Public Curation as Civic Engagement: Naming Success in Participatory Curatorial Models
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<bold>Public Curation as Civic Engagement: Naming Success in Participatory Curatorial Models</bold> Amanda Stone Chair of the Supervisory Committee: Dr. Kris Morrissey Museology In a 2002, Mastering Community Engagement was published by the American Alliance of Museums as a "call to action" through their Museums and Community Initiative to inspire more civic-minded museum practice, envisioning the museum as an active player in the community, a safe haven, and a center for dialogue and change. (AAM) The study noted that civic engagement "...occurs when museum and community intersect - on subtle and overt ways, over time, and as an accepted and natural way of doing business." (AAM, 9) One method museums have used to facilitate civic engagement is public curation. Although community-institution collaboration as a design process has been applied in the fields of social sciences, art, and the humanities, there is a deficit of knowledge about how to approach or measure the impact of this collaborative work in the museum industry, and the terminology or vernacular around this work is inconsistent and varied. Thus, this research attempts to articulate goals and potential indicators of success, which may be useful to museums that are exploring or assessing community collaboratives around exhibit development. The study uses qualitative research methods from the field of feminist methodology and the social sciences method of grounded theory. Semi-structured interviews and document analysis were used to gather data from museum professionals at five different institutions utilizing public curation models, with the goal being to identify several guiding principles for this work and to lay the groundwork for a theory on public curation. This research suggests four trends: 1) professionals who utilize these models define the scope of public curation as a publicized exhibit process that affects a community or communities; 2) public curation models allow for active, rather than passive visitor engagement; 3) museums in this study use evidence of community involvement as an indicator of success, and note community empowerment as an institutional benefit; 4) museums utilizing these models tend to also value community empowerment, and this type of institutional culture is a strong factor in a museum's decision to pursue public curation. The results of this study suggest that public curation models can assist museums looking to take on or continue building strong partnerships within their communities.
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