Year in Review: How Community Museums Continue to Serve as Models for Local Engagement

Featured image: Community leaders Juana Campos and Carmen Torruella-Quander at the 1994 exhibition “Black Mosaic: Community, Race, and Ethnicity Among Black Immigrants in Washington, D.C.,” at Anacostia Community Museum. PHOTO HAROLD DORWIN/ANACOSTIA COMMUNITY MUSEUM ARCHIVES, SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION

In 2022, the International Council of Museums (ICOM), a membership association that creates ethical standards for museums, adopted a definition for museums that such institutions should “operat[e] ethically, professionally and with the participation of communities,” hewing closely to a concept French historian Hugues de Varine, a former ICOM director, proposed decades ago: that at the center of a museum lies “not things, but people.”

A year later, mainstream museums are still grappling with this shift, as they have indeed historically prioritized the study, display, and preservation of objects in their care, and not the communities that surround them. Exceptions to these are community museums, which arose from a desire for museums to put people and local communities first, which can take the form of building collections or organizing exhibitions together.

In the US, the foundations of these museums date back to the late 1960s, when three now prominent community museums—the Anacostia Community Museum in Washington, D.C., (in 1967), the Wing Luke Museum in Seattle (1967), and El Museo del Barrio in New York (1969)—were founded as dedicated spaces for communities marginalized by mainstream institutions in their respective cities.

Read the original article here… and return to share your comments below.