The MSU Museum has selected the 2012 Nelson Mandela Museum-Michigan State University Museum Curatorial Fellowship recipient, Benjamin Br√ľhwiler, a Ph.D. candidate in the African history program at MSU.
Br√ľhwiler, a native of Switzerland, earned an M.A. in African Studies from the University of Basel, where he also studied history, social anthropology and economics as an undergraduate. He has studied and worked widely in Africa, including study abroad at the University of Ghana, Legon, research on informal enterprise and entrepreneurship in Tanzania, and a position with Mbingu Village in Tanzania. Br√ľhwiler also worked for a time as a librarian and elementary school teacher, and also contributed to "African News Digest," a community newspaper based in Houston, Texas.
Br√ľhwiler will spend part of his fellowship based at the MSU Museum and also work with the Nelson Mandela Museum in Eastern Cape Province, South Africa, where he hopes to concentrate on an youth oral-history program, collecting stories and reflections of Mandela's early years in the region shaped his development and direction as a champion for social justice.
"The Michigan State University Museum is especially pleased to be able to have Benjamin Br√ľhwiler serve as our fourth Mandela Museum-MSU Museum Graduate Curatorial Fellow.¬† This program has not only provided a rewarding professional opportunity for an MSU graduate student but it has helped build the formal collaborative partnership between our two museums that has led to joint exhibitions, publications, presentations, and staff development initiatives," said C. Kurt Dewhurst, MSU Museum curator of folklife and cultural heritage and coordinator of this museum fellowship program.¬†
Established in 2008, the Nelson Mandela Museum-Michigan State University Museum Curatorial Fellowship places an MSU graduate student at the Mandela Museum each year for research, exhibition development, and educational programs.
The program builds on a long-term partnership to promote museum-based research and higher education, along with stimulating cultural economic development and tourism in Nelson Mandela's home village of Qunu, near Mthatha, in South Africa's Eastern Cape Province. The fellows' projects are designed to embody the spirit ofubuntu, the traditional South African humanist philosophy focusing on people's allegiances and relations with each other.
Thanks to an initial grant from the American Association of Museums, the MSU Museum helped develop a special exhibit in 2008 that was installed in time for Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday, "Dear Mr. Mandela, Dear Mrs. Parks: Children's Letters, Global Lessons," and was later adapted at the MSU Museum. As a world leader in international outreach, Michigan State University dedicated $125,000 over five years (approximately 1 Million Rand) for the fellowship program.
The Mandela Museum-MSU Museum fellowship is one of many MSU programs that help meet post-apartheid South Africa's challenge to document and preserve history and expressive culture.¬† The Michigan State University Museum, MATRIX: Center for Human Arts, Letters and Social Science On-Line, and African Studies Center have expertise in working with South African partners to collect, steward and create access to the country's cultural heritage.¬† Past projects have focused on preserving and providing access to cultural materials, and developing training for cultural heritage professionals and educators.