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Questions for You

Page history last edited by Mark Kille 14 years, 4 months ago

Here are some questions I'm grappling with. Please hit EDIT above to insert your answers.


1. What should the book SUBtitle be? The title has been finalized as "The Participatory Museum."

Subtitles might be: "Transforming Cultural Institutions into Community Spaces," or "New Strategies for Community Engagement," or "A Practical Guide to Co-creating with Visitors"


I really like the idea of mentioning "community" in the title-- I think that it's so important to your charge/book content and I think that it is a little more clear (especially for non-museum professionals)-- KNL


I also like the idea of change & evolution that "Transforming" expresses.

Following your tweet, I suggested "Visitors' Turn: The Participatory Museum", which still sounds ok to me, but now, I would add another variation: "Visitors' Turn:  Transforming Museums into Participatory Spaces".

This sounds to me more fair than saying "into Community Spaces" because, whether intended or not, by definition, museums (like libraries) already are Community Spaces, and  the most open and active museums are really community-centered, while real participation is something still to be conquered or widespread. CR


Descriptors that speak to me are "design", "transform", and "community"

I also like "museums" more than "museum", since their is no one perfect model.

"Designing Participatory Museums"?  I dunno... EJR


I like cultural institutions at least in the subtitle for it opens the door to a much wider range of interpretation and access.  It seems that anyone working in an institution that is more than 20 years old is struggling with issues of history, legacy, and relevance.  I would leave off the term "visitors" for this also limits the range.  I think of audiences, members, participants, students, staff, volunteers, board members--all of these folks--wanted the co-creating experience with their institutions...dk-h



The Participatory Museum: Co-creating with your visitors

The Participatory Experience: Co-creating with your visitors

The Shared Experience: Co-creating a new museum with your visitors

Experience Design: Co-creating a new museum with your visitors

Museum 2.0: adventures in experience design





2. If someone else writes a preface, who would you recommend whose participation might impress you or influence you to purchase the book? 


Shelley Bernstein, David Fleming, Seb Chan, Gail Durbin, Nancy Proctor, Thomas Campbell, Nicholas Serota... CR

Seconding the nomination of Gail Durbin – as a pioneer participatory museum worker. CS

Seconding Seb and Nancy, and adding Kathy McLean to the pile. EJR

Oops, I forgot to mention Angelina Russo. CR

Totally fascinated by how "digital" this list is. Not what I was expecting. Thanks. NS

John Falk - SEE

Paco Underhill -HMSaid

Elaine Gurian. Carolyn Lukensmeyer of AmericaSpeaks. SB

David Weinberger of Everything is Miscellaneous fame would be interesting, but I can't really justify it...  MK


3. If you are not a museum professional, what would make the book feel relevant to you?  What would keep you from picking it up?


Make sure your examples are far-ranging and include other institutions beyond museums.  You have a wealth of contributors who can help with this.  If professionals find this book useful to their work, it will get around by the "buzz" of its value and we can help leap it between fields and professions....You might also include quotes either on the back of the book or within from some broader culturally creative folks like Wendell Berry, Terry Tempest Williams, Howard Zinn, Margaret Wheatley and I know names like these would resonate with a much broader audience than professional curators.... dk-h


I agree...bringing in outside fields is a good way to relate to non-museum people and I think that it also reinforces the idea that a museum can be participatory even for those who don't necessarily have the background. Someone who can relate the idea of a participatory museum to a participatory experience in another field, or just the idea of building community in a unique way. On a purely aesthetic level, the cover is what often grabs me in a book store. KNL


Are there examples that you could cite where a member of the visitor public stirred up and catalyzed participation at a museum? This might be another way of moving the agenda forward, and a way of inviting others to read and participate.  

If I thought the book were only a primer for museum staff, I would not necessarily read it. My comments in Chapter 6 speak to the opportunity for all museum-interested people (staff, boards and visitors) to be potential readers and introducers of participation. A broader base than staff guidance is needed. SB 


I would put something in the subtitle that makes it clear it's not only applicable to museums.  MK


4. Is the word "activity" problematic? These are exercises that I use to do my work with institutions, not just random discussion questions, and I want them to be written so as to actually be helpful to people's work. I wonder if "Activity" is off-putting, sounds condescending, compared to "Technique" or "Try it" or something. I'm also frankly on the fence about whether to drop these sections entirely or not.

Totally a personal preference, but I prefer "try it" to activity or technique. Technique seems really clinical to me, and activity brings back memories of science workbooks in junior high. "Try It" seems inviting and casual. KNL

Personally, I 've been spending way too much time getting hung up on nomenclature. Is it a "challenge" or a "workshop" or a "lab" or an "activity"?  While I'm all for saying what you mean, I'm also a big fan of not being unduly descriptive. If you think you can drop the names, conisder dropping them. EJR


Activity is fine, "Try it" is more fun (as a recurring heading for sidebars/callouts?), maybe "Your Turn"? -HMSaid


          I like "Your Turn".    MK


Activity is a good term. Could also be called: Your Turn, depending on what tense you decide to use in the final text.   SB

5. Should every chapter start with a story/example? Would that be too pop-gimmicky or would it be a useful hook? I noted some confusion with the intros to chapters 3 and 5.


