In Museums, to help participation – ‘Know your place’!

Last week we announced the six commissions which will be funded by the Happy Museum project. They will explore how museums can promote well-being and sustainability and be the vital connectors within their communities. Two of the projects expressively sought to deepen their organisation’s connections within their locality. I think these  museums reflect the rhytms and muddle of community life.

The Collecting Connections Project from Godalming Museum brings local initiatives active in the field of sustainability and community building to look at past ways of life and current ideas and hopes for a sustainable way of living,  including Transition Town Godalming, allotment holders and a new local Hydro electricity project.  Connections are made to new ideas, a new public and to new knowledge and skills . In south London the Cinema Museum in Lambeth are using their connections with a social enterprises and community groups around Waterloo and Bankside to create a slew of community curators.

Although not large organisations, these museums fully know their place in their world. They understand their role in enabling peoples ‘everyday’ participation in culture. It might mean curating a display, leading a guided tour, researching collections or helping out on the information desk.    The value of such activity is frequently overlooked, occupying that vast ground between subsidised and commercial culture.  But this cultural ‘3rd sector’ is highly participative, hugely diverse and very attuned to its environment.

As part of Mission Models Money  Re-Think community of practice Catherine Bunting is exploring the role of the arts in ‘everyday life’ . I hope she articulates the positive contribution of community cultural organisations to civil society, when so often they are the recipient of withering looks from professionals (I have heard small museums described ‘the long tail’ by a senior manager from a major regional museum).

At MEAL, the team had a go at identifying all the organisations we have worked with in the last two years. The photo below shows that farmers, metal health service users, Universities, London Sinfonietta, the British Museum and Travellers have all been involved with work at the museum.

MEAL's Connectors

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