Week 4: Community Engagement

I read Zange’s piece on museum’s relatively new role of displaying cultural artifacts online. While museums have a long history of getting it wrong when it comes to including cultures when displaying there artifacts, they have a relatively short history with online material.

I agree with the points being made in the article about creating a dialogue and a community with the cultures involved. My additional point that I’d like to make is that cultural exchange works best when a person of that said culture actually works on curating, informing or researching these exhibits. It is a great step for art historians and museum professionals to conduct interviews and ask permissions of specific groups in question. However, whenever possible, I believe it is even better when that career field becomes more diverse, and the actual people the objects belong to are able to represent themselves.

The example where I see this working is when the woman from the South Asian American historical archive, SAADA, came to speak to the DH 100 class last quarter. Although this was not a database and not a museum, it shows how communication with a community can lead to employees and board members from that community. From there bits of information from personal family stories came out in a way that I don’t think would be possible if many contributors weren’t South Asian.

I do not believe full repartition is the best solution because in some cases it takes away from knowledge that the general public can learn, especially from material that is easily accessible online. However I also don’t think the solution is just creating a dialogue. I believe efforts should be made to take that concept a little further and actually employ or get members of that community as part of the team that makes decisions for how pieces are shown online and in person.

2 thoughts on “Week 4: Community Engagement”

  1. I also agree that while creating a dialogue is a good first step. a call for increased diversity within the museum is crucial. Not to say that having one native american curator in the museum gives it to do whatever it wants to do, because one person cannot speak for an entire community.

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