Operationalizing Anti-Racist Curatorial Strategies in Early American Collections:
An Appraisal of the Brooklyn Museum’s 2020 Re-Installation of Three American Galleries
A thesis submitted in conformity
with the requirements for the
Master’s Degree in Fine and
Decorative Art and Design
Sotheby’s Institute of Art
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In the late months of 2020, the Brooklyn Museum re-installed part of its Art of the Americas and American Art collections in an effort to redress unmet expectations about non-white representation in museums globally. This curatorial endeavor, one of a constellation of anti-racist actions carried out by the Brooklyn Museum in the wake of George Floyd’s death, utilized the following decolonizing practices: it made efforts to surface the history of its institutional bias in order to acknowledge and locate current harm as a departure point for more responsible future curation; it made efforts to debunk the myth of neutrality and comprehensivity in its collection; and, it made efforts to collaborate with other entities to fill gaps in its scholarship and execution.
Melly Wirtes is a multi-hyphenate creative professional with a background in fine arts administration, archiving and copyright law.