Museums and Community

Authored by: Tamara Biggs

Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science, Fourth Edition

Print publication date:  November  2017
Online publication date:  November  2017

Print ISBN: 9781466552593
eBook ISBN: 9781315116143
Adobe ISBN:


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In spite of Charles Willson Peale’s ideal of a democratic museum, most in the early nineteenth century were either eclectic and intimidating, or filled with sham amusements. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, museums began to consider their educational mission on an equal par with collecting and research. A lack of representation in mainstream museums led to the foundation of many American and international ethnic museums, beginning with African American museums in the 1960s, giving voice to cultures often excluded from the historical narrative. Larger institutions responded to societal demand for inclusion by engaging community advisory boards and first voice perspective through oral history. The most recent museum community to develop has been online, and crosses traditional barriers of race, class, and gender. Innovative museums looking to the future have invited visitors to participate in the narrative process.

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