What Should the 21st Century Museum Be?
A discussion led by students in the CEE Critical Museum Studies Group.
Critical Museums Studies Group
Who We Are
The Critical Museum Working Group is a group of graduate students with the Center for Experimental Ethnography. For the past several months, the group has been working on critically re-imagining the Penn Museum and its operation within perpetuating harmful, colonialist, and racist modes of operation, ordering, and othering. They have focused on three major themes of “Ethics and human remains collections“, “Mapping, Visualizing, and Humanizing”, and an “Anti-colonial Tour”.
Katleho Kano Shoro
Paul Wolff Mitchell
Hakimah Abdul-Fattah is a second year graduate student pursuing a Ph.D. in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a visual artist and researcher with a professional background in museums and arts organizations. She is interested broadly in the moments in which material objects are put to work in
national projects of repair, specifically with respect to how they might address the historical injustices of new world slavery and colonization. Hakimah holds a BA in Anthropology and French from Bates College and a MA in Museum Anthropology from Columbia University.
Jennifer Barron is a career museum professional who has worked within academic and institutional settings interpreting collections for over 15 years. Current and past projects include collaborating with a team of scholars, educators, and museum professionals to complete the $100M transformation of the Witte Museum in San Antonio, Texas (2011-2016), collaborating on forensic casework for Operation Identification, and NAGPRA repatriation. In 2017, with the guidance of Dr. Michelle Hamilton, Barron curated the Grady Early Skeletal Pathology Collection in the Forensic Anthropology
Center at Texas State (FACTS) which led to her current doctoral research in ethics and informed consent within human remains collections. Barron received her BA in anthropology from the University of Missouri- Columbia and her Master of Literature in Museum and Gallery Studies from the University of St Andrews, Scotland. She is currently a PhD candidate in the Applied Anthropology Program at Texas State University.
VanJessica Gladney is a third-year graduate student pursuing a Ph.D. in History at the University of Pennsylvania.
Her work focuses on examining the ways enslaved women navigated through legal spaces to find avenues to freedom. In 2021, she became a recipient of the inaugural class of Presidential PhD Fellows. Her student leadership roles includes her positions as as Co-President of the William Fontaine Fellowship Society and Chief Editor of the Penn & Slavery Project Editorial Board.
Outside of her personal research, VanJessica serves as the Digital Historian for the Penn & Slavery Project, and conducts archival research for the Story Map as part of the William Still 200 Project, and the Mask We Wear Project within Digital Freedom Dreams.
I research the ways that museums and discourses of past-ness influence the independence politics on the South Pacific island of Kanaky/New Caledonia. I am interested in analyzing museums and monuments as sites of determination/self-determination of identities, especially Indigenous identities, towards understanding how Indigenous self-determination might be better effected in the contemporary political landscape.
My professional and previous research background is in compliance work with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA 1990) for universities, museums, and the military.
My goals with this group are to find ways to apply our critical lenses in proactive ways to decolonize museums and make them more equitable in function and representation.
Chrislyn Laurie Laurore
Chrislyn Laurie Laurore is a third-year graduate student pursuing a PhD in Anthropology as well as graduate certificates in Africana Studies and Historic Preservation at the University of Pennsylvania. She is broadly interested in processes of racialization through public space and place as well as the memorialization of slave heritage sites across the African diaspora.
In October 2020, Chrislyn joined Monument Lab — a Philadelphia-based public art and history studio — as a Research Associate in support of the National Monument Audit. In April 2021, she was awarded a three-year, Predoctoral Fellowship from the Ford Foundation. She is also a fellow with Penn’s Center for Teaching and Learning.
Breanna Moore is a third year PhD student in the History Department at University of Pennsylvania. She graduated from UPenn with majors in International Relations and African Studies in 2015. Her research interests include slavery, the transAtlantic slave trade, and the history of the African diaspora.
She’s passionate about disseminating diverse histories which center marginalized groups to the public, inside and outside of academic spaces, through multimodal mediums such as film, digital media, fashion, and public history projects. In 2019, she was commissioned by the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology to create an art installation for the opening of their New Africa Galleries.
She co-created a dress, titled “Wearable Literature,” which uses art and embroidery to express the importance of ancestral communication and the principle of Sankofa in the design of the fabric. She joined the Penn Slavery Project in Spring 2018. Through the Penn and Slavery Project’s Augmented Reality Mobile App, she documents the history of my family over five generations, from slavery to the present, set in contrast with the fortunes of my family’s enslavers which included two men who received medical degrees from Penn during the 19th century.
Charlotte is a Ben Franklin, Presidential Endowment, and Sundry Gifts Graduate candidate pursuing a PhD in Anthropology, with a focus on cultural heritage and the history of archaeology.
Her dissertation research investigates how American imperial projects ranging from the United Fruit Company to the Panama Canal used archaeology as a way to control Central American territory in the early 20th century, and seeks to show how both harvests and heritage were extracted using the same labor and infrastructural systems.
Her research has been supported by the Smithsonian in Washington DC, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation. For 2021-2022, Charlotte is a Just Futures Graduate Fellow for Penn’s Mellon-funded multidisciplinary research group, Dispossessions in Latin America: The Extraction of Bodies, Land, and Heritage from La Conquista to the Present.
Paul Wolff Mitchell
Paul is a doctoral candidate in Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, studying the histories, politics, and legacies of 19th century scientific racism, with a focus on anthropological collections of human skulls in the United States and Europe. He is affiliated with the Penn and Slavery Project and the Penn Program on Race, Science and Society, and his work has been supported by the Wenner Gren Foundation, the Consortium for the History of Science, Technology
and Medicine, the German Academic Exchange Service, and the Netter Center for Community Partnerships at the University of Pennslyvania. Currently, he is a fellow at the Library Company of Philadelphia and the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, and is a researcher for the Penn Mellon-funded project, “Dispossessions in the Americas: The Extraction of Bodies, Land, and Heritage from La Conquista to the Present.”