On the state of public perception of museums

Submitted for your consideration…

2018 has been an interesting year thus far, and I mean that in the truly value-neutral sense of the word. Tons of events of interest have occurred, and as a lifelong museum person who is also part of the world, I’m struck by the seemingly parallel universes in which museums exist in 2018. MASS Action has just wrapped up and looked very stimulating. Contrast the seismic conversations going on with this past year’s crop of pop culture museum references. And the extent to which popular culture images are spurring conversation and thinking about the role of museums in the present day. So, presented for your edification are three recent depictions and some of the responses they generated. What does this say about our profession?

Black Panther and the other side of the museum creation myth

ArtNet “The Museum Heist Scene in ‘Black Panther’ Adds Fuel to the Debate About African Art Restitution” by Sarah Cascone

Hyperallergic ” What Black Panther Gets Right About the Politics of Museums” by Lise Ragbir

Johns Hopkins University The Hopkins Exhibitionist, “Why museum professionals need to talk about Black Panther” by Casey Haughin

And of course, my favorite…

The Guardian, “‘Not everything was looted’: British Museum to fight critics” by Haroon Siddique


Apeshit, the Carters, representation, and intersection

Hyperallergic Can Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s Louvre Video Change Perceptions of Who Belongs in Museums?” by Lise Ragbir

ArtNet “‘I May Need to Lie Down’: The Art World Goes Nuts Over Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s Louvre Takeover on Social Media” by Sarah Cascone

Refinery 29 “Beyoncé & Jay-Z’s New Video Is A Major Lesson In Art History” by
Alejandra Salazar

Rolling Stone “How Beyonce and Jay-Z Defy Western Art Tradition in ‘Apeshit’ Video” By Elias Leight

Wonder Woman

Geeks, Wonder Woman as an Art Historian, by Maria M. Ziegler

Wonder Woman: Superhero Art Historian, by Blaire Moskowitz

So you wanna be a superheroine AND a museum curator…, by Mary Manning

Apollo Magazine, The Louvre goes to the movies (again), by Rakewell

Another day in the office. Are those cotton gloves? (image actually from Justice League.)

and lastly, as a bonus…

Oceans 8

(and every other movie that uses museums solely as a backdrop for beautiful people to dress expensively and flaunt wealth.)

Strangely, I couldn’t find anything in the media about the movie and the Met’s role in it.

A scene in “Ocean’s 8” was filmed inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Temple of Dendur. image by David Lee/Warner Brothers Pictures

The funny thing is that this image – of all the images above – is the most accurate representation of current museum practice I’ve seen. I’ve been at versions of that party, or at least been asked to work that party and provide sparkling conversation for the guests.

What am I missing?


    1. And oh so eloquently, too. Will Ferrell is my new favorite commentator on contemporary art! And you guys are my new gold standard for museum generated video!


  1. While we’re on the subject of pop culture representations of museums, though this may be tangential to your thread, what about the trend of pop up museums – IceCream, Color, etc? Why have these places decided to call themselves museums? And what are they doing to the image of a museum and to people’s expectations of what a museum should offer? And I agree with you about Will Farrell and The Hammer. Brilliant and funny!


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