On August 31, 2020, over eighty members of the USF Museum Studies community convened at a Zoom retirement party to celebrate the career of Marjorie Schwarzer. An award-winning writer, critic, and educator, Schwarzer served as the founding Administrative Director of the program since 2012, following her tenure as professor and chair of the Department of Museum Studies at John F. Kennedy University for over 15 years. Prior to her teaching career she held leadership positions in museums — including the Boston Children’s Museum, Chicago Children’s Museum and Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry.
The celebration began with Else Trygstad-Burke ’16 playing a short movement from a Bach suite for cello. Schwarzer’s long career has affected generations of students from across the globe, from San Francisco to Dubai, Mexico City to Tajikistan. Colleagues, alumni and current students described how her leadership style, warm personality and desire to foster connections impacted them both personally and professionally.
A testament to her impact on the community, Ray Bussolari ‘14 recounted how Schwarzer mentored him in his capstone project on the Foster Youth Museum, an organization for which he now serves as Curator, Exhibit Designer and Photographer. Bussolari’s photographs such as Garbage Bag document youth experiences in foster care and bring humanity and agency to a long-overlooked community. His project was one of over four hundred capstones supervised by Schwarzer in her decades-long career.
Cristina Gonzales (Chumash) (John F. Kennedy University, ’03), former Assistant Director of the museum collection at Table Mountain Racheria and a regular guest speaker in the USF Museum Studies Program, began her remarks with a blessing. She then described how Schwarzer had empowered her as a student nearly two decades prior to speak out for indigenous communities on issues from repatriation to environmental justice.
Many of Schwarzer’s students are now leaders in the field, serving as guest lecturers, internship supervisors, and change-makers at a pivotal time for museums. Recipient of the Western Museum Association’s 2019 Leadership Award, her significant contributions to scholarship, teaching and service are widely recognized in the field.
The third edition of Schwarzer’s award-winning book, Riches, Rivals and Radicals: A History of Museums in America, will be published next month by the American Alliance of Museums. The book was adapted for a public television episode; excerpts have been published in Museum News and other journals in the field. Schwarzer has published countless articles and reviews about trends in museum leadership, technology, education, exhibitions, and history, and keynoted museum conferences around the nation and world, including China, Japan, Germany, and the United Arab Emirates.
As a celebratory gift, colleagues, alumni and students contributed to a digital “Museum of Marjorie,” a compendium of images, photographs and memories accompanied by wall label style texts recalling highlights from her years at USF.
On behalf of the entire USF Museum Studies community, thank you, Marjorie, for all you have given to us and to the field. We wish you great health and exciting new chapters ahead!