Museums as Spaces that May Help Heal

When a society is going through a disastrous situation, museum professionals – curators, historians – are tasked with a job that is rather not evident, but really necessary: the collection of objects that help preserve the collective memory and to articulate learning to heal.

How to collect objects during a disastrous situation?, what conservation measures should be taken during a war?, were just a few of the questions explored in the  American Alliance of Museums (AAM) annual event held at St. Louis, Missouri, between May 07th to May 10th, 2017.

Institutional Assets and Monuments is exploring the articulation of stories of societies in crisis through IAM Venezuela, and the possibility to offer different sustainable paths from the creation of undertaking projects in the field of cultural heritage (a presentation on this theme was offered).

The main theme of the American Alliance of Museums 2017 (AAM) meeting was diversity, equality, accessibility and inclusion in museums, and the need to open doors to unite communities within said institutions.

In the opening program, the AAM pointed out that museums are fundamental stones that support healthy communities that are able to reach agreements, inspire and enrich in its rooms and halls. Museums, said the AAM, may help us heal in the darkest of times, for they have the power to create communities with empathy. Thus the importance of the commitment of museums with diversity, equality, accessibility and inclusion.

Amongst the most renowned lecturers are Haben Girma, protector of human rights of disabled people, and Bryan Stevenson, founder and director of Equal Justice Initiative, and others. Also, the event included simultaneous lectures from museum professionals from areas such as handling of collections, management, development of resources, curator practices, education, exhibition design, administration, change force, marketing and link with the community, technology and museum directors.

Haben Girma focused his lecture in the need for museums to open their doors to disabled people, for the key is inclusion: the disabled people do not have a problem of exclusion, but rather it is the society that fails to include them, and museums must then take a step forward. Girma pointed out that in the United States there are around 56 million people with some sort of disability, are 19% of the population and is a public that museum need to capture by been inclusive. Also, he pointed out that the road to inclusion is a powerful stimulant for creativity and the development of innovative devices, Apps and museum elements that broaden the horizon of museums and generate a hook for society.

Bryan Stevenson, on the other hand, pointed out that in the United States there is a tendency to not talk about key problems. Thus we are not able to understand what has been done historically, for that reason it is difficult to talk about the recent racial segregation, even about slavery. For that same reason it is daunting to talk about the number of convicts in prison and on probation, about people sentenced to death and about children sentenced as adults. He pointed out that the main problem is a lack of commitment for a real process that accepts the truth and assumes reconciliation. Thus, Stevenson and Equal Justice Initiative have assumed the constructions in Montgomery, Alabama, of a memorial dedicated to victims of public lynching. If we include and confront the history ignored we will be able to walk a terrain where reconciliation is possible. To improve the present we must begin in the past, even if it is tough. Museums must be inclusive while providing voice to those forgotten.

The satellite conferences were related to different issues such as the “Fair use” of Copyrighted images and texts in museums, advances in preservation techniques, the milennials as a public, the use of digital content, how to write grants and how to make effective presentations of projects, and others. On the other hand, you could visit the event’s exposition with exhibitions technological advances for educational expositions, books and much more.

Also, the event represented an opportunity for networking with professionals in the respective area. Breakfasts, lunches, yoga sessions and tours around the city planned by the AAM provided an exchange of experiences and interests between museum employees, suppliers, professors, students and members of organizations that work with the cultural heritage in different manners and places in the United States and in other countries.

Amongst the acknowledgements awarded was the one granted to the History Museum of Missouri for its work in the inclusion of diverse communities, with the creation of the LGTBQ collection, making its exhibition accessible to all audiences and for dealing with the discrimination by race problem way before the events in Ferguson. Gwen Moore, the curator of the museums, said that “the responsibility of a museum is to tell the history of each and every one of us. If not, then it is not a complete history”.

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