Like so many of the concepts proposed in Reinventing the Museum, civic engagement is a big one. If museums wish to be seen as social, inclusive, reflective, and responsive institutes, we must broaden our spectrum and become a “catalyst for discussion”. How do we engage?
Julie Broadbent, of the Antique Boat Museum, and I discussed the impact of museums through television and film. As an educator and as a participant in popular culture, Julie agreed that audiences gain historical preconceptions through the film industry that can be utilized in civic engagement and participation.
Unlike previous decades, museums are no longer seen merely as cold vaults containing treasure. Instead, movies such as Night at the Museum put a face on museums. Inspired by this success, museums utilize this theme hosting sleepovers and programs providing an outlet for discussion, new audiences, and participation. Currently, Julie is planning a series of evening programs focused on engaging teens of the community, an audience not typical to the Antique Boat Museum. The first theme will be about William Johnson, a local pirate who fought in the War of 1812. The recent pirate hype actively seen in the museum world is due to the success of the Pirates of the Caribbean series. As Julie says, “you never know your audience until you ask them.”
Museums can and should use television and film to encourage debate and communication. We should view this as an opportunity to discuss and present facts. Afterall, you never know what great things we could do together until we try!
– Meghan Evans
Black, Graham. Embedding Civil Engagement in Museums, in Reinventing the Museum edited by Gail Anderson (Lanham, New York, Toronto, Plymouth, UK: Altamira Press, 2012).
Interview with Julie Broadbent, Educator at the Antique Boat Museum, October 10, 2012