(Video) OTTRS Speaker Series: The Impacts of Organizational Change and Professionalization on Curating Smithsonian’s Fossil Halls

INFO Staff - November 28, 2023

INFO assistant professor gives presentation about the interdisciplinary teamwork behind large-scale museum exhibits


College of Information Studies (INFO) assistant professor Diana Marsh gave a presentation Friday as part of the OTTRS Speaker Series presenting highlights from her book, Extinct Monsters to Deep Time: Conflict, Compromise, and the Making of Smithsonian’s Fossil Halls.

The book’s main argument points to increased tension between the research and outreach functions of museums. Marsh used the Smithsonian National Museum as a case study to explore debates about exhibit content, group dynamics and institutional mission when creating exhibits.

“I get [to the main argument] through a close investigation of exhibition processes which are these really interesting microcosms of the wider organization and show how that tension kind of manifests in three spheres,” Marsh said.

Marsh detailed how the Smithsonian’s exhibition team accomplished the National Museum of Natural History’s largest-ever exhibit renovation — Deep Time. Marsh explained the process of negotiating, planning and designing these exhibits and how different expertises in education, design, exhibit writing, project management and three subfields of paleobiology were integral in the success of the project.

Marsh expanded on this topic by touching on the broader cultural and institutional pressures of museum curation. As an assistant professor of archives and digital curation, she specializes in improving discovery and access to colonially-held archives for Native American and Indigenous communities.

Watch the full video below.