If We Build it, Will They Come? Changing Course in an International Institution

By Amy Van Allen.

Published by The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum

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

The buzzword today in many museums is “family-friendly.” The Smithsonian is an organization devoted to learning and education. Six years ago, the National Museum of the American Indian opened its Washington, D.C. museum, and it is now clear that a more targeted effort is needed to reach families and children. As a result, we’re in the middle of converting the resource center to an activity space, aimed at providing a basic understanding of Indigenous peoples and changing the museum to a fun destination. What do visitors really want from the NMAI? As a trusted, authoritative source for information about Indigenous peoples, how can the museum respect tribal community interests while serving the larger institution’s educational goals and teaching the visiting public about Indigenous cultures? How do we work to be socially inclusive and yet dispel stereotypes? How do we build a constituency among our multicultural, multilingual local audience? This paper begins to explore lessons learned from the process of consultation, visitor studies, and internal debate. We’re building this space, but will they come?

Keywords: Visitors, Education, Culture, Families, Informal Learning, Intangible Heritage

International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp.123-132. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 578.920KB).

Amy Van Allen

Outreach Manager, Community and Constituent Services, Smithsonian - National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, D.C., Washington, USA


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