Panel: Museums in a Time of Crisis

May. 1, 2018 - May. 1, 2018 Princeton Art Museum

May 1, 2018, 4:30pm – 6:30pm
@ Princeton Art Museum

Facebook event information here.

What ought to be the social role of museums? These institutions date back to the wunderkamera or curiosity cabinets of wealthy aristocrats during the age of European imperial expansion. All too often today they are still controlled by wealthy trustees, many of whom have vested interests very much at odds with the greater public good (e.g. the Koch Brothers, oil magnates and major donators to institutions like the Metropolitan Museum and, until recently, the American Museum of Natural History).

What public role should museums play during a time of multiple, intensifying environmental and social crises? How far can museums go in addressing burning political issues, and how should they balance (potentially) conflicting mandates to engage the public, to present scientifically accurate information, and to attract support from well-heeled donors? How can professionals working within the museum sector garner support from the public to engage in public advocacy for social and environmental justice?

This panel will feature a group of museum professionals and activists who have helped move the sector in significant new directions by stressing the responsibility of museums to their publics in the broadest possible sense.


  • Laura Raicovich, until very recently the President and Executive Director of The Queens Museum of the City of New York. Raicovich is a champion of socially engaged art practices that address the most pressing social, political, and ecological issues of our times.
  • Karl Kusserow, John Wilmerding Curator of American Art at Princeton Art Museum
  • Beka Economopoulos, a Co-founder of Not An Alternative–a collective that works at the intersection of art, activism and critical theory. The group’s latest, ongoing project is The Natural History Museum–a mobile and pop-up museum that highlights the socio-political forces that shape nature, and champions bold climate action.
  • Monica Montgomery, the founding director and curator of Museum of Impact the world’s first mobile social justice museum, inspiring action at the intersection of art, activism, self and society.


Organized by Ashley Dawson with the Center for the Humanities at CUNY Graduate Center, Princeton Environmental Institute, and The Natural History Museum.

This panel is part of a programming series in association with Kwel’ Hoy: Many Struggles, One Front, an exhibition by The Natural History Museum on view at The Watershed Center from April 24 – September 1, 2018. 


4/21: Totem Pole Journey Event at the Ramapough Lenape Prayer Camp
4/24: Exhibit opening and Reception — Kwel’ Hoy: Many Struggles, One Front 
5/1: Panel Discussion: Museums in a Time of Crisis
5/3: Panel Discussion: Science for the People