Collaborating with the Public in Museums
Scholars have traditionally used museum exhibits to transfer knowledge to the public in an authoritative style. New trends in museum studies, however, are pushing museums to diversify both in terms of what is shown within their walls and in the type of people who visit them. Progressive scholars and practitioners are in agreement that museums should heed the calls for increased democratization, public engagement and participation that fuel this curatorial movement.
But despite a few notable exceptions, most museums do not reflect this shift in thinking. Democratic participation in almost all museums is limited to education and outreach programs that are often implemented only after an exhibit has been designed and presented for public consumption.
Dr. Erica Lehrer, Canada Research Chair in Post-Conflict Memory, Ethnography and Museology, is taking the notion of democratization seriously and harnessing it as a research tool. She aims to craft new methods for exhibition development and assessment that pursue inclusion, dialogue and collaboration as modes of research, pedagogy and dissemination at all stages of the exhibition process.
Lehrer’s goal is to test a new civically engaged and collaborative model that encompasses humanities and social science research into exhibitions.
Lehrer’s research will incorporate the knowledge of rarely-heard voices into academic research and scholarship and will lead to the development of new types of exhibitions in museums.