Theory and Practice at WMA 2018

by Christina Ayson

Attending academic conferences as a doctoral student can be a daunting experience. Navigating the various codes of etiquette, the theory driven panels, and networking amongst senior faculty from elite institutions is intimidating. I have often left these conferences more tired than invigorated. WMA was different; I felt inspired, challenged, and integral to the progression of the museum field.

WMA is an association that strives to integrate social change, critical theory, and museological practice. This is encouraging to witness as a budding scholar and museum professional. Often my courses on history of art and visual culture focus on theory which can be discouraging especially when we are discussing topics such as representation, systems of power, and colonialism. The university has a tendency to dismiss the museum as not being critical or radical. However, in the attempt to achieve academic rigor, the university fails to practice theory or be socially engaged. WMA encourages practitioners who walk the middle path between theory and practice.

The professionals attending the conference were well aware of these conflicts and willing to discuss them with me. Furthermore, many of them commended me for going outside of my comfort zone to experience a museum conference. They encouraged me to continue finding alternatives and assured me that a socially engaged study is important. I felt not only validated but challenged by the many conversations and panels during the conference.

More graduate students need to attend WMA and I am grateful that the Wanda Chin Scholarship is available. My hope is that WMA opens their doors to more graduate students interested in praxis to bridge the university with the museum. I am so thrilled to be a part of this new community and look forward to many more inspiring, altering, and critical moments.

Christina Ayson is a 2018 recipient WMA's Wanda Chin Scholarship.



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