'Communities and museums - equal partners?

2016-03-10T16:04:40Z (GMT) by Sheila E. R. Watson
Relationships between museums and communities take place within the context of complex national and local political agendas. They require museum practitioners to understand not only the specific economic, social and political contexts of their own institutions, but also to be aware of the ways in which communities themselves use museums as a means of expressing their identities and relationships with others. Such relationships involve negotiation and compromise on both sides but sometimes excite strong emotions that make dispassionate and impartial negotiations difficult. Museum professionals may become defensive of their expertise and reluctant to share control over knowledge, though eager to impart their own. Some communities, in turn, may be resistant to change in “their museum,” vesting energy in maintaining the status quo. Others demand new ways of practice and knowledge sharing and control that challenge a Western ideal of freedom of expression (Lagerkvist 2006), while some may have no understanding of how to work within the existing framework of knowledge and power that museums represent, and thus find themselves marginalized. Resistance to change by those familiar with the conventional performances of the museum space may be characterized as negative and reactionary while newer voices are welcomed. Those who were previously marginalized may, however, be as exclusive as some existing supporters. For many museum practitioners what results is a balancing act—policies that enable the museum and gallery to change and develop but ones which avoid confrontation with existing stakeholders. [Taken from introduction]