Thursday, October 17, 2013

Wellbeing, Civility, Community, and Creating Exhibitions (AND a Contest!)

Creating Exhibitions is both the title of a new book, and the name of a recent symposium that was hosted by Polly McKenna-Cress (one of the co-authors) on the campus of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

While the Creating Exhibitions book is a "must buy" for any museum professional involved in designing or developing exhibits, the three keynote speakers at the symposium touched on (perhaps) less obvious aspects of our work in museums.

Dr. Mark O'Neill, Director of Policy and Research, Glasgow Open Life Museum in Scotland spoke eloquently about the connections between the museums he works for and the communities those institutions serve. One unexpected connection (at least to me) that Dr. O'Neill raised was the relationship(s) between regularly engaging in cultural activities (like visiting museums!) and public health.  Here's a link to a paper on the subject published in the Journal of Public Mental Health.

Keynote speaker Elaine Heumann Gurian, Senior Consultant, The Museum Group,  discussed "Social Collaborations: The Civility of Museums."  Elaine's talk dovetailed nicely with Mark O'Neill's --- especially in the sense that we should be creating museum exhibitions and programs not simply "for ourselves" but rather to find deeper ways to engage with our communities, and to promote civility through our exhibitions and public spaces.

As Elaine eloquently stated during her remarks:  "Museums, by themselves do not make up the civic landscape but I choose to believe that all public institutions have a cumulative and aggregative role in creating a more peaceable and respectful environment for its citizens and visitors.  While museums constitute a small part of the whole, fostering peaceful transaction between strangers is, I believe, a foundational building block toward general civic peace."

The last keynote speaker, Peter Kimelman of The FLUX Foundation, discussed the approach to art and design encapsulated by the Foundation's guiding principle: "Building Art Through Community, Building Community through Art."  In addition to sharing examples of FLUX Foundation's work (such as site-specific installations at Burning Man) Peter also described the interactive work (pictured at the top of this post and on the Creating Exhibitions Facebook page) that was created specifically for the symposium.

All in all, the symposium sessions and interactions served as both an exciting kick-off to the new Creating Exhibitions book as well as a fitting tribute to the late Janet Kamien (who served as the book's other co-author.)

And speaking of the new Creating Exhibitions book, here's the CONTEST where you can win your own free copy of the book! All you have to do is either become a new email subscriber to the ExhibiTricks blog (just click the link on the top right side of this blog page to get started)  
leave a note (in the Comments section below) about an important aspect of creating exhibitions that you think is overlooked.  So either subscribe or leave a comment by Friday, October 25th and I'll randomly select one winner from that combined pool to win the book!

UPDATE: Susan Wageman was the lucky winner of the book contest.  Watch your mailbox for your prize, Susan!

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