Collaboration is key. I found myself writing those words again and again in my notes as I attended the sessions at AAMC’s 2012 meeting. The phrase came up whether the speaker addressed collections management, exhibition development, or technology and community outreach.
As museums continue to balance their roles as cultural temples and cultural forums, collaborations often present themselves as an ideal solution for creating innovative and engaging programming and building strong collections. Conference speakers shared their experiences as part of resourceful and ingenious collaborations. Two particularly inspired me.
Martina Bagnoli introduced us to museums that are encouraging and supporting public contributions to the exhibition development process. Crowd sourcing is a way to privilege the personal experience over the didactic while inviting civic participation. Public-curated exhibitions at the Walters Art Museum, Clark Institute, and Brooklyn Museum are providing their audience with a greater sense of ownership and investment in their museums while also imparting a wealth of new ideas to museum staff.
Shifting collection boundaries also force curators to find inventive ways to augment and refine their collections. Rita Freed described an exchange of antiquities between the MFA Boston and Poznan Archaeological Museum in Poland. Such exchanges successfully remove duplicative material or secondary objects outside of a museum’s scope while ensuring that important artworks can continue to be appreciated by the public and remain in the stewardship of a cultural institution.
The future of museums lies in creative collaboration. If collaboration is key, communication is paramount. What I learned from each of these sessions is that successful partnerships depend upon the flexibility of each participant and the maintenance of open and honest communications.
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