Museums are at the core of a strong community – one that believes in itself and its future. Unfortunately, funding is vanishing, volunteers are aging and attendance is dropping. The status quo just doesn’t work any more. To become more resilient, museums need to re-evaluate their day-to-day roles.
As a storyteller
Every community needs a way to preserve and share its stories – those from the past and those currently evolving. But it’s not only about dry facts and a list of names. It’s the people behind those names, their relationships, their experiences and the way they impacted the community. It’s the culture and the arts they created. It’s the traditions. It’s the way they’ve interacted with the landscape and the built environment.
The stories, traditions, culture of a community form the foundation for its sense of place. When local museums effectively rise to the challenge and provide meaningful interpretation that connects emotionally with both residents and visitors, they become a bridge between the past and the future.
Taking an honest look at the collections and interpretation provided by a museum isn’t easy. Passionate people have worked hard to build what exists. It takes courage to step back and be objective about how the stories are being told. It takes a commitment to the community that is stronger than ego, stronger than “we’ve always done it this way”.
Be brave, be bold.
Communities are always evolving, museums should be too.
As a gathering place
In many towns, there are a limited number of available venues for meetings and social gatherings. Scout groups, crafters, musicians, receptions and workshops need places to meet. Young parents, retirees, single adults need “third places” to hang out and meet others with similar interests.
When museums open their space to others, they not only increase their visibility but they demonstrate their commitment to the community as a whole. They become a destination and an activity hub instead of simply a place to take out-of-town guests.
As an event sponsor
When museums are seen as a part of the community, instead of a standalone institution, residents take more pride of ownership and responsibility for their success.
Event sponsorships are one way businesses and organizations demonstrate community spirit. Museums often overlook this opportunity when they’re unable to make a cash donation. But there are other ways to partner.
- Volunteer assistance
- Prizes (think behind-the-scenes tours or personalized activities)
- Logistics advice and assistance
- Extra parking
- Committee meeting space
- Registration/information hub during the event
Don’t forget to include humor! Tell the funny stories. PersonaIlze them.
I like the idea of using museums for community gatherings. A great idea!