Jump to Navigation

The Museum As Soup Kitchen: a paper about Museums, Responsiveness to Community Need and Social Service

The link to this paper appears below.

Museum as Soup Kitchen was published in Curator:The Museum Journal, Volume 53 Issue 1, Pages 71 - 85. Published Online: 28 Jan 2010, © 2010 The California Academy of Sciences.

In this paper, I suggest that museums have not explored their potential opportunities enough when dealing with their communities under stressful conditions. Each reader, however, should decide when what I am talking about is no longer appropriate for museums in general or your museum in particular. While some museums have moved more in the direction of serving their communities, I am struck by how little philosophical change has actually taken place in most museums after a year into this universal economic downturn. I argue that incorporating a broader palette of social services may make institutions more useful, but at some point these institutions might cease to be traditional museums. My question would be: “Should you care?” I do not suggest that all museums become full-service community centers, though some might explore that option. Perhaps the question might become: How do we expand our services so that we make museums’ important physical assets of safe civic space and objects useful for tangible three-dimensional learning into more relevant programs that reach all levels of community, and are rated by many more as essential to their needs and their aspirations for their children?