Comfort and Connectivity: The Museum as a Healer
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This thesis will seek to address why and how museums can be effective places to help resolve grief and transcend suffering. The objective is to identify practical ways in which museum staff can respond to tragedy which may help inform museum practice. Through four case studies that highlight museum institutional responses to tragedy, this paper will examine those ways in which museums have responded in the past and how those actions could have contributed to healing. The four case studies examined are: 1. The Oklahoma Museums Association's "A Day for Children" event following the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building 2. The Experience Music Project Museum's hosting of a tribute, memorial service, and encouraging audience expression following the death of musician Michael Jackson 3. The Field Museum's panel discussions, performances and use of a permanent exhibit to interpret and understand the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 4. The Oakland Museum of California's annual Days of the Dead celebration as a tribute to slain journalist, Chauncey Bailey By analyzing the case studies in the context of the resolution of grief and promotion of healing, a framework can begin to be established for museum staff facing a community in crisis. The results indicate that museums can be effective in helping their communities and audiences resolve grief and transcend suffering by utilizing their unique individual resources. This can be accomplished by acting as a gathering place where people can be in the presence of others, a necessary component of healing, providing social support and an environment that supports grieving, and/or executing programming, exhibits, or events that respond to a variety of community needs which help that community resolve its grief and regain equilibrium to function fully once again.
- Museology