Museums of the 21st Century

Co-presented with the Wagner Free Institute of Science

Philadelphia Contemporary and the Wagner Free Institute of Science present Museums of the 21st Century, a new series of public conversations with the founders, writers, curators and artists altering our conception of what a museum can offer its public.

Beginning in Fall 2018, the Wagner Free Institute will host visionaries ranging from artists to architects, curators to historians, poets to public officials to consider the possibilities of the museums to come. Each talk will play host to both a local and national or international voice, offering Philadelphia audiences the opportunity to both hear more about their community and to learn from those outside the region.

The inaugural conversation on Thursday, September 13th will feature Ghanaian writer, art historian, and filmmaker Nana Oforiatta Ayim, discussing her pan-African Cultural Encyclopaedia, in conversation with artist and writer Vashti DuBois, who will speak on her experiences as the founder and director of The Colored Girls Museum in Philadelphia. Moderated by Nato Thompson, Ayim and DuBois will present their visions for the future of museums and discuss their potential as spaces for for displaying objects and as critical platforms for evaluating post-colonial heritage. The talk will be hosted in the Wagner’s 19th-century auditorium, a landmark space in the history of public education and scientific exploration.

Tickets are available here.


+ September 13: Nana Oforiatta Ayim + Vashti DuBois

Nana Oforiatta Ayim is a writer, filmmaker and art historian. In her work, she has sought to understand the various relativities of cultural contexts, and to give voice to that understanding in a way that speaks to both the actors and communities of that context, as well as the wider world. She is director of the ANO Institute of Arts & Knowledge, through which she has pioneered a pan-African Cultural Encyclopaedia, reimagining narratives from across and about the continent; and a Mobile Museums project that travels into communities, collects material culture and exhibits them in those communities, creating discourse about narratives, memory and value. She has spoken widely on cultural narratives and institution-building in Africa, in institutions like the British Museum and Cambridge University. She has written for publications like frieze and African Metropolitan Architecture, and is publishing her first novel, The God Child, with Bloomsbury Publishing in 2019. She has also made several films, a cross of fiction, travel essay, and documentary, that have been shown at museums like The New Museum, Tate Modern, and LACMA.

Vashti DuBois is the Founder and Executive Director of The Colored Girls Museum in Historic Germantown, Philadelphia, PA. Founded in 2015, The Colored Girls Museum (TCGM) “honors the stories, experiences, and history of Colored Girls.” It is the first institution of its kind, offering visitors a multi-disciplinary experience of memoir, in all its variety, in a residential space. This museum initiates the “ordinary” object — submitted by the colored girl herself, as representative of an aspect of her story and personal history which she finds meaningful; her object embodies her experience and expression of being a Colored Girl. TCGM has been engineered to pop up in other cities and neighborhoods around the country — transforming ordinary spaces into Colored Girls Museum outposts, which collect, archive, and share the stories of indigenous colored girls. This start-up Museum enterprise has been written about in the Smithsonian Magazine, Essence, Associated Press, Philadelphia Inquirer, Metro U.K., and others.

DuBois has held leadership positions at a number of organizations over her 30-year career in non-profit and arts administration,working primarily on issues impacting girls and women of color  including: Free Library of Philadelphia, Tree House Books, the Historic Church of the Advocate, Children’s Art Carnival in New York City, Haymarket People’s Fund in Boston, Congreso Girls Center, and The Leeway Foundation. DuBois is a graduate of Wesleyan University, and a NAMAC Fellow. She is currently working on a book about the making of The Colored Girls Museum.

Sponsored by Open Society Foundation