Elena Gonzales is an independent scholar focusing on curatorial work for social justice and museums’ role in society today. Gonzales received her doctorate in American Studies at Brown University in 2015. Her dissertation is entitled Museums Working for Social Justice: Resonance and Wonder. Gonzales received her Masters in Public Humanities from Brown in 2010. She has curated exhibitions at the National Museum of Mexican Art, the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology at Brown, the John Nicholas Brown Center for the Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage, and the Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson and Wales University. She has also worked at the National Museum of American History and the Anacostia Community Museum at the Smithsonian, and has taught curatorial studies at Brown. Gonzales was a 2012 Ford Dissertation Fellow, and a visiting scholar at in American Studies at Northwestern University from 2011-2015. Now she is focusing on her new book, entitled Exhibitions for Social Justice: Tactics and Strategies.
Education: PhD in American Studies, Brown University, 2015; MA in Public Humanities, Brown University, 2010; BA in Anthropology, Cornell University, 2003 Cum Laude
Research Interests: Museums, Public Humanities, 20th Century American Cultural History, Visual Culture, Ethnic Studies
Displaying Activism Then and Now: Making an Exhibition for Social Justice (Spring, 2011)
Project Leader and Co-Curator, Public Humanities Student Project 2009-2010 Food On the Move, exhibition and programming, Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson and Wales University
Co-Curator, Public Humanities Student Project 2009, exhibition at the JNBC, Providence, RI Remember the Old Times: Cape Verdean Community in Fox Point, 1920-1945
Curator, Who Are We Now? Roots, Resistance, and Recognition, National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago, IL 2005-2008 - the companion piece to the NMMA's exhibition, The African Presence in México: From Yanga to the Present. Both exhibitions traveled nationally through 2010. Tour sites include: National Hispanic Cultural Center, Albuquerque, NM; California African American Museum, Los Angeles, CA; African American Museum, Philadelphia, PA; Museo Alameda, San Antonio, TX; Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA; Smithsonian Institution Anacostia Community
Museum, Washington, DC; DuSable Museum of African American History, Chicago, IL.
“Book Review: Civil Rights Childhood by Katharine Capshaw,” caa.reviews, College Art Association, forthcoming Fall 2015.
“The Samuel Adams Brewery Tour.” The Public Historian, Vol 33, April 2011, Num 1, pp 74-78. Print.
“The Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center. Mashantucket, Connecticut. Kimberly Hatcher-White, executive director; Kevin Mcbride, director of research; Trudie Lamb Richmond, director of public programs.” The Public Historian, Vol 31 November 2009 Num 4, pp 120-124. Print.
“Museos como ciudadanos: Un ejemplo de museología contemporánea,” El futuro del los Museos Etnológicos, ANKULEGI antropológica elkartea, Donostia, San Sebastian, 2008.
“Who Are We Now? Roots, Resistance, and Recognition,” The African Presence in Mexico: From Yanga to the Present. Chicago, IL: Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, 2006.
Selected Conference Presentations:
2015 “Mitigating Misery through the Museum: Using Pleasure and Horror for Social Justice,” Panelist, American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Toronto
2014 “Public Humanities in Practice: A Conversation with Elena Gonzales,” Invited lecture, Public Humanities Colloquium, Center for Civic Engagement, Northwestern University
2014 “Resonance, Wonder, and Empathy: Strategies in Curatorial Work for Social Justice,” Invited lecture, American Studies, Northwestern University
2013 “Curatorial Tactics for the Holocaust Museum of the 21st Century,” Histories of Violence Symposium: War and Memory, Northwestern University
2011 “Tactical Operations: Building a Toolbox for Social Justice Practice in Museums,” Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life National Meeting, Minneapolis
2009 “Cultural Heritage as Currency: Reclaiming Cultural Heritage in the Spanish Empire” at Tensions in Society and Scholarship, Interdisciplinary Graduate Student Conference, Brown University, Providence, RI
2008 “Museos como ciudadanos: Un ejemplo de museología contemporánea” (Museums as Citizens: An Example of Contemporary Museology) at El futuro del los Museos Etnológicos during the Congreso de Antropología (National Anthropological Conference), Donostia, San Sebastián, Spain
2006 “The African Presence in México: A Model for Tackling Controversy,” panelist, American Association of Museums Centennial Conference, Boston; Association of Midwestern Museums Annual Conference, Quad Cities
Selected Professional Experience:
Research Assistant to Karl Jacoby, Professor of History at Brown University, 2009 – 2010
Intern for Peter Liebhold, Chair of the Curatorial Division of Work and Industry, Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, Summer 2009 (June - July)
Visiting Fellow, Anacostia Community Museum, Summer 2009 (July - August)
Associate Development Director, National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago, IL 2005-2008
American Association of Museums, Membership Officer of the Latino Network Professional Interest Committee, 2006 - 2008
National Council for Public History
American Studies Association
PAGE Fellowship, Imagining America, Syracuse University, 2011
Graduate International Colloquium Grant, Office of International Affairs, Brown University "Thinking in Public: Community and Cultural Institutions in Post-National Civic Space," 2011
Latino Museum Studies Program Fellowship, Smithsonian Latino Center, Washington, DC, 2009