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Visualizing Collections: Data-Driven Approaches to Anti-Bias Curating

About the Exhibition

Date

Jan 24 – Apr 21

Location

Slater Concourse Gallery

For decades, data has been a tool to shed light on the inequities in the visual arts—most famously utilized by the Guerrilla Girls, a masked collective of feminist artists who began using numbers and head-turning graphics in the 1980s to expose gender bias in museum collections. These efforts have since woven into the museum community with organizations like Museums Moving Forward, which uses data-driven approaches to analyze equity across all aspects of museum operations—from collecting, to curating, to staffing.

In 2020, TUAG began a campuswide audit to understand the representative composition of art on view and works held in Tufts University’s permanent collection. We reviewed the demographics of these artworks—both in subject matter and their makers—to better grasp how the university’s visual landscape reflects—or does not reflect—our community and contributes to inclusive spaces on campus. Like the Guerrilla Girls, we are asking how our own institution, specifically our permanent collection and collecting practices—the embodiment of Tufts’ values in every way—can more fully support the university’s mission to achieve equity and inclusion for all.

To do this work, we launched a partnership with Tufts Data Intensive Studies Center (DISC) and data scientist Anna Haensch—who, like many colleagues, is dedicated to data justice—to help TUAG use data to understand bias and the impact of data-driven processes in relation to social justice.

In Visualizing Collections, we are proud to highlight two joint TUAG–DISC projects. The 2022 Art Datathon and 2023 Curatorial Algorithm research group have used collections data—with details on each object, from maker, to donor, to location history on campus—in order to shape new ways of thinking about art as a reflection of Tufts’ institutional values—past, present, and future. By zooming out and examining the permanent collection and exhibited works as a whole, we strive to better align artist representation and visual culture with our community’s current demographics, and use data to set priorities for TUAG’s collecting initiatives going forward.

TUAG + DISC collaborations and this exhibition are generously supported by 2021 + 2022 DISC Seed Grants