Museums are frequently sites of struggle and negotiation. They are key cultural institutions that occupy an oftentimes uncomfortable place at the crossroads of the arts, culture, various levels of government, corporate ventures, and the public. Because of this, museums are targeted by political action but can also provide support for contentious politics. Though protests at museums are understudied, they are far from anomalous. Tear Gas Epiphanies traces the as-yet-untold story of political action at museums in Canada from the early twentieth century to the present. The book looks at how museums do or do not archive protest ephemera, examining a range of responses to actions taking place at their thresholds, from active encouragement to belligerent dismissal. Drawing together extensive primary-source research and analysis, Robertson questions widespread perceptions of museums, strongly arguing for a reconsideration of their role in contemporary society that takes into account political conflict and protest as key ingredients in museum life. The sheer number of protest actions Robertson uncovers is compelling. Ambitious and wide-ranging, Tear Gas Epiphanies provides a thorough and conscientious survey of key points of intersection between museums and protest — a valuable resource for university students and scholars, as well as arts professionals working at and with museums.
Kirsty Robertson is associate professor of museum studies and contemporary art at the University of Western Ontario and co-editor and writer of a number of books, including Negotiations in a Vacant Lot: Studying the Visual in Canada.
"Tear Gas Epiphanies presents high-quality, well-designed, and well-examined case studies in the context of political debates around art, museums, and activism. It will be widely read by those interested in the politics of culture, national identity, and public history — its formation, models of resistance, and transformations over time." Kylie Message, Australian National University Humanities Research Centre
"Tear Gas Epiphanies is an excellent contribution to the field of critical museum studies in Canada and globally. Robertson highlights exhilarating moments of protest, while also offering critical analysis, paying attention to the demands of intersectionality in theory and practice." Shelley Ruth Butler, McGill Institute for the Study of Canada and co-editor of Curatorial Dreams: Critics Imagine Exhibitions