Museology Master of Arts Program

November 20, 2019

Rethinking Centralization: Innovation In Early Soviet Avant-Garde Museology

Thesis by Teofila Cruz-Uribe (2018)

The purpose of this thesis was to reconceptualize the organizational principle of centralization as innovative, using the early Soviet avant-garde museological experience as an historical case study (1917 to 1929). Centralization was not generally considered innovative or effective—its Soviet application especially, which had negative associations with stagnant bureaucracy and totalitarian ideology. By focusing on the centralizing agenda of the first Soviet museum administrators and their groundbreaking work in contemporary art museums, a counterfactual to the narrative that centralization was innovation-quashing was extrapolated. This research was conducted by analyzing documents pertaining to the centralized administration and agenda of the first Soviet contemporary art museums, which included: the first Soviet decrees on nationalization; proposals on the reorganization of arts administration; proposals for the inclusion of artists in museum administration; reports on the goals and achievements of the first Soviet contemporary art museums; and justifications for the creation of a unified museum fund and connecting museum network. The main innovative output of early Soviet avant-garde museology and its centralized organization was cultural equity—access to culture for all. Such output was innovative because of its national level of enforcement, which was enabled by the centralization of the Soviet system. State support, the incorporation of artistic thinking within cultural administration, and more mobile collections were three key factors that led to the Soviet Union’s innovative museology. This thesis concluded that centralization could be reconceived as innovative by acknowledging that different types of centralization exist—concentration of authority and the central coordination and centrifugal flow of information, resources, services, and goods.

Keywords: Class of 2018, museum, museum studies, museology, Organization Theory, Russian History, Organization Theory, Russian History, Social Sciences, Avant-Garde Museology, Centralization, Innovation, Soviet


Cruz-Uribe, T., O’Donnell, Wilson, & West, James. (2018). Rethinking Centralization: Innovation In Early Soviet Avant-Garde Museology, ProQuest Dissertations and Theses.