Published 05/04/20

Dwyer2020 TearGasEpiphanies

Tear Gas Epiphanies: Protest, Culture, Museums by Kirsty Robertson, an original scholarly examination of the phenomenon of protest within and against Canadian museums, was presented with the 29th annual Melva J. Dwyer Award by the Art Libraries Society of North America’s (ARLIS/NA) Canada Chapter. The book was published in 2019 by McGill-Queen’s University Press (MQUP).

The Melva J. Dwyer Award was established in recognition of the contribution made to the field of art librarianship by Melva Dwyer, former head of the Fine Arts Library, University of British Columbia. It is given to the creators of exceptional reference or research tools relating to Canadian art and architecture. Dwyer was a champion of the arts and of art librarianship who mentored a generation of ARLIS/NA colleagues.

Tear Gas Epiphanies was selected from among 11 Canadian art and architecture titles nominated for the 2020 award.

Robertson’s book addresses a timely topic through comprehensive research and lucid, engaging writing. Tear Gas Epiphanies casts Canadian cultural institutions in a new light by examining them as sites of struggle and negotiation, while seeking to parse out their complex and messy histories in the later 20th and early 21st centuries. The result is an ambitious survey punctuated by meaningful case studies which articulate that political action must be considered as a significant aspect of cultural institutions’ histories and cannot be overlooked. Robertson critically examines intersections between, national identity, institutional critique, social responsibility and accountability in museum policy-making, Decolonization, indigenization of museum spaces, political economy, environmental activism in resource extraction economies, and museum funding sources.

The book offers substantial new contributions to the author’s previous scholarship on topics in visual culture, art institutions, and activism and is bolstered by an extensive research apparatus. Robertson’s thorough archival research is structured by keen observation and documentation of contemporary events, original synthesis, and thought. This is well supported by lengthy notes and bibliography, judicious and meticulously attributed photographic illustrations, and a comprehensive index. 

Kirsty Robertson is an Associate Professor of Contemporary Art and Museum Studies at Western University.

Tear Gas Epiphanies is positioned to become an essential reference work in critical museum and curatorial studies in Canada.

Honorable mention was given to Inside Killjoy’s Kastle: Dykey Ghosts, Feminist Monsters, and Other Lesbian Hauntings, edited by Allyson Mitchell and Cait McKinney and published in 2019 by UBC Press. 

The Melva J. Dwyer Award was presented by Suzanne Rackover, Melva J. Dwyer Award Sub-Committee Chair. Jury members of the 2020 ARLIS/NA Melva J. Dwyer Award Sub-Committee were Sara Ellis, Amy Furness, and Viveca Pattison Robichaud.