Recently, the Burke opened a new exhibit, “Imagine That”(http://www.burkemuseum.org/imagine). It shows off the collections and turns a public eye into the deepest recesses of the Museum. It’s not just the Burke Museum that’s doing this, though—American museums as a whole are starting to turn themselves “inside out”, for a number of reasons, including:
– to increase relevance of collections process for visitors and supporters,
– to help museumgoers learn about how science works,
– in some cases, to engage the public in a dialogue about the museum itself.
This past week, I had the good fortune to attend the American Alliance of Museums conference in our fair city, and there’s been a definite shift in how professionals approach the museum.The current view of many museum professionals is summed up by Kathleen McLean, who argues that museums should be good neighbors in the communities in which they operate. Museums have to find out what their community wants: they should ride the bus, hold potlucks at the museum, coordinate with groups in the surrounding area. “Why can’t a museum be like a coffee shop?” McLean asks, and why can’t a museum offer up its spaces as community gathering points?
Not only is this topic relevant to museum-marauding archaeologists, I think it’s interesting how analogous this discussion is to the one that is currently happening in archaeology. How do we open archaeology up to a variety of ways of knowing? How do we crack open these hallowed spaces? How do we fight against (or work with) those academics and museum professionals who would prefer to maintain their distance from a world full of different ways to know?
I’m interested in hearing about what people think caused this sea change in the way we think about museums and social sciences.
[I may not be able to participate in the discussion for a while, but I’d still like to know!]