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Melissa Forstrom

Assistant Professor of Global Studies and Arts Management

Melissa Forstrom’s research, teaching and practice focuses on the intersection(s) of museums, cultural representation and society. Her current and ongoing research project documents and analyzes the changing interpretation in Islamic art exhibition in the United States, Europe and Asia, including the representation of religion, migration, and the Muslim travel ban (2017 & on-going). 

Most recently, Melissa has begun researching recent migration from Muslim-majority nations to the Nordic countries and how this intersects with museum practices and exhibitions.   

More About Me

She has been invited to lecture about her research at The New School, Johns Hopkins, University of the Arctic- Norway, the University of Leicester-UK, University of Oslo, University of Helsinki, University of Iceland- Reykjavik, Humboldt University-Berlin, University of Westminster-London, and the University of Wales.

Melissa has also been invited to speak at numerous arts organizations including: Darat al Funan (Amman), Detroit Institute of Arts, the Museum of Fine Arts- Boston, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, the New York Public Library, the King Abdulaziz Centre for World Culture at the American Alliance of Museums Conference, and P21 Gallery (London).

She has presented her research at conferences in Singapore, Russia, Germany, the UK and USA.

Melissa’s museum practice focuses on partnering with curators, exhibition managers, and museum education professionals in three areas:

  • develop and edit inclusive and intellectually accessible exhibition interpretation
  • develop, design, and execute visitor studies and exhibition evaluations
  • develop and facilitate community, expert, and audience advisory committees and engagement initiatives

Representative Courses


  • LBS 3025: Place, Space, and Belonging
  • ANT 2475: Museums and Communities 
  • LBS 3031: Public Art and Civic Space
  • LBS 3030: Decolonization and the Arts in Global Perspective 
  • LBS 3020: The Power of Art: Activism and Creative Expression
  • AMG 3880: Junior Seminar
  • AMG 3440: Museum Visitor Research
  • AMG 3420: Exhibition Practice and Management 
  • AMG 3540: Visual Arts Management II: Curatorship and Connoisseurship
  • AMG 2300: Communicating the Arts 
  • SOC 4060: Cross-Cultural Solutions to Climate Change (faculty-led study abroad to Oslo, Norway)
  • CMS 3300: Management and Communications


Book- Monograph:

Interpreting Islamic Art in Europe and the United States: a museological perspective (forthcoming) 2024, New York: Routledge.

Book- Anthology (Co-Editor):

Eid, H. and Forstrom, M. (eds), 2021, Museum Innovation: Building More Equitable, Relevant and Impactful Museums, New York: Routledge.

Book Chapters:

“Islam in Islamic Art Exhibition” in: Hadromi-Allouche, Z. (ed.) (forthcoming) 2024, Oxford Encyclopedia of Religion and the Arts in the West: Renaissance to the Present, Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

“Islamic art exhibition, Orientalism and contemporary socio-politics: Demystifying connections” in: Öztürk, O., (eds), 2022, Deconstructing the Myths of Islamic Art, New York: Routledge, p.123-134.

“Innovation in Interpretation: Museological responses to the travel ban” in Eid, H. and Forstrom, M. (eds), 2021, Museum Innovation: Building More Equitable, Relevant and Impactful Museums, New York: Routledge, p.27-39.


“In Transition: Art Museums and Frames of Migration in New York City” FWD: Museums, In Transit, 2021, p. 50-59.

“Museum Maps and the Edge: Arts of Islam at the Louvre”, Media Fields Journal, Issue 14: At the Edge, July 2019, p.1-8, Available online:

Presentations / Conferences

Reviewer Experience:

Evaluator/Panelist, Art History Panel- Public Programs, National Endowment for the Humanities, Spring 2023.

NEH CARES Reviewer, Public Programs, National Endowment for the Humanities, May 2020.

Evaluator/Panelist, Art History Panel- Public Programs, National Endowment for the Humanities, Spring 2019.

Reviewer, “Public Spaces: Culture and Integration in Europe,” Humanities in the European

Invited Lectures, Presentations and Conference Presentations:

2024- Conference Presentation, “Writing on the Wall in College Gallery Space: Interdisciplinary Collaborations in Exhibition Interpretation” College Art Association (CAA), Chicago, IL, February 2024.

2023- Invited Presentation, “Norwegian Museum Building, Landscape, and Colonial Complicity” (Post)Colonial Norway. University of Agder, Kristianstad, Norway, September 2023.

2023- Conference Presentation, “Addressing the Art Museum Visitor Research Gap with Undergraduate Students,” Visitor Studies Association Virtual Conference, July 2023.

