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Museums, communities and participatory projects


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Wills, JK 2007 , 'Museums, communities and participatory projects', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Museums have been working with communities of place, practice and interest for
many years to preserve tangible and intangible cultural heritage, develop research
collections and create exhibitions or events. However, in an environment of
increased social and economic accountability, many cultural institutions are now
re-examining the relevance of their activities and are reflecting on the ways in
which they include communities in their programs. This thesis considers the
correlation between participatory theory and principles and the methods
Australian museums use to work with and engage communities. In particular, it
seeks to explore why museum outreach activities, as the dominant medium for
extended community engagement initiatives within museums, have not engaged
more fully with interdisciplinary participatory models, particularly those utilised
by natural resource management (NRM) practitioners.
The thesis explores the difference between the concept of engagement and the
concept of participation and uses a case study approach to reflect on how these are
practiced and understood in the museum milieu. Using outreach projects with a
socio-environmental and NRM focus, I suggest that the integration of
participatory principles and practices has the potential to increase the capacity of
museums and communities to actively contribute to a range of contemporary
social issues and debates. Implicit in this research is an understanding that
consultation gives rise to, but is not equivalent to, participation; that participatory
approaches and relationship building are at once time consuming and yet can be
expedient; and that while not applicable to every museum project, participatory
approaches can inspire interaction, empowerment and creativity in worlds
including and beyond museums.
By exploring these dimensions in relation to interdisciplinary approaches, and
using the examples and case studies explored throughout the thesis, this
dissertation provides museum practitioners with a spectrum/methodology to help
advocate for and/or integrate community engagement strategies into project

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Wills, JK
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2007 the Author

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