Saturday, 22 October 2011

The Importance of Educating and Engaging the Public

This past week, some members of the American arm of Occupywallstreet have turned their scrutinizing gazes towards cultural institutions that charge an entrance fee. Using the image seen here as a visual representation of their ideas, they have released a manifesto that condemned the practice of restricting access to cultural heritage and the perceived elitism of this institutional practice (you can read the statement here).

Although this post might be of a particular interest to our American colleagues, the implications of this statement affect institutions world-wide. This statement highlights how many members of the public still view our professions and the institutions for we work as elitist despite decades of trying to become more accessible to the community. This reminds us that even today, we must continue to constantly reassess our institutional practices and the values that they stand for (as well as how those values might be interpreted by the public). We must ask ourselves: how does the public view our institution? How do they view our interpretations of objects? How can we maintain relevance in our communities? How can we make ourselves, our objects, and our institutions more accessible to and better understood by the public?

More than this, we must consider how important it might be to make the public aware of the operation costs and the costs of maintaining the objects within the institution. We must ask ourselves how we can raise awareness for the importance of preservation management and maintain visibility within the museum so that our museum colleagues as well as the public can understand the implications of continual preservation and conservation. Now more than ever, it is important to engage in dialogue with the public community so that they are invested in the future (and funding) of their cultural institutions. (This second image provided by GOOD Culture and Cataloguetree in 2008)

1 comment:

  1. I didn't know this was happening. It is good to remember though that most UK museums do not charge entrance fees. Except for temporary exhibitions, of course.
    In any case, Davina makes some really important points especially in relation to 'engagement' with the public - knowing not only what they think of these cultural institutions but also what they expect from them...
    I am sure we will hear more on this subject.


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