This week, I really wanted to discuss Hyperlinked museums. I always remember growing up with a love for the arts and going to museums like the museum of science and industry for example for class trips but I never had the opportunity as an adult to do so. Another one that I loved dearly was the Art Institute of Chicago but again, here I have the issue of access. I had a friend who was a student studying abroad from Japan going to the Institute to study there. She was already quite accomplished, having her work displayed in Denmark and the school would allow her to take breaks to travel and promote the school and her work. It was only because of her that I got to get in for free essentially where normally you would need to get an annual pass or a season pass for special exhibits. 

As I sat down looking at the golden lit doll rooms, which were a particular favorite of hers to visit during her studies, I couldn’t help but be grateful that I knew someone that either worked at a museum or studied at the institute when it was quite costly to hold membership through the regular means of paying. I remembered the instances where I was invited with my class to attend a series of events such as a special watercolor and ink exhibit in the 798 district in Beijing, performances by the students in a national academy of performing arts in Beijing, and getting personal lessons on paintings by a professional calligrapher and professor in Guilin.

All of these situations had a commonality which was the use of connections that people otherwise would not have had and bypassing the costs of access that would otherwise hinder people from enjoying everything museums had to offer.

I remember that my library does have what they call museum passes, in which they allow patrons belonging to our library to have accesses to 4 passes (1 per library card) that allow discounts on parking prices and admits two with a discount for those aged under 2 who could go in for free. 

Some issues with the program: 

  1. Only resident library card holders could hold them. In doing so, we bar access and we are deterring the interest of the community as well as people visiting from other libraries.
  2. Limited list of museums that the library partnered with. 
  3. This list did not include popular ones like the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Science and Industry.
  4. Limited amount of passes to be taken out. It was a set of 4 passes per museum, and only 1 per Vernon Area Public  library card holder.

Added to that, I will always remember when a patron had asked me why we didn’t have any connections to the museums in the city and why were other library card holders not allowed to receive the benefits of this museum program. Why is it this way that both museums and libraries, both wonderful institutions, have restraints in regards to access and who is able to benefit from the partnerships? Why were they not included in the selection process?

So this brings me to my point: What  could institutions based on enriching lives, educating, and providing access like libraries and museums do to bring about a more participatory culture?

To that, I say there is.

Museum director, Nina Simon, and her TED Talk on “Opening the Museum” shares points from her work, The Participatory Museum. She discussed transforming museums into “places where people can actively participate, where you can connect with culture, and hopefully through those experiences, connect more deeply with each other.” Most people do not view museums as open spaces, more like elite institutions that serve an increasingly “small and limited subset of our population.”

 Simon asks for museums to reassess how they are connecting with and servicing their community, which is something to be considered in library spaces.

Next , I looked at a 2016 article by Dr. Piotr Bienkowski on How to change into a participatory museum and gallery.

Bienkowski discussed the details of four overall outcomes, with their own qualitative-based indicators of success – therefore displaying evidence of organizational behavior. Beinkowski believes that the outcomes and indicators “essentially define what the Foundation expects a participatory museum or gallery to be” (Bienkowski, 2016, p. 11). Extensive detailing  of these outcomes and indicators would help support the idea that they would become the foundation for a “shared, transferable framework for assessing participatory organizations” (Bienkowski, 2016, p. 11).  

Four outcomes:

1. Rooted in local needs. 

Museums and galleries should know their role in providing for the needs and values of the diverse community. They should work to create “opportunities and partnerships with their community and others to meet the local needs.” (Bienkowski, 2016, p. 12).

2. Community Agency

Communities are the “center of the values, strategies, structures, and work of museums and galleries.” (Bienkowski, 2016, p. 12). They should be regularly  participating, collaborating, and making decisions.

3. Capability Building

Museums and galleries can develop “community skills, capabilities and creativity.” They also  help and prepare people with “engaging their community, articulate their voices, find employment or volunteer opportunities, and support staff in learning how to work with the communities.” (Bienkowski, 2016, p. 13).

4. Reflection 

Museums and galleries should embed effective practice into their work. This should be done “internally, with community partners, and across the sector, to ensure ongoing reflection, dialogue, and openness to challenge, alternative values and working methods.” (Bienkowski, 2016, p. 13).

Museums should work on developing better partnerships with their community to provide full accessibility and opportunity for the community to actively participate.

An example was during the re-development of the St. Fagans National History Museum.

Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales worked with 200 organizations in Wales, most of which were 3rd sector agencies. These agencies  were involved in planning and decision-making. After researching the community, they set up 10 participatory fora looking in a diverse range of work from volunteering, diversity and informal learning.  (Bienkowski, 2016, p. 27). 

