Museum Futures 2020


Museum Futures 2020: Museums as Liminal Space by Taylor Renee Aldridge

The clock on an iPhone 2k Plus transitions from 6:59AM to 7AM. Simultaneously an alarm bell rings from the same phone, waking up a young girl with caramel brown skin and curly dark black hair. She yawns for a moment, slowly rising to sit up in her twin sized bed. She stretches her arms to the ceiling, fist clinched, then lets out a deep sigh. She sits for a moment, unenthused about getting out of bed as she looks at her phone. She checks her calendar and immediately becomes bathed in excitement. She rushes up out of bed, slips on her sandals and walks to the patio of the bungalow home. She routinely goes outside to the patio, and walks to the large rain barrel situated on the edge of the patio platform. She takes the filter lid off the top of the barrel and takes a small bucket and dips it into the barrel to gather some water for bathing. She walks back into the house and heads to the bathroom with a sense of urgency.

The door is closed and locked. “Trish! Hurry up, I have to get to class!,” the young girl squeals.  Another girl with similar but matured facial features, resembling the young girl, opens the bathroom door, smiling. “Tay, hold your horses, I’m done now.” The younger girl looks flustered, “Trish, you know I have to be ready by 8am for the bus,” she says. “ Ameenah Gurib-Fakim is speaking today and I want to grab a good seat!” Trish calmly responds “I know, I know lil sis, you’ve been looking forward to this for sometime. I’ll get out your way.” Tay hurriedly walks into the bathroom and fills the tub with water. She walks back to the patient to gather more water and routinely repeats this visiting between the bathroom and the patio several times before filling up the water fully. This has become a costumed ritual for her since she was a toddler, when the water became privatized in Detroit. And a luxury only affordable to upper-class Americans. Taylor, ‘Tay’ as many of her friends refer to her as, is now thirteen.

She and her older sister Trish, who is 21 live in the North End neighborhood of Detroit, a once blighted neighborhood that is now immensely active. The neighborhood is primarily occupied by a host of makers, community gardens and small businesses. Tay’s sister Trish is one of these makers. She works as a full time contractual coder and web-developer, and has been supporting herself and her sister since their mother past away from breast cancer four years ago. Trish makes a pretty good living as a coder, but refuses to pay for privatized water, when she and her sister can procure their own. This way, they know it’s safe.

Tay bathes quickly and brushes her teeth with the rain water she carefully gathered from the rain barrell. As she gets dressed, she sifts through her closet and grabs a blue knit sweater, her favorite. She finishes getting dressed, and packs several things into a small backpack; an iPhone 2k Plus, several books on herbal plants and a small Black device that resembles a flash drive.

She hears a bus approaching her block, and grabs her bag, a light raincoat, and a few small bags of peppermint and lavender herbs she has grown and dried. She runs out of the front door, darting towards the bus, runs up the steps of the yellow vehicle, and plops down restfully in a seat next to a friend of hers. Relieved, she made it just in time.
“Hey Sid!” Tay says, greeting her friend.
“What’s up, you excited to see Ameenah huh? I knew you weren’t going to miss the bus today.” “Yeah, I can’t wait. You’re going to see Swizz speak today for Lecture Time right?”
“Yeah, I’m going to try and share some of the beats that I’ve been working on in the lab with him. I think he’s also gonna talk about art collecting today too.”
“Cool! Yeah, I brought some of my herb samples to show to Ameenah during the Q&A, I’ve been growing some peppermint and lavender plants since last year, and I just started turning them into tea. Look!”
“They smell amazing Tay, I’m sure your mom would’ve Loved them. Have you found out anything more on herbs treated for cancer?”
“Yeah, I hope to chat with Ameenah about that today if I can.”

The bus drives up Woodward Avenue, a popular main street that extends from Downtown Detroit to other metropolitan suburbs that surround the city.  The bus, transports Tay and 18 other children from the metro Detroit Area to Cranbrook Art Museum in Birmingham, Michigan. They arrive promptly at 8:45AM. Tay hugs Sid, and walks off the bus into the Art Museum where she begins her full day of school. She hangs up her coat at the entrance and pulls out the small device she packed in her bag earlier. She gets in line behind a few other children and watches as they swipe similar devices across a virtual kiosk screen. It’s her turn. Tay swipes the small device across the screen, checks in for the day and looks at her  itinerary for the day:

9:00AM – AP Coding (Computer Lab)
10:00AM – Lecture Time Q&A with Ameenah Fakim (Lower Level Auditorium)
11:00AM – Biology (Science Museum Lab)
12:00PM – Lunch
1:00PM – Career Lab
2:00PM – Painting (West Gallery)
3:00PM – Algebra
4:00PM – Music-Vinyl Sampling
5:00PM – Swimming

Tay closes the tab to her itinerary and flashes the device on the screen once more. She opens a digital folder entitled “Tay’s Lab-work” and transports files from the folder to another folder entitled “Assignment Submission.” Afterwards, Tay excitedly walks to the Museum auditorium. Today Biodiversity Scientist Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, someone who Tay admires and follows for herbalist direction, is conducting a lecture for the students. This lecture is one of several taking place today at the museum school. Lecture day takes place at least once a week at the school, and features a host of storified lectures by subject matter experts, in the form of a TED Talk.

The Cranbrook Art Museum and the Cranbrook Science Museum adopted an innovative and unprecedented curriculum based program in 2020. This program was created in an effort to rectify and serve as a supplemental pedagogical offering for Detroit Public School students. Due to the systems inevitable decline and ultimate expulsion in 2017, The Cranbrook Art Museum became one of the few accredited educational offerings accessible to Detroit youth. The curriculum is unconventional in approach, and houses all of its course offerings in the museums on campus. Students take classes among the artifacts the objects they traditionally referenced only in books. The gallery is the classroom. So much so that the term classroom is no longer used when referring to spaces of learning.

Taylor Ramirez, or “Tay,” as referenced throughout this future, is a brown girl living a low, middle class neighborhood in the City of Detroit. Prior to 2020, inner city Detroit youth, would have not been afford with such resources for educational advancement.

On this day, Tay has sat in on a lecture by one of the most innovative biodiversity scientist in the world, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim. After the lecture, Tay walks up to the woman, and says “I really appreciated your talk today.”
“Thank you so much, what is your name,” Ameenah says, smiling affectionately.
“I’m Tay, Taylor. I am interested in becoming a biodiversity scientist like you. I have been studying the health benefits and remedies that herbal plants provide. I have a small garden in the greenhouse here at school and a few plants at home. I simply want to thank you for the work you do; you have saved the lives of so many through your plant research and I hope to do the same. I have lost many people in my family to cancer, and I working towards finding a cure through herbalism.”
“Wow, that is amazing, if only I was so bright at your age. If you begin now, I am sure you will find a cure.”
“Thanks,” Taylor blushes.
She digs in her backpack and pulls out the bags of tea she grabbed earlier from her home.
“These are for you. Peppermint hibiscus infused tea. They are from my small garden here at school.”
Ameenah becomes lost for words. Tay reaches out to shake Ameenah’s hand; upon which Ameenah reaches in for a hug. The bell rings, it’s time for Biology.
“See you later!” says Tay. And she runs off to the Cranbrook Science museum for her next class.