We’re people, so we like to be right. This is one reason is why some museum professionals have a hard time sharing authority with the public, but it is also one reason why other museum professionals have a hard time seeing how shared authority may have potential problems.
My fellow bloggers at Museum Matters have been very enthusiastic about museums sharing their authority with the public. I agree with them, but I want to challenge their assumptions because there is a danger in being too sure of your own rightness to consider other possibilities.
There may be times when publically curated exhibits need more direction from the museum than usual. Controversial exhibits are one example; inflamed passions often do more harm than good for public discourse unless mediation is available. Another example might be exhibits about older subjects which are not remembered by anyone alive, as the typical public curation model lets people describe their own experiences. In these cases, a museum may have to take a larger share of the authority than it ideally would.
Another issue is that people may be skeptical about public curation, and therefore reluctant to embrace it. They may include board members and active museum goers, or they might be the members of the public who don’t attend museums—the very demographic we want to reach. What should we do if neither our target nor our core audiences are impressed by shared authority?
How would you solve these potential issues? Post your solutions below.
By Rick Kriebel