I like the idea...as long as the story doesn't drag. Giving a real world example is useful grounding for the chapter, and I think it's really beneficial both for those who don't have a museum background  and for those who do have it but are looking to grow and evolve. KNL

I think the intro example for  each chapter makes the point that this stuff is really happening all around.  Making the examples tight enough to telegrpah the point of the chapter will be a challenge. EJR


Not every chapter. -HMSaid


I wouldn't worry too much about this.  I would bet that your final publishing editor will have a strong say on this.  I also like the idea of many, many examples.  Go off the deep end with examples.  Load it up heavy.  And then give it to a professional editor.  They will help you sift through and limit or cut.  Unless I missed something about you self-publishing this book or not using an established publisher...if so, let me know and I will keep looking differently at this...dkh


I personally hate the use of stories to introduce all chapters in a book. It makes me think less of the author whenver I see it in published work. But I don't know how representative my feelings are.   MK


6. "We" or "they?" I use "we" all over the place to mean "cultural professionals" but that might be unprofessional or off-putting.


I'd rework it so you're not using either because it makes it too easy to include dangerous generalizations. Use specific names, shining examples, nifty exceptions... -HMSaid


I think it is better to be specific. If you are going to go for "we," you have to start with it at the beginning of the book and ground it in a clear "casting your lot" explanation. In other words, you can make the "we" specific if you find it more convenient or appropriate. The reader can then make their own decision about whether they're part of that "we" or not.  MK


Comments (5)

claire@claireantrobus.com said

at 8:20 am on Nov 9, 2009

I'm not a museum professional.

In terms of how I might find this book - it'd either be in a book store or via amazon probably - so in terms of what might make me notice it/ buy it:

1. Title - I'm not going to pick it up if I don't connect. 'Participatory Museum' works for me - as do any of the 3 subtitles mentioned.
2. Second the use of examples from institutions beyond museums -and outside US (I'm in UK - I do like international examples but better if not just in one territory as feels more relevant)
3. Peer endorsement would be a big factor - especially as I might be making a decision quite quickly in a book store based on a quick flip-through. Seeing the right names helps. I only recognise David Fleming and Nick Serota on the names suggested above. Definitely get someone from outside museums to say something along the lines of 'while this book concentrates on museums, it's message and apporach are equally applicable to contemporary visual arts or performing arts'. I certainly think contemporary visual arts audiences might be interested - so a curator from that field would be good (international). Don;t know what other non-museums audiences you might be hoping to interest but we will all have out own gurus - for arts managers like me someone like Michael Kaiser (or others) would have stature.

I'd be put off if i thought it was insular - just about museums or USA. which i'm sure it won;t be. also if it looked overly technical/ jargonistic.

Nina Simon said

at 8:31 am on Nov 9, 2009

Great comments Claire. Ironically, David and Nick are the only names I don't know--I'll have to look them up!

claire@claireantrobus.com said

at 1:28 pm on Nov 9, 2009

NIck Serota is listed no.3 in the most influential people in the art world in a poll that came out last week (Glen Lowry was 2nd) - he's been director of tate since 1988 and was responsible for Tate Modern. He's British but known internationally as a world class museum director. Not known for a love of participation though. David Fleming is Director of National Museums in Liverpool - very highly regarded for broadening audiences. He is known in the museums sector in UK but not necessarily outside of it (I wasn;t aware of him until v recently and come from a contemporary art galleries/ performing arts background).

Conxa Rodà said

at 11:28 am on Nov 12, 2009

Oops, sorry if i didn't explain the manmes I suggested.
Thank you, Claire, for your answer. Nina, if you want to have a quick approach to both to better decide, I'll suggest reading an excerpt of a talk given this year by Serota (+ McGregor) at http://bit.ly/1aduHU and if you have more time, you'll find there a link to the entire talk; it was broadcasted and very much commented upon, at least in European Press. As for David Fleming, besides the position Claire mentions, he has been Director of the ICOFOM, the Training Committee of ICOM , you may read a 4 pages talk "Management Challenges for the 21st Century Museum at "http://www.intercom.museum/conferences/2004/fleming.pdf

Conxa Rodà said

at 10:07 am on Dec 2, 2009

I know you are not asking here for opinions about graphic desgin, but all the same I'd like to share with you some general thoughts. I have the feeling that with this book it will be very important to have a good graphic layout that helps trhe reading. The content is very dense in conceptualization (maybe not as easy and fresh as your blog readers are accostumed to ;) and needs a visual presentation, with photos, illustrations, charts, and other visual devices to highlight some ideas (maybe use of double column in some pages) For example, important remarks could be made in form of "post-its" that suggest work-in-progress processes and are widely mentioned in the book.

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