Lisa Junkin is the Director of Education at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Her work focuses on public history, art education, and socially engaged museums. At Hull-House she has developed new tours and activities for children and adults and created public programming including the Sex Positive Documentary Film Series and the Art and Democracy dance workshop series. Her curatorial practice includes A Day in the Life (2010) at Hull-House and a collaborative exhibit with North Lawndale residents about the history of the Conservative Vice Lords (2012).
Junkin was a 2011–12 Policy and Social Engagement fellow at UIC’s Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy and in 2011 won the Association of Midwest Museums’ “Promising Leadership” award. She has served on the editorial boards of the Public Historian and Museum/ID and on the board of directors at the Dill Pickle Food Co-op. Junkin holds a Master of Arts in Art Education from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and has developed and taught youth arts programming with the Hyde Park Art Center, the Lieutenant Governor’s Office, and After School Matters.
Experience at SAIC
At SAIC, Junkin focused on museums and community engagement. Her thesis explored the possibilities for teenage women to learn about healthy relationships within the context of an afterschool art-making program. Junkin’s thesis advisor was Therese Quinn.
Museums and Midwifery: Doing things we don’t know how to do
Soon after Jane Addams founded the Hull-House Settlement in 1889, she and Julia Lathrop, a fellow resident, were brought to a nearby tenement house where a young woman was beginning to go into labor. The young woman could not afford a doctor, and her neighbors would not help deliver the baby because it would be born out of wedlock.
Addams and Lathrop successfully delivered the baby, but as they returned to Hull-House, Addams questioned their deed, stating, “This doing things that we don’t know how to do is going too far. Why did we let ourselves be rushed into midwifery?” Lathrop replied, “If we have to begin to hew down the line of our ignorance, for goodness’ sake don’t let us begin at the humanitarian end. To refuse to respond to a poor girl in the throes of childbirth would be a disgrace to us forever more. If Hull-House does not have its roots in human kindness, it is no good at all.” [i]
This curious story reminds me that thriving institutions are shaped by needs of the communities surrounding them and not by an abstract vision determined by outsiders. Museums in the 21st century have an opportunity to become radically public, to share authority in new ways, and to be utterly transformed by the people they serve. While feelings of “doing things we don’t know how to do” may persist, ultimately cultural institutions must submit to the authority and expertise of the public for guidance.
In doing just that, Hull-House became a place where as many as 9,000 immigrants per week could partake in activities as diverse as basketball and baths, playgrounds, protest, and poetry. In her defense of settlement work, Addams writes, “the only thing to be dreaded in the Settlement is that it loses its flexibility, its power of quick adaptation, its readiness to change its methods as its environment may demand. It must be open to conviction and must have a deep and abiding sense of tolerance. It must be hospitable and ready for experiment.”[ii] What an appropriate message for institutions today.
Disclaimer: All work represents the views of the INDIVIDUAL ARTISTS & AUTHORS who created them, and are not those of the school or museum of the Art Institute.