Museonomics: Museums, Economic Development, and Contemporary History.  

While magnetic institutions grow and improve from their involvement with their communities, a significant factor is what is happening outside the walls of the institution. In community, every institution plays a role, and this is no different from museums in their localities.

The Bethel Woods Center for the Arts hosts concerts, films, and festivals throughout the year, providing more than a simple viewing of exhibits and attempting to immerse visitors and guests into the environment of the Woodstock Festival. These events, and the museum itself, bring individuals from across the country and New York to the small towns surrounding the Woodstock property, creating somewhat of a boom in the local economy in addition to creating a reason for individuals to stay within the towns around Bethel Woods.

The Museum at Bethel Woods plays an incredibly important role not only in conveying the events of the Woodstock concert, but also as an exhibitor of the late 20th century’s most poignant events. Displaying events in contemporary history and facilitating discussion on multiple different present-day issues, the museum provides powerful exchanges in the context of the 60s and the environment of the Woodstock message.

Museums, while an important force for cultural interpretation and discussion, can also provide engagement and investment in community affairs. A museum can be a beacon for development and discussion, or a stagnant pond. This can also apply to the presentation of contemporary history within museums – delving into deep discussions with individuals who have lived through, and are now facing the after-effects of whatever they have experienced.

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3 Responses to Museonomics: Museums, Economic Development, and Contemporary History.  

  1. noahblev says:

    Great insights Alex! As promoters of cultural literacy, it is essential for museums to invest in all aspects of their local community. We should all be willing to go the extra mile and help our community and neighbors grow, for the betterment of all. As an aside, I’m fully expecting that you will eventually write a book called Museonomics.

  2. emilykp47 says:

    Museums can definitely help drive economic development in a community. However, if a museum is located in a community that is geographically isolated and/or economically depressed, visitors might not make the trip. In the case of Bethel Woods, many people come because of the events that happened there in 1969, but what about museums that don’t have that kind of powerful incentive? Will people make the trip to an isolated community just to see a museum? And if they do, are services they need (gas, food, lodging, etc.) available? It seems like somewhat of a chicken-or-egg question; the museum creates a demand for businesses, but the businesses won;t open until they see the demand. It’s all very tricky…

  3. caitlinmccaffrey11 says:

    It seems that so often communities perceive museums as places to reflect on what has happened in the far distant past. There is a mindset that museums do not bring anything new to the table. on the contrary, museums have an obligation to highlight important issues and set up a comfortable setting to discuss difficult topics. Pardon the cliche, but history does in fact repeat itself or perhaps issues simply continue on from generation to generation. Museums offer the opportunity to view the important viewpoints of past people, but it is also imperative that museums foster connections with the issues of today. The Woodstock museum at Bethel Woods has an incredible opportunity to foster these conversations in that so many of the issues of the 1960s are still hot topics today. Namely: War, civil rights, environmental protection, equal pay for equal work, and so much more. What an amazing opportunity for kids to go to this museum with their parents or grandparents and discuss issues and history from the 60s that are still relevant today.

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