Welcome to Wonder Rooms, a collaborative archival and data collection project that looks at the fissures in traditional museum structures by turning MoMI’s long-running exhibit Behind the Screen into a site of testimony and witness.

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This is a new media artwork by Mala Kumar, commissioned by Museum of the Moving Image through generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts (Media Arts Program).

Wonder Rooms is a collaborative archival and data collection project created by Mala Kumar in partnership with Museum of the Moving Image that seeks to fill in the stories that are not on display, and to uncover and draw attention to the struggles and triumphs of people of color who have long existed in the margins of the history of film and television.

As you walk through the Behind the Screen exhibit and pursue the archive presented on this website, take a moment to reflect on each of the artifacts. Some of the histories and stories they hold may be inspiring, troubling, painful, or a combination of all those. We look to museums for the objective truth, but complex histories and counter narratives are often left unacknowledged in favor of positioning themselves as spaces of neutrality and apolitical benevolence.1

Designer and writer Cherry-Ann Davis notes, “Museums want to be sites of memory and indeed they are, but something is amiss when they blatantly disregard the context of the memories they house.”2 Decontextualization becomes necessary to dissolve the responsibility of the atrocities suggested by the presence of these artifacts.

So we turn to the archive as a collaborative site of testimony and witness, where public engagement adds new layers of meaning and complications, to respond to the existing materials or begin a new conversational thread to subvert the institutional authoritative voice and provide a place for many stories to co-exist.

Museums must close the gap between themselves and their communities, and provide space for conversations on the issues that matter to the lives of their audiences, neighbors, and employees. Collections and archives have the potential and capacity to become a living document for the multitudes that exist in our histories. Our task now is to grow towards a practice of care that both acknowledges the lineage of injustice and the creation of new knowledge infrastructures that compels museums to relinquish their claims to authority and proximity to power.

We’re interested in hearing your stories, thoughts, anecdotes, questions, ideas, and everything else. Use the Google Form linked in each of the artifacts to contribute or leave us a voicemail on our hotline. The responses will be woven into this platform and become a part of the archives — adding to the multiple levels of interpretation and becoming a living collection through which these histories are continually shifting, transforming, and reconstructed. Your perspective is the heartbeat of this project.

– Mala Kumar, June 2021

1Umolu, Yesomi. “On the Limits of Care and Knowledge: 15 Points Museums Must Understand to Dismantle Structural Injustice”. Artnet. June 25, 2020.

2Davis, Cherry Ann. “Culture, No Context”. Futuress. April 07, 2021.

“Museums convert rooms into paths, into spaces leading from and to somewhere…” 

–Anthony Shelton


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