Wednesday, August 21, 2019

UIS Associate Professor Hinda Seif spends summer examining the role of museums in civic life in Washington, D.C.

Seif learning about the work of the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative.
As part of a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant, University of Illinois Springfield Associate Professor of Sociology/Anthropology and Women/Gender Studies Hinda Seif spent the month of July exploring museums and curated cultural collections around Washington, D.C.

During the NEH Summer Institute for College and University Teachers, Seif lived and worked at Georgetown University and the Smithsonian Institution with 24 colleagues from across the nation.

“We grappled with questions such as: what is the role of museums in building robust civic culture in the United States today?” said Seif. “We also discussed how museums can better serve groups that historically have been objectified by museum practices yet marginalized in their leadership, and the opportunities, challenges, and potential pitfalls of integrating digital resources into museums.”

Seif was selected for the NEH Summer Institute because of her research, writings and teaching on women artists of Mexican ancestry in Chicago, which includes their relationships to the city's museums.

Seif with other faculty at the National Museum of American Indian.
The NEH group toured the National Museum of African American History and Culture and met with interim director Spencer Crew. They also discussed the social and economic value of humanities education with NEH Chairman Jon Parrish Peede and toured the Cultural Resources Center for the National Museum of the American Indian, where they learned how staff care for one of the world’s most expansive collections of Native objects.

“The institute helped me think more deeply about the ‘decolonization’ of Chicago's museums, and I am sharing some of my new Smithsonian contacts with Chicago artists,” said Seif.

“Our discussions on how to make museum decisions based on the cultures and interests of young visitors are highly relevant to my teaching. I plan to bring what I learned to the classroom at UIS, including information from special exhibits on women's suffrage, student activism related to the history of slavery at Georgetown University, and discussions about native peoples,” she added.