2022- Invited Presentation, “Combining Community and Academic Advisory Committees,” University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland, November 2022.

2022- Invited Presentation, “Bridging the Ancient and Contemporary Middle East in Museum Exhibition,” University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland, November 2022.

2022- Conference Presentation, “Interpreting the Native Plant Garden through Collaborative Teaching and Experiential Learning,” Association of Arts Administration Educators annual conference, May 2022.

2022- Invited Talk, “Gallery Spotlight” Department of the Ancient Near East, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, March 2022.

2022- Invited Lecture, “Polytemporality, Polyvocality and Connecting the Ancient and Contemporary Middle East” ACOR (American Center on Research), Amman, Jordan, February 2022.

2022- Invited Lecture, University of Hartford, Connecticut, February 2022.

2021- Lecture, “Possible Futures of Museum Activism: Rapid Response Interpreting and the Travel Ban in New York City” University of Iceland, Reykjavik, Iceland, October 2021. 

2020- Invited Lecture, University of Hartford, Hartford, CT, October 2020. 

2020- Conference Presentation “Ecologies of Islamic Art Exhibition” Media Ecology Association Conference, Adelphi University, Garden City, New York, June 2020. 

2020- Gallery Talk- “New Strategies, Approaches and Responses in Representing Islamic Art,” P21 Gallery, London, UK, January 2020.

2019- Faculty Colloquium- “Interpretative Photographs in Islamic Art Exhibition”  SUNY Purchase, NY, April 2019.

2019- Invited Presentation: “Spaces, Photographs, Texts: Reinterpretation in International Islamic Art Exhibition” Darat al Funun, Amman, Jordan, February 2019. (

2018- Invited Lecture: In Conversation: Art Institutions and Contemporary Art Practices beyond the West, East ++ Institute for new Artistic Inquiry, Purchase, NY.

2018- Conference Presentation:“The Photographic Image as Interpretation in Islamic Art & Archeology Exhibitions” Image studies and museum practice: the image as the focal point of research versus the image as exhibited object” Humboldt University Berlin- Berlin Graduate School of Ancient Studies, Berlin, Germany, November 2018. (

2018- Invited Lecture: “Knowledge Creation in Islamic Art Exhibition” The New School, New York, New York, October 2018.

2018- Invited Presentation: “International Interpretative Approaches to Islamic Art Exhibition” Arts and Minds lecture series, Detroit Institute of the Arts, Detroit, Michigan, October 2018 (

2018- Lecture, “The Met and MoMA Respond to the Travel Ban”, Days of Action and Dialogue, Purchase, NY October 2018.

2018- Invited Lecture: “Interpretative Responses: NYC Museums and the Muslim Travel Ban” University of the Arctic, Department of Archaeology, History, Religious Studies and Theology, Tromsø, Norway, September 2018.  

2018- Conference Presentation: “Interpretative Approaches and Media Representation in Islamic Art Exhibition” Museology- Museum studies in the 21stcentury: problems of studies and teaching, Saint Petersburg State University, Saint Petersburg, Russia, May 2018.

2018- Invited Presentation: “Reinterpreting Islamic Art”Arts of Asia, Museum of Fine Arts- Boston, Boston, MA, July 2018.

2018- Invited Presentation: “Islamic Art Display in New York City”, Dealing with Islam in Berlin’s Museum Context Workshop, CARMAH, Institut fuer Europaeische Ethnologie, Berlin, Germany, January 2018.

2018- Invited Lecture: “Islamic Art Reinterpreted”, University of Oslo, Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages, Center for Museum Studies, Oslo, Norway, January 2018 (

2017- Conference Presentation: “Reinterpreting Islamic Art Exhibition and the Mass MediaMalacca to Manchester: Curating Islamic Collections WorldwideUniversity of Manchester, Manchester, UK, February 2017.

2016- Invited Lecture: “The Museum Context and Islamic Art ” University of Wales, Swansea College of Art, Swansea, UK, October 2016.

2016- Invited Lecture: “Text Panels, Maps and Visitors in Islamic Art Exhibition”, University of Leicester, Museum Studies (MA), Leicester, UK, October 2016.

2016- Invited Presentation: “Language in Islamic Art Exhibition”, P21 Gallery, London, UK, October 2016.

2016- Invited Lecture: “Interpretation and Visitors in Islamic Art Exhibition”, Johns Hopkins- Museum Studies (MA), Onsite Seminar Roundtable- University of Westminster, London, UK, July 2016.

