As the Museum of the Moving Image begins the early stages of redesigning its core exhibits to bring visitors back to its future building in the Astoria neighborhood of Queens, its trustees have tapped a nonprofit executive to lead the way.
On Thursday, the museum announced that Aziz Isham will be its next director, filling the shoes of Carl Goodman, who recently left after nearly 12 years in the role. Isham, who has no museum experience, has worked as a film producer and helped start television programs at BRIC, an arts organization in Brooklyn.
Isham will start at the museum in October after leaving her current job as executive director of arts nonprofit Twenty Summers.
“I can’t think of a more relevant institution in New York and a better place to make sense of the present and find our future,” said Isham, 45. “As the world of moving images transforms, we have this opportunity to redesign how the museum engages with the public.”
When the Museum of the Moving Image opened in 1988, its mission seemed clear. The facility was built on the former grounds of Paramount Studios where the Marx Brothers sometimes filmed. The traditional definition of “moving image” primarily refers to television and film, so the museum has built a collection of 130,000 objects to illustrate how people designed within these artistic media.
During an interview, Isham suggested that the definition has changed with the rise of video games, social media and artificial intelligence.
“The moving image is how we define our time and wrestle with our future,” he said.
The museum’s board is behind his vision, according to Evan Lustig, who works in private equity and is one of the institution’s chairmen. He said the museum will likely need to increase its $7.9 million budget to add staff members and capabilities that can fulfill Isham’s vision. And although plans are still preliminary, Lustig is brainstorming what form the new main exhibit might take.
“If you’ve been to the second floor, you’ve seen a lot of televisions and cameras,” he said. “Compared to their importance today, we can tell that story in 20 to 35 percent of the space and introduce other digital images.”
“We’ve kept up with exhibition technology, but the way it plays out in our culture is not well-spoken,” Lustig said. “We don’t really address TikTok, Facebook and Instagram. We touch on historical electronic games, but they’ve come a long way.”
According to Isham, the challenge is creating a museum that can anticipate the problems of tomorrow: “How do we not tell the story of where we’ve been, but tell the story of where we’re going?”