Building Strong Bridges between the Museum and Its Community: An Ethnographic Understanding of the Culture and Systems of One Community’s Art Museum

By Yuha Jung.

Published by The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: May 2, 2014 $US5.00

This holistic, qualitative, ethnographic case study of a medium-size art museum in the Midwestern United States is based on interviews with all levels of staff and board members, community leaders, visitors, and educators. I combined interviews with participant observation in order to bring to light how the museum is connected to its community. I also explored how the museum’s services, including exhibitions and programs, and other museum practices influence its visitorship and perceptions among community members. A theoretical framework of an organization as an open system and cultural place shows the art museum as a complex organization where various interactions and relationships are interwoven to create its unique institutional culture. My analysis identified the museum’s challenges and led to suggestions about how the museum can become more actively involved with its community and more relevant to it. I conclude that while the museum is a cultural and open system that is flexible and has coevolved with its community, it can overcome its challenges by becoming a learning organization whose members are working, learning, and growing together to become a more active and relevant organization in the community for years to come. My overarching goal is to urge museum professionals and art educators to learn the value of being a learning organization, adopt practices that promote such an organization, and continuously learn to work together.

Keywords: Art Museums, Community-Based Museums, Ecological Perspective, Systems Thinking, Organizations as Open System, Organization as Cultural Place, Museum Social Ecosystem, Elitist Perceptions, Learning Organizations

The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 6, Issue 3, May 2014, pp.1-11. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: May 2, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 181.765KB)).

Dr. Yuha Jung

Visiting Assistant Professor, Art Education, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA


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