Visitor Involvement as a Strategy: A Museum Transmitting a Message for Social Outcasts

By Anneken Appel Laursen.

Published by The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum

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

Den Gamle By (The Old Town) is an open-air museum showing Danish urban development. Since 2011 it has also served as a local museum for Aarhus. A strategy has consequently been developed, in which the museum proactively meets with local communities to listen to messages about their lives and where they live. This strategy was unexpectedly challenged in 2012: a homeless man approached the museum, wanting to show his home in the museum grounds, to draw attention to conditions the homeless live under. After discussion with the homeless man and museum management, the decision was made for the man to set up his ‘home’ at the museum. The project ran from September through December 2012. The exhibition was open for the public from October 13th and year out. The project has given rise to reflection about the essence of inclusion. At the beginning, we considered whether the museum had gone too far in the name of inclusion – that we were putting a live person on show. However findings from visitor engagement data and other documentation, which suggest that the project heightened people’s awareness of homelessness, spurred people to take affirmative action towards the vulnerable and increased their respect of the homeless. The museum provided a setting for meetings between people who are not equals.

Keywords: Open-Air Museum, Denmark, Contemporary History, Homelessness, Inclusion, Participation, Live People at the Museum, Museum as Meeting Place, Voice of the Socially Excluded

The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 6, Issue 3, May 2014, pp.57-66. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: May 2, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 399.818KB)).

Anneken Appel Laursen

Curator, Historical Departement, Den Gamle By, Aarhus, Denmark


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