Building a Sukkah for the Museum: From Social Inclusion to Exilic Education

By Edith Doron.

Published by The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Museums have strived to be valued resources in an increasingly diverse society. In aspiring to broaden their audience-base, our work has shifted from developing educational programs and policies that are object-based or collections-focused to being community-based. Children’s museums, historically marginalized from the ‘serious’ work of established houses of art and ethnography, have been at the forefront of creating deeply experimental events in partnership with a wide variety of groups and individuals (including NGO’s, CBO’s, universities, artists, activists and religious leaders). To this end, multiculturalism has been deployed as a pivotal discourse used to reposition the relationship between museums and communities with the goal of creating a more just, robustly democratic space of learning.

Multicultural educational initiatives however, in upholding the tenets of tolerance and representation, participate in a politics of recognition where identities are reflected in a consensual culture of the socially inclusive museum’s cosmopolitan embrace. Using actual museum-wide events developed for the culturally charged arena of the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, I will explore the philosophical and pedagogical double-binds that have brought multiculturalism to a political impasse. How might we recover the ancient but uncannily current notion of the hospitality relation to rethink the ‘we’ of the museum which welcomes the ‘others’ of community? How can we transform the museum to a living site of encounter rather than an overseer of the boundaries of cultural difference? How is a sukkah—the Jewish custom of building a ritualized dwelling space outside the home which frames an incommensurability between host and guest—an architectural symbol for how museums could practice community and transform its pedagogy from a politics of home to a poetics of exile?

Keywords: Multiculturalism, Cosmopolitanism, Hospitality, Ethics, Children, Pedagogy

International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp.75-82. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.953MB).

Edith Doron

PhD Student, Centre for Modern Thought, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK

Over the past two years I have been developing my thesis at the University of Aberdeen’s Centre for Modern Thought which takes a theoretically interdisciplinary approach to eight years of work in museum education in New York. I served as the Cultural Programs Specialist at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum where I was responsible for developing hands-on workshops using artefacts and specimens from the museums cultural and natural history collections. My work evolved into developing original, large-scale events and interactive exhibitions in collaboration with community-based organizations. I have worked with groups ranging from the Palestinian Heritage Foundation to the Lubavitch Yeshiva, from local businesses to ‘tradition-bearers’. I left the first children’s museum of the world to join New York’s newest, the Long Island Children’s Museum in 2002 as their Director of Programs with the mandate to ‘give the museum a soul’. My thesis is titled, Of Things and Thresholds: Hospitality, Exilic Education adn the Practice of Community in Children’s Museums and am reading Kant, Heidegger, Baldwin, and Kristeva, among others.

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