SESSION I: COLLECTING
“Women are Transmogrifying”
Mandy Paul (History SA)
Blue Jeans and Jungle Greens, an exhibition on the sixties and seventies in South Australia, featured the emergence of the Women’s Liberation Movement as one of the social movements of the time, and put it in its immediate social and political context. Looking for objects to represent feminism in the period, and finding none in the collection, I sought the advice of a colleague – who lent her collection of badges. This paper will explore the reasons why objects relating to the Women’s Liberation Movement are still in drawers in people’s houses rather than museum stores. It will also acknowledge the significant impact feminist curators have had on shaping the practice of public history in Australian social history museums over the last three decades. Reflecting on this work, I will ponder whether interpretation grounded in feminist historiography can render ‘feminist’ a much wider range of objects than stickers and badges.
“The Gendered Politics of Collections”
Sophia Maalsen (U Syd)
The symposium recognises the role of material culture and museums in fostering social memory while also noting the absence of second wave feminism in museum representation. This paper will look at possible attitudes that thwart the representation of feminist representation in museums by focusing on the act of collecting and collections themselves. Women’s objects of collection, more frequently reflecting items of domestic spheres and everyday existence, have frequently in the past not been considered worthy items and therefore lack the qualities of a respected ‘collection’. It is more than just recognising items of feminist material culture, but the acknowledgement that women’s material culture counts. Thus this paper reflects less on individual items of material culture but on the structural positions of collecting, which regard them as so.
“Feminist futures, feminist pasts and generational relationships: Responding to second wave activist material culture in Adelaide collections”
Petra Mosmann (Flinders)
In Adelaide there are several libraries and galleries that have archived second wave activist material including: the University of Adelaide Special Collections, Flinders University Art Gallery/Special Collections, the State Library of South Australia and the Art Gallery of South Australia. This paper explores the collection and curation of second wave activist material in these institutions and the generational relationships implied and created by these archives. This paper considers second wave material in the hands of feminists that have no activist memory, who gain what Zora Simic calls ‘feminist competency’ primarily through academic accomplishment rather than activism. It argues that collecting the remnants of feminist activism locates a feminist future in the self-reflexive archiving of feminisms pasts, which sets out new relationships between feminist ‘generations’.
“First steps in digitisation: Irene Greenwood and Woman to Woman”
Kate Makowiecka (Murdoch)
SESSION II: EXHIBITING
“A Mediterranean Bazaar : The Bazar du Genre exhibition at the Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée (MuCEM) in Marseille, 2013”
Bronwyn Winter (U Syd)
One of the MuCEM’s two inaugural temporary exhibitions is “Au Bazar du Genre” (at the Gender Bazaar). It is dedicated to exploring the recent history of feminist—and LGBT—challenges to the order of male domination in the twenty-one countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea. The multimedia exhibition features feminist activist memorabilia, newsreel footage, scenes from classic films, videos of more recent ‘activist’ performance art, and various visual artworks. The exhibition catalogue features articles by many well-known academics, which, along with the place in which the exhibition occurs, confers considerable prestige on it. This paper will discuss these various facets of the exhibition and reactions to it in France, as an example of a certain institutionalisation of feminist memory that has both salutary and problematic aspects.
“Acting Out: performing feminisms in the contemporary art museum”
Courtney Pedersen (QUT) and Rachael Haynes (QUT)
The position that feminist art holds within the art museum is complex and often contradictory. There is a very real danger that when absorbed into the museum collection, feminist art can become a historicizing category; framed as a singular movement rather than a still relevant set of strategies. Since 2010, the feminist artist collective LEVEL has been involved in a range of activities designed to reinvigorate the discussion of women’s position in the art world and society more broadly. They have been commissioned to provide a public program as part of the Museum of Contemporary Art’s WAR IS OVER! (IF YOU WANT IT): YOKO ONO exhibition in late 2013. This paper discusses the design of that project as an attempt to move beyond the script of feminism as a historical moment, and back to the lived experience of feminist art as political understanding and social engagement.
“What is a Feminist Object? Things that liberate and material culture”
Alison Bartlett (UWA) and Margaret Henderson (UQ)
Investigating the idea of feminist material culture this paper focuses on ‘what is a feminist object?’ Finding that museum studies literature still struggles to address feminist materials and methods, we briefly survey some established women’s museums and then draw some more specific observations from two recent projects: a collection of objects on feminist activism for a national museum; and a collection of essays focused on feminist objects. Both of these projects are specifically in relation to Australian feminist activism from the 1970s onward. The conclusions we draw around the nature of feminist things suggests this is a rich source of memory, material culture, and physical evidence of socially transformative ideas which offer innovative ways of attending to feminist times and social movement histories which remain marginalized and therefore at risk of cultural amnesia.
“The Military Museum as a site for feminist history.”
Lindsey V. Sharman (U Calgary)
Existing military museums and archives play a major role in sharing the achievements of women and function as custodians of historical and contemporary artifacts relating to second wave feminism. With a backdrop of military history, we can examine major historical events including suffrage, inclusion in the general workforce and military service, one can even look at contemporary issues surrounding reproductive freedom by examining the use of rape as a weapon of war. There are current programs at The Military Museums, Calgary, (TMM) and The Canadian War Museum, Ottawa (CWM) that incorporate narratives of feminist history into the overall story of Canada, and the world, at war. These projects not only function to present and preserve histories, but also strive to change the typically misogynist lens through which their publics view history.