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Talk: Museums of the 21st Century

  • Wagner Free Institute of Science 1700 West Montgomery Avenue Philadelphia, PA, 19121 United States (map)

Philadelphia Contemporary and the Wagner Free Institute of Science present Museums of the 21st Century, a new series of public conversations with the founders, writers, curators and artists altering our conception of what a museum can offer its public. The inaugural event on September 13th will feature Ghanaian writer, art historian, and filmmaker Nana Oforiatta Ayim, discussing her pan-African Cultural Encyclopaedia, in conversation with artist and writer Vashti DuBois, who will speak on her experiences as the founder and director of The Colored Girls Museum in Philadelphia. The event will be moderated by Nato Thompson, Director of Philadelphia Contemporary.

Ayim and DuBois will present their visions for the future of museums and discuss their potential as spaces for displaying objects and as critical platforms for evaluating post-colonial heritage. The talk will be hosted in the Wagner’s 19th-century lecture hall, a landmark space in the history of public education and scientific exploration. The talk will be followed by a brief reception.

Talk Series: Museums of the 21st Century:

Museums of the 21st Century is a new collaboration between Philadelphia Contemporary and the Wagner Free Institute of Science. Beginning in Fall 2018, the Wagner Free Institute will host visionaries ranging from artists to architects, curators to historians, poets to public officials to consider the possibilities of the museums to come. Each talk will play host to a local and national or international voice, offering Philadelphia audiences the opportunity to both hear more about their community and to learn from those outside the region.

About the Speakers:

Nana Oforiatta Ayim is a writer, filmmaker and art historian. She is director of the ANO Institute of Arts & Knowledge, through which she has pioneered a pan-African Cultural Encyclopaedia, reimagining narratives from across and about the continent; and a Mobile Museums project that travels into communities, collects material culture and exhibits them in those communities, creating discourse about narratives, memory and value. She has spoken widely on cultural narratives and institution-building in Africa, in institutions like the British Museum and Cambridge University.

Vashti DuBois is the Founder and Executive Director of The Colored Girls Museum in Historic Germantown, Philadelphia, PA. Founded in 2015, The Colored Girls Museum (TCGM) "honors the stories, experiences, and history of Colored Girls.” It is the first institution of its kind, offering visitors a multi-disciplinary experience of memoir, in all its variety, in a residential space. This museum initiates the “ordinary” object — submitted by the colored girl herself, as representative of an aspect of her story and personal history which she finds meaningful; her object embodies her experience and expression of being a Colored Girl. TCGM has been engineered to pop up in other cities and neighborhoods around the country. DuBois has held leadership positions at a number of organizations over her 30-year career in non-profit and arts administration, working primarily on issues impacting girls and women of color.

About Philadelphia Contemporary:

Founded in 2016, Philadelphia Contemporary is dedicated to bringing visual art, performance art, and spoken word to the city of Philadelphia. A nomadic contemporary art organization with ambitions to establish a free standing globally oriented and locally aware museum, Philadelphia Contemporary has pioneered a vibrant and sustainable model based on partnerships and collaborations. Having commenced pop-up programming in October 2016, Philadelphia Contemporary continues to develop an ambitious roster of projects that will be mounted in the coming years, while planning for a permanent home in a new building.


What are my transportation/parking options for getting to and from the event?

The Wagner Free Institute of Science is a few blocks from the Cecil B. Moore stop on the Broad Street Line and several SEPTA bus routes. Street parking is available around the museum.

How can I contact the organizer with any questions?

Contact Coryn Wolk, Communications and Program Coordinator at the Wagner at or (215) 763-6529 x24.

Do I have to bring my printed ticket to the event?

It it is not necessary to bring your printed ticket to the event.