Community infrastructure: museums as community aggregators

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American Alliance Museum’s 2022 report.

community infrastructure - Trendswatch 2022
Credit: American Alliance of Museum

Quest’anno l’American Alliance of Museum* ha pubblicato: “TrendsWatch2022: I musei come infrastruttura comunitaria“.

*Organization to which we devoted an article earlier on their Strategic Framework.

The report focuses on the potential for museums to play a strategic and instrumental role in supporting the diverse communities that animate the Society.

Cultural realities in recent years have emerged as relevant “infrastructures” for the growth of their communities and for society.

In fact, through observations and case studies, the report outlines five areas (called “pillars“) where museums can make a difference in creating ad hoc activities and pathways.

This edition of TrendsWatch makes the case that museums are vitally important entities in that infrastructure as well, by virtue of their contributions to five pillars of community strength and resilience.

Elizabeth Merritt, VP Strategic Foresight and Founding Director of the Center for the Future of Museums, American Alliance of Museums

The report thus provides an actionable framework for cultural organizations, indicating how to improve the way they engage, activate and support their communities.

Community infrastructure: the five “pillars” of society where museums can make a difference

For each area investigated, the report is divided into:

  • The rationale for why museums can play a strategic role;
  • Critical issues to date found;
  • The challenge to be met;
  • The tools and resources that can be deployed;
  • Case studies and examples to take inspiration from.

Investing in education

As is highlighted in the first chapter, developing innovative educational programs can give more support and tools to educators and teachers.

Creating educational facilities such as libraries and after-school programs or increasingdigital offerings are some of the examples to consider.

One possible case study is the STEAM Academy at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.

Assisting the senior community

Through collaborative projects with specialized entities, museums can achieve greater accessibility and take care of their older community.

One example is Arizona State University’s collaboration with the Musical Instrument Museum that resulted in tailored virtual programming aimed at the older community.

According to the report, these people are the first audience to be left behind by museum projects and by 2034 will become the largest segment of society.

Mental Health

Museums can be the nodal points of a specialized network for supporting the mental health of their community, as we also saw in a previous magazine article.

One example to keep an eye on is the pilot-test started last September in the city of Brussels, where doctors can prescribe free visits to five public museums in the city for patients being treated for stress at CHU Brugmann Hospital.

Resilience: being able to respond to emergencies

In the last period we have learned how civic unrest and natural disasters are inevitable. These incidents can directly and indirectly affect the daily life of one’s communities.

From this point of view, museums can offer their spaces for the collection of at-risk communities by redesigning architecture to better cope with natural disasters and develop proper employee training in emergency response.

Externally, museums can engage communities by offering training on emergency actions and creating a network of staff members to develop greater awareness of possible risks and critical issues.

One example is the event reviews developed by MoMA PS1 on promoting long-term thinking, which emphasizes the ability to develop future-oriented critical thinking.

Sustainability: reassessing what “growth” means

One of the greatest threats facing society is unsustainable growth: the inequities, damage and instability created by systems that focus on quantity rather than quality.

According to the report, it is imperative to reevaluate the metrics used to measure the success of museums.

Sustainable development does not always coincide with a greater influx of male and female visitors to the halls of cultural realities.

One example given within the report is the “Uffizi Diffusi” project developed by the Uffizi to reduce overcrowding inside the galleries and pushing for tourism spread throughout the region (including in lesser-known areas).

To find out about the report, “TrendsWatch: Museum as community Infrastructure” (2022), click here.

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