Beyond Depiction: Engaging with Homeless Adults
Kinsley, Rose Paquet
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Homelessness is an enduring issue that has received increased attention over the last few years. Indeed, the recent financial crisis left many people homeless for the first time and made it harder for those already homeless to find stable housing or work. In the U.S., a handful of museums have responded to homelessness both prior to and following the financial crisis. An exploration into these examples reveals that museums have primarily addressed homelessness as a topic to be exhibited, but not as a group of people to engage with. This approach may be problematic, as treating any group as a topic is depersonalizing, does little to increase museums' relevancy among the group being depicted, and does not ensure the group's access to museums' resources. The goal of this research was to better understand how museums can best engage <italic>with<italic> and make their resources available to adults who experience homelessness. A focus group-type method and one-on-one interviews with individuals holding expertise and experience on the topic of homelessness yielded concrete ideas for museums to consider when engaging with homeless adults. At the core of this research's findings is the importance for museums to build relationships both with organizations and individuals who serve homeless adults but also, just as importantly, directly with adults who experience homelessness. Because developing and maintaining such relationships requires considerable time, effort, and intention, this research suggests an ongoing, long-term approach to engagement. Overall, this research contributes scaffolding and building blocks for museums' interested in moving beyond treating homelessness as a topic to be exhibited to engaging with and making their resources available to homeless adults.
- Museology