intangible Heritage; Cultural Diversity, Heritage and Human Rights, Intersections in Theory and Practice, and Heritage and Globalisation, which followed it, and The Heritage of War, which is forthcoming. Uniquely, Intangible Heritage provides an intriguing, multi-faceted portrait of a single piece of legislation — the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage that UNESCO, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, ratified in Paris, 17 October 2003. Moreover, its essays critically reflect not only on the meaning of intangible heritage but also on the community and culture UNESCO places at the heart of this major international document.

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Conservation of Ancient Sites on the Silk Road: Proceedings of the Second International Conference on the Conservation of Grotto Sites, Mogao Grottoes, Dunhuang, People’s Republic of China, June 28–July 3, 2004

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by Neville Agnew, ed. Los Angeles: Getty Publications. 2004. 516 pp. ISBN 978-1-60606-013-1

Reviewed by Yun Shun Susie Chung, Adjunct Faculty, University of Louisiana at Monroe; email: yssc_2@yahoo.com

Conservation of Ancient Sites on the Silk Road (Conservation) edited by Neville Agnew (senior principal project specialist in the Field Projects department of the Getty Conservation Institute) is the result of the Second International Conference on the Conservation of Grotto Sites in 2004, reflecting two decades of collaboration between the Getty Conservation Institute, Dunhuang Academy, and China’s State Administration of Cultural Heritage. The first conference proceeding, Conservation of Ancient Sites on the Silk Road: Proceedings of an International Conference on the Conservation of Grotto Sites, was published in 1997 addressing many of the topics that are also covered in the second conference proceeding. The second conference publication is an attempt to be more inclusive demonstrating the exchange between East and West professionals with central Asian contributors (xii). On a broader scale, this publication presents extensive research on the heritage management of a heritage route. Individual literature on the Silk Road and heritage sites on the route exist, however, a comprehensive volume on heritage management books is scarce. The last two foundational references on heritage management are: Richard Harrison’s (ed.) Manual of Heritage Management published in 1994 and Peter Howard and Gregory Ashworth’s Heritage Planning published in 1999, drawing examples of cultural and natural heritage case studies. Conservation focuses mostly on the cultural heritage resources and the immediate attention is on the conservation of the Mogao Grottoes on the Silk Road. The articles do also cover the wide-ranging management functions of the Mogao Grottoes such as those outlined in the Manual of Heritage Management. Conservation lays groundwork for the heritage management of heritage route literature, which includes not only the objects, sites, and buildings to preserve, but the institutions, cultures, and people that are intertwined in the practice of heritage administration, preservation, research, and communication.

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Museums in a Troubled World: Renewal, Irrelevance or Collapse?

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by Robert R. Janes. From the Museum Meanings Series. London and New York: Routledge, 2009. 208 pp. ISBN: 978-0-415-46300-3

Reviewed by Anna Heineman, Adjunct Professor of Art History, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida; FAD 233, School of Art + Art History, PO Box 115801, Gainesville, FL 32611; (641) 990-0950; email: anna.m.heineman@gmail.com

Museums today face issues of relevance, social and economic issues, and funding like never before. Robert R. Janes, museum professional of thirty-five years, detailed the growing challenges for museums in his book entitled, Museums in a Troubled World: Renewal, Irrelevance or Collapse? Throughout the book, Janes analyzes the importance of museums, yet explores their struggle of remaining relevant in a time of environmental and economic change. Janes’s highly pointed, yet well researched perspectives and suggestions come from his nearly four decades of work as a museum director, author, consultant, editor, board member, and volunteer. This insider’s perspective guides readers — both museum professionals and attendees — to help steer museums back on a relevant path.

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Welcome New Editorial Board Members

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As a peer-reviewed, quarterly publication from AltaMira Press, Collections offers a platform for research, dialogue, and reportage among professionals — at every stage. The journal strives to offer professional guidance and theoretical grounding drawn from fields such as anthropology, art history, cultural studies, ethnobotany, history, conservation, law, life science, museum studies, and library science.

The publication process is a collaborative venture: the Editor; AltaMira Press and its parent company, Rowman and Littlefield; and authors contribute to and benefit from the journal in a range of capacities. Additionally, the Editorial Board plays a key role in the publication process and the success of the journal. Working closely with me in my role as editor of the journal, board members will help to achieve the journal’s mission and, moreover, contribute to the journal in a variety of ways. Key among these are peer review and guest editorship. In addition, members of the Editorial Board develop concepts for themed issues of the journal; encourage submissions from a range of museum and archives professionals; identify books, symposia, conferences, and projects for review or proceedings publication; assist the editor in keeping abreast of trends and issues in the field; and broaden the discourse about collections to our national and international readership. Names of the Editorial Board are proudly featured on the journal’s website and in each issue of the journal.

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