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Museums in the 21st Century: Art History Symposium Focuses on the Mutable Role of Museums

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NEW PALTZ -- Despite the fact that museums have been the subject of great criticism and scrutiny in the past century, it seems that everywhere you turn these days museums are being built, expanded, and renovated or they are moving into buildings that were originally constructed for other purposes. The Art History Association of SUNY New Paltz and the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art will examine this phenomenon in an Art History Symposium on Thursday, April 19, 2001. It will be held in Lecture Center room 102 at 7:00 PM and is free and open to the public.

With presentations by leading museum administrators including James Cuno, Martha Wilson, and Laurie Beckelman, this symposium will explore the meaning of "museum" in the 21st century and what the future holds. Participants will examine how museums have changed and/or remained the same. They will discuss new roles for museums such as "tourist attraction," and will consider architectural strategies and issues of public space. Speakers will also reflect upon future audiences, the necessity for certain types of museums, and the burgeoning of virtual spaces.

James Cuno, the Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director of the Harvard University Art Museums, has lectured widely on topics ranging from French caricature to contemporary American art and the role of art museums in contemporary American cultural policy. He has authored numerous articles, reviews, and exhibition catalogues. His new book, From David to Daumier: Essays in the History and Meaning of French Caricature, 1789-1848 is forthcoming. Cuno is a trustee of the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Association of Art Museum Directors.

Performance artist Martha Wilson is Founding Director of Franklin Furnace Archive, Inc., a museum in lower Manhattan that, since its inception in 1976, has presented and preserved temporal art: artists' books and other multiples produced internationally after 1960; temporary installations; and performance art. Franklin Furnace now exists entirely as a virtual museum on the web. Trained in English Literature, Ms. Wilson was teaching at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design when she became fascinated by the guises of Alexander Haig, Nancy Reagan, and Barbara Bush; presently she is impersonating Tipper Gore. Ms. Wilson lectures widely on the book as an art form and on performance art. In January 1998 she edited a special issue of the College Art Association's Art Journal on the subject of performance art.

As the Deputy Director of the Solomon R. Guggenjheim Museum, Laurie Beckelman is a member of the senior management team and is responsible for developing long-term projects, including the planning and development of the proposed new Guggenheim Museum in New York City. Prior to joining the Guggenheim, Ms. Beckelman served as Vice President of the World Monuments Fund, a private, global nonprofit organization founded in response to the accelerating destruction of important artistic treasures throughout the world. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Municipal Art Society, the New York Landmarks Conservancy, and the Joseph Papp Public Theatre/New York Shakespeare Festival.

The Art History Symposium is a project of the Art History Association at SUNY New Paltz, which receives funding from the Student Association, and the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art. For additional information, call 845-257-3872, or visit the museum web page: Information on other upcoming arts events is available on the web at

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