Comparisons: One-on-one and Collaborative Exhibits
“In museums across the country, programming is shifting from the traditional model of one-way knowledge sharing – from the institution to the individual – to a more collaborative approach in which museums make space for gaining knowledge from the communities which they serve” ~Ferguson & Renner, 2019.
I found an article titled, A Museum without Walls: Community Collaboration in Exhibition Development by Maria Ferguson, MA, and Kate Renner in Theory and Practice, Vol.2, 2019. The article states that collaboration is incorporated into educational programs and activities. There is validity in this statement. How many times have you gone to a museum where this is so true. It is advertised in print and reiterated on museum webpages. I have observed and participated in these education programs and associated activities as well. Our input is though after more often than not. This is true when a museum seeks the input of community teachers for its upcoming exhibits. The planning and development process is important and needs its community voices to provide direction. The outcome would be a successful exhibition with all parties collaborating on numerous projects.
However, the turnouts can be rewarding depending on where you reside, as well as the levels of the community engagement within a town or city. So, does this mean that collaboration is only conducted and/or a product within the educational venue/atmosphere/arena in a museum? “Few museums incorporate community collaboration into exhibition development in a way that provides meaningful participation for those involved” (Ferguson & Renner, 2019). Key points for exhibition development: Creating relationships with the communities that the museum serves, as well as meaningful participation for those who are actively involved.
Graham Black’s article “Embedding Civil Engagement in Museum’s,” discusses “the role that museums can play in promoting communication and understanding between local communities” (Ferguson & Renner, 2019).
Ferguson & Renner, (2019) provide an example in which Black avers two key points:
1] He asserts that because museums are uniquely positioned to attract a diverse audience, they should encourage conversations between communities and incorporate local voices into museum exhibitions, thereby becoming a museum without walls.  One example of community collaboration in exhibition development and execution is Outings Project hosted by the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art in 2018. The entire exhibition is held outside.
“This is a movement that was launched by artist and filmmaker Julien de Casabianca (French, b. 1970). Dubbed the “Robin Hood of Street Art,” the artist has installed his paper murals in more than 50 cities around the world – from Hanoi to Moscow, and Mumbai to Los Angeles” (Memphis Brooks Museum, 2018).
The Brooks Museum created space for community collaboration. This was important process during their planning and execution stages. Moreover, the model strengthened the relationship between the museum and communities that they serve.Initial conversations for this exhibition begged several questions from the Museum: “What should go where? Why? Who decides? Should it suit the environment or stand out?” (Ferguson & Renner, 2019). During the consultations, it was evident that recognizing the project at its highest potential necessitated that the museum would not assume what the community may want. In fact, communal input from the beginning would be a vital element for any successful exhibition.
I looked for a project with no community input. It was evident that numerous articles covered community engagements. I had forgotten that one year as an undergrad we had an exhibit at school for the Day of the Dead. A Mexican celebration where a table is dressed to the nine with a feast for celebrating the ones that had passed. It is an elaborate display for the entire month. I do not remember my Professor enlisting or actively engaging community support form the Latin population in San Bernardino County in California. Moreover, there were no meetings where community input was thought after. At least, I never attended a meeting in which the museum actively pursued communal voices or acceptance. Now that I reflect on this, its upsetting. I was interested and helped out as a student. This showcased cultural and traditional practices within the Mexican community. The college and the community has an increasing hispanic population. I know that my Professor was extremely busy. However, it is apparent that the Outings Project actively participated in consultations with the community that it served. I think questions to ask: What level of support does a museum need and is there a liaison that is a go between for the museum and the community at large? What does a community want or need in current and future exhibitions?
Question: How would you increase meaningful collaborative participation into an exhibition development for your museum?
Ferguson, M. & Renner, K. (2019).A Museum Without Walls: Community Collaboration in Exhibition Development. Retrieved April 4, 2021 from http://articles.themuseumscholar.org/tp_vol2fergusonrenner
Memphis Brooks Museum. (2018). Brooks Outside: Outings Project. Retrieved April 4, 2021 from https://www.brooksmuseum.org/brooks-outside-outings-project