The Inclusive Museum
Founded in 2008, The Inclusive Museum Research Network is brought together by a shared concern for the future role of the museum and how it can become more inclusive.
No longer the universal individual citizen of our recent modern aspirations, visitors of today are recognizably diverse.
The dimensions of this diversity are material (class, locale, family circumstances), corporeal (age, race, sex and sexuality, and physical and mental characteristics) and symbolic (culture, language, gender, family, affinity and persona). These are the gross demographics, the things that insist on our attention. But if we take the time to look more closely at today’s public, it is qualified by intersections and layers of identity which immediately turn the gross demographics into sometimes dangerous oversimplifications. The paradox of today’s public is that, in an era of globalization, cultures are diverging: dispositions, sensibilities, values stances, interests, orientations, affinities and networks.
So how can one speak to audiences? How does participation work? How can we create meanings which are germane? ‘Inclusivity’ names a paradoxically two sided answer. One side is to recognize particularity. What and who should be represented in the museum? What is it to be comprehensive? What is canonical or definitive? To answer these questions today, we need to move beyond the divisions of high as opposed to popular culture, the techno-scientific as opposed to the everyday, the national-modern as opposed to the ethnographic-traditional. No longer can we solve the problem of difference, of ‘us’ and ‘them’, by dividing people and their objects into separate categories and separating them in spaces unto themselves. We need to anticipate the particularities of visitors.
The other side of this answer requires us not just to catalogue of differences, to check them off from a list of potential points of dissonance. Perhaps we also need to create a new and paradoxical form of universality, the universality of inclusivity. How do we create a museum where the text is open, where every visitor is allowed the space to create their own meanings, where no visitor is left out? The answer in part is in to devise new …
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image via Brilliant Idea Studio