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:
- 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.
- Limited list of museums that the library partnered with.
- This list did not include popular ones like the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Science and Industry.
- 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).
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).
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.
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