Public Forum “Flashpoints and Fault Lines: Museum Curation and Controversy” April 26-27

April 28, 2011
News Release
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For the webcast videos of the April 26-27 public forum, please visit


Note: The below outline for the forum was originally posted April 25, 2011.


The public forum outlined below is free and open to the public. Seating will be on a first-come, first-served basis. Media are asked to call the contacts above to cover the sessions. It will be webcast live at


Tuesday, April 26—Evening Program
Freer Gallery of Art, Meyer Auditorium

6 p.m.

Welcome to the Museum
Julian Raby
, director, Freer and Sackler galleries, and senior art advisor, Smithsonian Institution

Welcome to the Forum
Wayne Clough, Secretary, Smithsonian Institution

Richard Kurin, Under Secretary for History, Art and Culture, Smithsonian Institution

6:15 p.m.

Curation: Responsibilities, Constraints and Controversy
What is the public and professional responsibility of the curator in art, science, history and culture? What is included and excluded in exhibitions and why? Do curators and museums censor—how so? When does judgment become self-censorship? Should curators and museums address controversial subjects?

Moderator: Claudine Brown, Assistant Secretary for Education and Access, Smithsonian Institution

Kimberly Camp, CEO, Richland Public Facilities District, Hanford Reach Interpretive Center, and founding director, Smithsonian Experimental Gallery

Briana L. Pobiner, education and outreach specialist and paleoanthropologist, Human Origins Program, National Museum of Natural History

David C. Ward, historian, National Portrait Gallery, and co-curator of “Hide/Seek”

Public comments and Q&A

7:15 p.m.

Representing Sensitive Topics: Gender and Sexuality
What particular issues of curatorial responsibility have emerged with regard to representations of gender and sexuality in museums, including the recent “Hide/Seek” exhibition?

Moderator: Kinshasha Holman Conwill, deputy director, National Museum of African American History and Culture

Charles Francis, founder, Kameny Papers Project

Thom Collins, director, Miami Art Museum

Jonathan Katz, chair, Visual Studies at SUNY Buffalo and co-curator of “Hide/Seek”

Karen Milbourne, curator, National Museum of African Art

8:25 p.m.

What Does the Public Think?
Public questions and comments for panelists and senior staff

Wednesday, April 27
Freer Gallery of Art, Meyer Auditorium

9:30 a.m.

Welcome and Introduction
Johnnetta Cole
, director, National Museum of African Art

Curation: Listening to Artists, Scientists, Public Figures, Cultural Communities
What is the role of the curator vis-à-vis the artist and the presentation of work? What is the role of the curator in presenting scientific findings? To what extent do public figures have a say in how they are presented? How do we listen to cultural communities and account for their sensibilities and sensitivities?

Moderator: Johnnetta Cole, director, National Museum of African Art

Kerry Brougher, deputy director and chief curator, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Tim Johnson, associate director for Museum Programs, National Museum of the American Indian

Cristián Samper, director, National Museum of Natural History

Commentator: Blake Gopnik, art and design critic for Newsweek and its website, The Daily Beast

Public comments, Q&A and break

10:50 a.m.

Exhibitions in National Museums and Public Institutions
What are the special characteristics of national and public museums with regard to sensitive topics/treatments and controversial issues? Should there be? How do politics affect curation? What accountability do curators, museum directors and boards have, and to whom?

Moderator: Ellen McCulloch-Lovell, president, Marlboro College, and former executive director, Save America’s Treasures

Frank Hodsoll, principal, Hodsoll and Associates, and former chairman, National Endowment for the Arts

Bill Ivey, director, Curb Center, Vanderbilt University, and former chair, National Endowment for the Arts

Ford Bell, president, American Association of Museums

Public comments and Q&A



1:30 p.m.

Museum Stakeholders and Curation
What stakes and roles do funders, boards, critics, museum audiences and other constituents have in curation? How specific are those roles with regard to influencing, approving, supporting exhibitions?

Moderator: Elizabeth Duggal, associate director, External Affairs and Public Programs, National Museum of Natural History

Ann Hamilton, artist and member, board of trustees, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Henry Muñoz, chair, Commission for the National Museum of the American Latino

Jed Perl, art critic, The New Republic

Commentator: Kaywin Feldman, director and president, Minneapolis Institute of Art, and president, Association of Art Museum Directors

Public comments, Q&A and break

2:40 p.m.

Concluding Thoughts         

Lonnie Bunch, director, National Museum of African American History and Culture
Martin Sullivan,director, National Portrait Gallery

Thanks and Going Forward

Richard Kurin