Participatory Culture: Culture & Communities


Culture and Communities: How can libraries and museums use their many resources and strengths, including their collections, spaces, and people, to reflect cultural and demographic shifts and bridge cultural differences? How do they select the stories they tell and the services and experiences they offer?

Gabriela Aidar, Coordinator of the Social Inclusion Program, Sa?o Paulo State Pinacoteca, Sa?o Paulo, Brazil, opened this discussion by sharing some thoughts about combating social inequalities – how can museums take a stand in this arena? Aidar urged museums to get involved and take action through the development of specific programs and shared a case study designed to promote access to museum objects held at the museum by non museum goers. Programs include outreach to street dwellers, drug addicts, those living in poverty. Training programs for social workers is just one example of the outreach methodology for the museum.

Next up, Mats Widbom, Director, Museum of World Culture, Go?teborg, Sweden, made some intriguing points about museums breaking down barriers to access and creating an inviting atmosphere. Widbom discussed his museum’s programming and touched on reaching out to hybrid cultures. One example: the exciting “invasion” of hundreds of youth for a successful Manga festival at the museum.

Part of the museum’s mission:

The museum wants to be an arena for discussion and reflection in which many and different voices will be heard, where the controversial and conflict-filled topics can be addressed, as well as a place where people can feel at home across borders.

“A place where people can feel at home….” Nice! It was at this point where I realized how similar our goals are in pursuing a sustainable future for libraries and museums. It means engaging Ina level we might not ever have considered before. A level that might even seem scary to some in the profession. One audience member noted these actions are courageous and filled with risks: honestly involving our users, breaking down barriers to our collections and inviting our guests to create and intact with us. Bring it on!

This post is a reflection/response to questions posed at the Salzburg Global Seminar program Libraries and Museums in an Era of Participatory Culture, exploring the challenges, solutions and potential for participatory services within libraries and museums.

Special Thanks to the Salzburg Global Seminar  and IMLS for the invitation to participate in this event.