Bienkowski mentions one of the organizations, DrugAid Cymru, that provides staff with the training on supporting people with substance misuse

The museum learned from the fresh perspectives and expertise of the workers gained, while also creating a revolutionary and diverse volunteer profile. 

References

Bienkowski, P. (2016). How to Change into a Participatory Museum and Gallery
Simon, N. (2012, September 15). Opening up the Museum : Nina Simon [Video File] Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=74&v=aIcwIH1vZ9w

8 Comments on Reflection Blog #3: Module 6: Hyperlinked Environments – Libraries, Museums, and Participatory Culture

  1. Hi Tiffany,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas regarding the Hyperlinked Museum as it pertains to the Hyperlinked Library. I think the idea of an interactive, participatory museum or a library space with an artistic, interactive aspect is a wonderful idea. Too often (for good reason), we aren’t allowed to touch art at a museum and we must stay behind a line, so something that allows museum goers to take part in the creative part sounds pleasantly unexpected.
    I really wanted to visit The Art Institute of Chicago during my visit, but didn’t have the opportunity this time around. My local library has a similar program in place to visit museums in Los Angeles and Orange County. Likewise to your observation, I think its a great program that can use some improvement through more collaborations and access.

    • Hi Esther,

      Thank you so much for commenting!

      I would love to see more interactive exhibits and galleries for people to enjoy. I completely understand the reasons why we aren’t allowed to touch any of the displays or collections both as a visitor and as someone that does artwork. It’s hard to maintain collections like those and they are quite fragile and old as well.

      At the same time, I also would like to have something kids and adults can have fun with and I fully believe that it is possible to do.

      Oh no! I wish you were able to go. It’s definitely worth it! Hopefully the next time around works out! I hope you had a wonderful time in Chicago regardless.

      Wow! That sounds wonderful! I have heard that LA and Orange County have wonderful places to visit for those interested in museums. I just feel that there’s so much creativity there.

      Is there a museum that is most popular with the patrons at your local library? Our patrons adore the Brookfield Zoo and the Chicago Botanical Garden.

      • I can’t speak for everyone, but from my observations, I would say that from the list of museums that the LA County Library has partnered with, the three that stands out as being frequently visited would be the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, and the Skirball Museum.

        • Hi Esther,

          That’s wonderful! I’m quite curious about those. I’ve never seen a tar pit before so I’m interested in that and you can never go wrong with cultural and historical museums.

          As shameful as it is, the last time I went to LA was for Disney when I was 6 years old in the late 90s. I would love to try seeing the museums that the LA County Library partnered with.

  2. I am a big fan of museums and your post covered some intriguing ideas that I have seen in my travels. I also agree with your thoughts on the museum pass programs at libraries.

    The four outcomes resonate. I visited the modern art museum in Brisbane last year and there was an exhibit of sculpture that really challenged my thinking and made me reflect. This year, I tiered the modern art museum on the coast in Denmark – similar challenges to my thinking/world view. Perhaps that is a common ground for libraries and museums – to get people thinking!

    • Hello Dr. Stephens,

      I just looked up some of the exhibits at the modern art museum in Brisbane. They look wonderful and I think I need to add that to my travel plans in the future.

      I think that being able to see and explore the different exhibits would allow visitors to reflect and transform their thinking.

      Oh! I was able to visit Denmark in 2015, which was the first time that I had ever been to Europe. Which city did you go to? I would love to visit and check out that museum!

      I fully believe being able to explore these institutions would enrich people’s lives and get conversation and thought going as well.

      Thank You!

  3. Hi Tiffany,

    I really enjoyed your post on hyperlinked museums. I agree with you in your critique of your library/museum partnership. It seems very limiting when museums and libraries are meant to foster curiosity and knowledge and get communities to engage with programs and exhibits.

    If I am being honest, I have not often thought about museums as being a part of the community like the library and have not felt quite as welcome in the community museums I have visited in the past. The four outcomes you listed would not only be a great way to get the community involved in a museum, but make people feel more welcome in them, too, which would probably boost visitation!

    Thank you for your insight!

    Britt

    • Hi Britt,

      Thanks so much for commenting!

      I’m a huge fan of museums but I really wish I had thought sooner on why there’s a certain pricepoint placed on ticketing or why some libraries don’t have access to certain museums which are beloved by patrons and their families. I do feel bad that I hadn’t pondered that sooner.

      I really appreciate your thoughts on the matter. I never really thought of museums in that way at all either and it’s clear to me that if you have connections of some sort, it’s easier to get in without paying the hefty costs. Locating free museum days is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

      I think that we should be opening our doors not using price points and the like to bar access.

      I am also quite hopeful that with the community’s help, things will change.

      Thanks for your feedback and sharing your experience with museums!

      Tiffany

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