2016- Invited Lecture: Written Interpretation in Islamic Art exhibition and the Mass Media”, University of Wales, Swansea College of Art, Swansea, UK, April 2016.

2015- Conference Presentation: “Why Aren’t Moving Images ‘Islamic’?” International Forum on Contemporary Islamic Art, Design, and Architecture: Where/How Does the North Meet the East?Joint Conference of School of Art, Design and Media Nanyang Technological University, AMCA, Associations for Modern and Contemporary Art of the Arab World, Iran, Turkey and VCU, Qatar, Singapore, Singapore, October 2015.

2015- Invited Presentation: “Mapping the Museum Territory” P21 Gallery, London, UK, July 2015.

2015- Invited Presentation: “Maps in the Museum” Wertheim Study Talk, New York Public Library. New York, NY, January 2015.

2014- Invited Presentation: “Text Panels in Exhibition/Reinstallations of Islamic Arts and their Relationship to the Mass Media”, The Innovation Edge Conference-International Forum, Roundtable Discussion sponsored by the King Abdulaziz Centre for World Cultures, American Alliance of Museums. Seattle Convention Center, Seattle, Washington, May 2014.

2014- Conference Presentation: “Erasure of States and Border in Islamic Art Reinstallations”, World History Theory and Practice: States, Border, and Migration Conference. History Department. St. John’s University, New York, NY, May 2014.

2013- Conference Presentation: “Metamorphosis of Islamic Art Exhibition Space: Two Permanent Reinstallation Case Studies”, Museum Metamorphoses: The Adaptable and Changing MuseumLeicester University, Leicester, UK, November 2013.

2013- Conference Presentation: “Media Representations and Museum Exhibitions of Islam and Muslim Peoples: Connections and Importance”, Archbishop Desmond Tutu for War and Peace Studies and the Centre for the Applied Study of Muslims and Islam in the UK:  Representations of Religions in the Media: Multidisciplinary Approaches Conference. Liverpool Hope University, Liverpool, UK, July 2013.

2013- Invited Presentation: “Text Panels in Exhibitions/Reinstallations of Islamic Arts”, National Museum of the American Indian-Smithsonian Institution. Washington, DC, September 2013.

2013- Conference Presentation: President’s Travel Grant Awardee-“The Public Image and Museum Exhibitions of Islam and Muslim Peoples: Relationship, Connections and Importance”, International Visual Sociology Association: The Public Image. Goldsmiths College, London, UK, July 2013.

2013- Invited Presentation: “Text Panels in Exhibitions that Represent Islam and Muslim Peoples”, Wertheim Study Talk, New York Public Library. New York, NY. July 2013. (Interview:

2013- Conference Presentation & Graduate Scholar Awardee- “Representations of Muslim peoples and Islam in Two Western Museum Exhibitions”, Religion and Spirituality in Society: Third International Conference. State University of Arizona, Tempe, AZ, March 2013. (Link:

2012- Conference Presentation: “The construction of identity and difference at the Hajj: journey to the heart of Islam exhibition at the British Museum”, Inter-Disciplinary.Net: 6th Global Conference – Multiculturalism, Conflict and Belonging. Mansfield College, Oxford University, UK, September 2012.

2012- Conference Presentation: “Three exhibitions of Muslims/Islam in New York City cultural institutions in 2011”, International Visual Sociology Association: Re-visualizing the City Conference, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY, July 2012.

2012- Conference Presentation: “Remembrance of 9/11 at Three New York City Cultural Institutions”, English Graduate Student Association Conference: Memory Remains. Northeastern University, Boston, MA, March 2012.

Exhibitions / Performances

2021-2002- Facilitation of Joint Community and Expert Advisory Committee- Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, MD

2021- Facilitation of Community Advisory Committee- Walters Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD

2019, 2020, & 2022- Summative Visitor Evaluations, New Museum of Contemporary Art. New York, NY.

2018- Docent Training, Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, NY, January 2018.

2015- Exhibition and Interpretation Development & Summative Evaluation, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Spring- Fall 2015.

Advised and participated in exhibition development including visitor-centered design and written interpretation for the Pearls on a String exhibition. I contributed to the creation and editing of content in interpretative design, wall panels, objects labels, gallery guides, and placards. Additionally, I conducted summative visitor evaluations by interviewing visitors.

2014- Summative Evaluation, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, Spring 2014.

Conducted summative visitor evaluations at the Metropolitan Museum of Art by interviewing visitors about the interpretation (both written and design) of the reinstalled New Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Later South Asia.

2010-2015- Curator, Alwan for the Arts, New York, NY.