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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Future of Cultural productions grad program uncertain

Published: March 13, 2009
Section: News

Cultural production: Brian Freidberg (GRAD) protests the Board of Trustees’ authorization for the university to close the Rose Art Museum at the Rose.<br /><i>PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot</i>

Cultural production: Brian Freidberg (GRAD) protests the Board of Trustees’ authorization for the university to close the Rose Art Museum at the Rose.
PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot

In light of recent events surrounding the possible closing of the Rose Art Museum, the future of the Interdisciplinary Masters Program in Cultural Production remains unclear.

While Provost Marty Krauss confirmed that the committee looking into the museum’s future will “investigate and advise” on how decisions made about the future of the museum would affect the graduate program, no decisions have yet been released.

The program, now in its third year, attracts students interested in museums and cultural heritage studies.

According to program director Prof. Mark Auslander (ANTH), “many of our classes frequently visit the museum to converse with the staff, look closely at the exhibitions, and consult works in the vault.”

One student, Brian Friedberg (GRAD), who has led an effort to sell shirts and pins reading, “Save the Rose,” explained that his studies make use of the Rose by looking at “the details of how the museum works. The architecture of the museum, the organizational structure, [and] the presentation and promotion of exhibitions are all of great interest for someone like myself.”

News of the closing of the museum angered some in the graduate program. When asked whether he would have applied to the program had he known about the controversy that played out in the initial decision to close the museum, Friedberg said he would, “but I would certainly have thought twice considering the [current] instability of Brandeis University.”

Student Christine Del Castillo (GRAD), on the other hand, said she would not have come to Brandeis had the controversy surfaced a year earlier.

“I would not study museums at a university that thought so little of its own museum,” she said. “I would not have applied to the Cultural Production program.”

Del Castillo, who worked as an employee at the Rose, described the institution as “an essential part of my education, the kind that could not be learned in a classroom.”

She also explained that in the context of cultural production, some of the risks the museum took – such as exhibiting shows curated for commercial galleries – exemplified a level of freedom not seen in other institutions.

Although Auslander described the possibility of the Rose closing as “tragic,” he maintains the program will “still be attractive to many students interested in museums.”

He cited the strength of the faculty in the program, as well as the “good relations with many world class museums in New England” as reasons the program would remain attractive without a museum on campus.

Still, in his blog, Auslander makes clear that closing the Rose Art Museum would be a mistake.

“The Rose has been central to the real mission of this educational institution, to generate new ways of seeing the world and to disrupt conventional habits of thought,” he wrote.