This post is part of the Museology Faculty spotlight series, which consists of short interviews with our faculty to discuss and reflect on inclusive teaching, some of their course highlights, and their lives outside the classroom. Our next spotlight is with Lane Eagles, who teaches Introduction to Museology and Exhibition Development courses, along with being one of the program’s three thesis advisors. Her responses are below:
Our program is grounded in the belief that museums can make the world a better place and that we must center equity in all of our work. We are all committed to inclusive teaching. Can you give me an example of what that looks like in your class?
I think the most important thing for inclusive teaching is practicing inclusion in every single aspect of the class. It’s not the case that we have one class where we talk about accessibility in exhibit design, for example. The way I approach teaching, and therefore the way I try to model museum work for students, is that the work itself is inclusivity. So every single class session we’re looking at the material, whether it’s collections management or funding or sustainability, by centering that inclusive lens and always encouraging flexible thinking and openness. That’s really important, that it shows up in every discussion we have; every topic we cover is always within a DEIA framework. And in terms of the curriculum itself, it’s important to always have a diversity of voices in your syllabus. Bringing in guest speakers is something we do a lot, as well as taking field trips off campus, so that even if they’re taking a class with one particular instructor, they’re always engaging with different folks and a diversity of voices and backgrounds so that it’s not just “my” class. I would hope that it becomes a sort of shared experience. The central idea is that inclusivity and equity are not something you silo, they’re always at the center of the thinking and always at the center of the assignments and of the overall experience.
You’re teaching MUSE 500: Introduction to Museology this quarter. Can you describe your favorite assignment you’ve given as part of that course? What do you love about it?
One thing I did this quarter that was really fun is that I had students break up into small groups and use Google Arts & Culture to visit a virtual version of a museum. We did this twice over the course of the quarter. The first time, each group just explored their chosen virtual museum through the theoretical lenses that we’ve been talking about in class, answering guiding questions like, what is the virtual museum doing well? What are some things it’s not doing so well? How is it making itself more accessible through this virtual format, or how is it inaccessible? How is it ignoring certain moments in its collection’s history, how is it whitewashing itself in terms of the way it’s representing itself within the Google Arts & Culture experience? Then we did this again a few weeks later. Whereas in the first iteration we were analyzing and critiquing, when we returned to it later in the quarter, I pushed students to come up with constructive ideas for actionable solutions the museum could implement. I really wanted to push that practical and creative thinking. It’s a valuable exercise to look at something and say “oh, this isn’t really working,” or “this is a gap I see,” but it can be a lot more challenging to come up with fixes. So I had students model audience members or the board of the institution and really engage with what it might look like to effect change in practice. One thing I loved about this assignment was that beyond the exercise itself, it was interesting to do it using Google Arts & Culture. We did this partly because you can access it from the classroom, but it turns out to be an interesting way to assess a museum from afar, especially if you’re thinking of it in terms of digital access in the age of COVID.
Our faculty are all committed to training museum professionals as well as contributing to the field. What do you see as the main way that you contribute to the field?
My background is in curation and exhibition design. Up until recently I was a curator at the Bellevue Arts Museum and I was overseeing every single show the museum was putting on, from planning and concept development all the way to installation and double checking layout, labels, and narrative, as well as working with Education on programming and interpretation and assessment. So for me the particular thing I’m most interested in as a museum professional is curation, specifically how to evaluate what a museum has done before, what they can do better, and how they can reach new and more diverse audiences. So outside of my role as a Museology faculty member, I’ll continue to work as an independent curator. I have also done art history research and writing and look forward to continuing that work as well. If anyone’s interested, they can read some of my work here!
Can you share with us what you are reading these days?
I’m going to make a confession: I don’t do a ton of work-related reading outside of work. I have very strict work-life boundaries (laughs). Right now in class we’re doing a lot of readings around sustainability and museums’ roles in a time of ecological collapse and climate crisis, and whatever I assign for students, I obviously read it too! So, right now, I’m mostly reading for Intro and doing preparatory readings for the Exhibition Development course I’m teaching next quarter. Personally, I’m a huge Fantasy and Sci-Fi nerd. I just finished Mexican Gothic, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, which is fantastic. I highly recommend it. Right now, I’m reading Ada Palmer’s Perhaps the Stars, which is the fourth book in the series Terra Ignota. She’s very cool, she’s a Renaissance art historian at Chicago University and writes these books on the side somehow!