How will my community be different/better in positive ways because this museum exists?
This is the central question for all museum professionals in the twenty-first century, according to John Falk and Lynn Dierking in The Museum Experience Revisited. Falk and Dierking argue that for museums to thrive in the present day, the field needs to reinvents its philosophy and practice. No longer can a museum claim it has value for simply existing; now it must document its value by proving it can meaningfully fulfill the needs of its community. They suggest every institution consider the above question when planning activities.
I posed this question to Gwen Miner, the Domestic Arts Manager at The Farmer’s Museum. She agreed that a museum must be relevant to its community, and said she often thinks about how The Farmer’s Museum can become more valuable to Cooperstown and the surrounding area. One method the museum has tried is holding workshops about topics such as raising chickens and composting. Through these workshops they hope to serve as an educational resource for local residents. Gwen also pointed out that the museum can teach people skills to survive without electricity (useful during power outages!). She believes The Farmer’s Museum can help people understand where they come from, in order to know where to go in the future.
What value do you think museums have to their communities? How can you measure that value? These are important questions to consider as we embark on museum careers.