Symposium

Of Rising Scholars

Spring 2024

Laura will be presenting at The Symposium of Rising Scholars on Saturday, March 23rd! To attend the event and see Laura's presentation.

Go to Polygence Scholars page
Laura Wylie's cover illustration
Polygence Scholar2023
Laura Wylie's profile

Laura Wylie

Class of 2024San Francisco, California

About

Projects

  • "How do museums change over time? How do significant social changes and movements affect how museums present historical information to the public?" with mentor Magdalena (Sept. 18, 2023)

Project Portfolio

How do museums change over time? How do significant social changes and movements affect how museums present historical information to the public?

Started June 14, 2023

Abstract or project description

Have you ever been to a museum more than once? Have you seen the changes it went through? In my childhood, I frequented The American Museum of Natural History. My first exposure to historical moments such as the colonization of the Americas was through the lifelike wax displays. I later moved away from New York City, but I still went back to visit every few years. Every time I went back, certain changes were made. There were online controversies about the ethics of keeping wax displays of Native American people and the Spanish colonizers; the displays were thought to further racial stereotypes and historical misconceptions. Several years later, the exhibition presenting the colonization of the Americas was altered to feature new historical knowledge and findings about culture devoid of racist ideologies.

How do museums change over time? How do significant social changes and movements affect how museums present historical information to the public? Museums are affected by the ideologies of their visitors and curators. When the ideologies of their visitors and curators change through generations, the museums must also evolve with them. Ideologies can be changed by influential events in society and the different lifestyles of people. Thus, social changes and movements are reflected in the changes in natural history and art museums. Museums are a condensed reflection of our societies.

In this paper, I will address how exhibitions in various museums have evolved through different social changes surrounding those museums. I will research the social history of the cities where the museums are located and the history of the museums themselves to connect how social movements affect those institutions. First of all, what are museums and what kinds of museums are there? Museums are educational displays of the human experience and knowledge. The museums that most directly reflect human societies are natural history museums and art museums. Natural history museums explore the histories of various peoples around the world and art museums explore the creative culture of those societies. How do museums present information? What are some influential social movements in our time? How did museums show facts about those movements? One of the most influential movements in recent years is the Black Lives Matter movement. This movement caused ripples throughout American museums, initiating Black History centered exhibits and artistic displays by black artists.

For this paper, I will explore peer reviewed journals and articles focused on museology that expand on social movements and how museums have changed over time. I will also visit several American Natural History and art museums in person to further understand the history of those museums. I also am working and volunteering at several museums in San Francisco, so I will draw from this experience to flesh out my knowledge of museology.