Museums and their Social Impact

Research on citizens’ attitudes towards museums shows that they are valued as places where stimulating ideas can be generated, where learning processes are active. People see museums as fundamental to informal learning. From supporting the education of school children to motivating adults to learn and discover more about history, art, science and how life is nowadays. Museums should inspire a passion for knowledge and a lifelong love for learning. They provide discovery, share knowledge and promote positive thinking. Museums stimulate people to be in a receptive frame of mind and encourage questioning, discussion and critical thinking. They also contribute to contemplation, curiosity and creativity. They support artists, helping to preserve traditional craft skills and encouraging people to do things differently.

Museums share knowledge, link specialists with a wide audience, and present new research. Boundaries are blurred between knowledge created within the museum and what is generated elsewhere. Museums bring together research, including that of university members and, increasingly, community groups. They draw on the expertise of the “home communities,” the descendants of those communities that made or used the objects and artifacts now on display.

Increasingly, audiences are acting as creators of knowledge. Many people want to contribute, to connect with others, to express and share their knowledge, experiences, opinions, ideas and creations. And they do so for a more personal experience and the opportunity to go beyond consuming the products and services created by the museums themselves. Museums will need to act more as facilitators, opening up interpretation with user-generated content, respecting people as active participants, able to act in ways that meet their own needs, actively shaping what museums do and modeling what they get from them. This will further enhance the deep sense of ownership and attachment people have for museums.

Transforming a museum to improve its impact in a sustainable way needs a strong sense of purpose and a objective in its mission, generating clear organizational values and with a firm commitment to reach out to all levels of the organization. It means moving from the general sense that the museum offers a public benefit to identifying precisely how to create a defined and explicit contribution to the society to which it belongs: deciding firmly what it will do to support positive social change. Above all, it is about having a mindset: a clear commitment to addressing the needs of individuals, communities, society and the environment.

Everyone who works for museums can contribute. It is time for the museum to respond to difficult times by committing to change for the better. It is also time for all of us to do our bit to help museums change people’s lives.

Source: Eve Museografía