Tuesday, August 18, 2009

More on Community

A few weeks on from the little "collections vs community debate" here is another take on the whole community engagement issue from the always excellent Nina Simon at Museum 2.0. She highlights an important point, which is that "community" is in danger of loosing its meaning as it gets adopted as a marketing ploy. The more I read what museums write about engaging with communities, the more it becomes apparent that "community" is increasingly being used as shorthand for "not us." We talk about "reaching out to the community" which suggests detachment rather than participation. I'm as guilty as anyone when it comes to using this shorthand. It acts as a block on thinking, suggesting that as institutions we can only give and not necessarily get anything meaningful or important back from our fellow commuity members (this is something that my colleagues and I have been trying to tackle from a collections perspective).

One thing I particularly liked about her post was the tacit acceptance that by making a conscious effort to invite in particular groups of people, the museum may not be able to cater for all people, and that maybe we shouldn't panic about this. At the end of her post she quotes from the "about us" section of a neighborhood bar, which ends "we are not for everyone but for those of you who feel welcome and at home, we are very, very happy you found us." Which is as applicable to a museum as it is to your local dive.

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