As the role of museums has shifted toward a more engaging and participatory experience for visitors, there is an opportunity for museums to address societal issues in their content. As institutions of public education, it is essential for museums to address these issues, not only to remain relevant but also to ideally have an influence on civic engagement.
The International Coalition of Sites of Conscience is an alliance dedicated to “activating the power of places of memory to engage the public in connecting past and present in order to envision and shape a more just and humane future”. Drew Radke works for the Coalition and describes one of their programs called Front Page Dialogue that frames discussion on key societal issues. The four phases of this dialogue promote sharing of stories, building community, and reflecting on the overall experience. Not only does this program effectively promote dialogue on societal issues, but it also establishes the participating sites as safe spaces to have these conversations. The experience is very structured with the use of facilitators and organized activities, which is important when dealing with sensitive topics and heightened emotions. These methods could be applied to many controversial social topics, such as vaccines, and could possibly alleviate some of the controversy. Including science educators could help to better connect scientists and the public.
No matter the topic, productive dialogue is a significant first step. By telling and hearing these narratives, one may be more apt to be passionate about these issues and act on them.