Mini Thesis Series: New Curatorial Methods
In my master’s thesis, “Transforming the Museum Space: Native Feminisms as Activism in “Hearts of Our People””, I examine the exhibition from 2019-2020 and its creation in spite of the historical and social context surrounding it. Perhaps just as importantly, I look at how an exhibition like this one—by employing the methods used in the creation of this show—can change how museum professionals go about and think about curation. These methods are focused on decentering settler colonialism in museum culture. I recognize that museums are monuments are colonization, so these three main methods employed go against general practice.
I’ll be splitting up these methods into smaller sections so make sure you check back for the other parts!
Method 2: The Canon
Using objects that are ordinarily not defined as “art” in an exhibition that calls it such can make one question how the definition is applied. The use of difference art canons—other than the usual western European/ European-descended canon—can bring attention to how the western art canon operates while questioning the sole legitimacy of that canon in a gallery space. “The Native art canons do not operate along the same lines as the mainstream canon that is typically exhibited. The pieces on display in this exhibition highlight the diversity (among other things) of artistic productions and knowledge systems from Native nations represented.” This leads to new ways of understanding when we understand that there are many ways to interpret objects. We have to respect the communities from which these objects come and understand that “no” is an answer we should be okay with hearing.
Using different canons also erases the argument between “fine art” versus “craft”/ “folk art”. Those dichotomies don’t exist outside of the western canon. Removing that barrier opens up interpretation of objects and levels the playing field so to speak. It also spotlights the falsehood of a hierarchy within artistic production based on gender, ethnicity, and materials that further perpetuates settler colonialism and the patriarchal culture that came with it. In forgoing these assumptions in the gallery space, all academically based arguments are invalid, and we are presented with a spectrum of artistic expression from many cultures as all equals.
Sarah Hixson (she/her/hers) is an aspiring curator and educator focusing on DEAI and indigenization work and incorporating activism into museum practices. If you have questions for Sarah, please comment below or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Hixson, “Transforming the Museum Space”, pp. 25-26