2012 Meeting at the University of Wisconsin, Madison

Consortium for American Material Culture
6th Annual Meeting
University of Wisconsin, Madison
May 10-12, 2012

The CAMC Wisconsin adventure will turn up the intensity a notch this year with visits to both Milwaukee and Madison in beautiful Wisconsin spring. Plan to arrive Thursday morning at the spectacular Calatrava-designed Milwaukee Art Museum (mam.org.) We will begin late morning with lunch in the Chipstone office suite at the Saarinen building at MAM. Jon Prown and Ethan Lasser will lead the group through the decorative arts/material culture galleries to plant some ideas for our later discussions about museums, curatorial practice and museum/academic programming in the 21st century.

Mid-afternoon we adjourn to the Chipstone property in Fox Point where we can try a number of innovative hands-on techniques with objects. What would you do with early American objects if museum rules of handling were not an issue? How would you think through things? In what way does that kind of brainstorming bring fresh ideas for object study and display? We will eat on site and dawdle in a summer’s eve on Lake Michigan before returning to your nearby hotel.

The next morning, we will be driving to Madison, arriving c. 10 a.m. at the Chazen Museum of Art, just opened in October 2011 (www.chazen.wisc.edu) We have yet to make full use of this new building and the galleries and teaching spaces there. How can we fully embrace student learning through objects on a university campus? Is there a better way to teach/evaluate/do museum exhibitions? We will also talk more fully about the multi-media projects our members have successfully embarked upon and wonder how they replace or interface with brick-and-mortar. We will have a later lunch at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery and tour the Living Environments Laboratory, a 3-d environment that we can also brainstorm about material culture’s potential in science/humanities interfaces.

On Friday afternoon Prof. Anna Andrzejewski has offered to take us on a guided tour of two Madison neighborhoods, extending our focus on the "museum" into the broader community. On these tours, we can critically examine some of the ways UW students have, as part of their education in material culture, created educational possibilities for the broader public. We will visit a working-class nineteenth-century community - a local historic district - and go on a guided tour prepared by a Material Culture graduate student of public art. Through her research, the student will discuss how her training in material culture prepared her for developing this tour for the community.

Depending on timing, we could visit a twentieth-century Madison suburb, the highlight of which is Frank Lloyd Wright's 1936 Jacobs House (the first usonian house). Here an undergraduate student can discuss her work on a guided walking tour of this neighborhood, which was facilitated by a local grant from the County cultural affairs board. These tours show us Madison, but they also highlight how students are changing the shape of public history as part of their education. It will challenge the group to think about how museums, the built environment and education can work symbiotically in the 21st century.

Before we leave town, we will be sure to admire the Wisconsin State Capital, home of so much political discourse in the previous year (as requested!) and end with a beer at the Wisconsin Union. Friday evening we will return to Milwaukee. (For those who have tighter plans, you could fly out from Madison.) Saturday you are free to return home or continue looking and talking about museums and museum education in the 21st century. There are multiple museums to add on (Milwaukee Public, Harley-Davidson) or return to Chipstone for more engagement and wrap-up.

We have sketched this out, but welcome lots of feedback as we proceed. As always, we are looking for topics and ideas, so please let us know any comments by February 15 so we can continue to craft the meeting. I have already heard strong interest in alternative museum display, museum/curatorial practice courses and digital humanities.

1) I have tried to keep the group small, but make the trip exciting! Let us know if you cannot make the trip so we can keep working out logistics of Madison faculty, etc.

2) More details are coming on expenses. The conference/meeting is free, but alas you must pay your own travel. There are discount airlines to Milwaukee, and I am working on getting all food costs covered and a reasonable hotel rate.

Questions? Be in touch. Ethan, Jon, Anna and I are looking forward to your visit and continuing the tradition of the CAMC on-the road.

Ann Smart Martin
608-298-0049 (home)

Ethan Lasser

Anna Andrzejewski

Jon Prown


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