Relationship of Museums to the Term Paper

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Alternatively, the person or group acknowledged as a legitimate representative may wish that the museum could continue to hold an object for the benefit of the other party." (Boyd, nd; p. 196) in this instance there should be clarity in the "terms and responsibilities of such holding..." (Boyd, nd; p.196) Boyd relates that in a museum that is 'collection-based' deaccession is an issue that is "exceedingly contentious" (p. 196) in nature, and in fact "much more so than the decision to acquire." (p. 196)


Boyd relates that museums are "more than repositories; they are places where collections are interpreted for the public through exhibits and related educational programs." (Boyd, nd; p.199) it is important to note the statement of Boyd that the museums interpretation of their collections "changes over time with the emergence of new 'techniques, scholarship, and viewpoints.'" (Boyd, nd; p.199) Furthermore, Boyd notes that the extent of interpretations in museums in the United States is experiencing rapid expansion as "museums see their mission changing from offering a passive venue for the already educated to being active center of learning for a public of diverse educational and cultural backgrounds." (Boyd, nd; p. 199) Boyd states that limiting the number of displays and exhibitions is somewhat contrary in that museums rarely explain to the public how the choices have been made as to what is and is not exhibited by the museum. Boyd relates the statement of Lonnie Bunch as follows: "Museums would be better served if they explained to the public why history museums explore social history that includes difficult questions of race, class and gender, or why it is important for art museums to examine artists whose work challenges community norms and expectations. It is not enough to say that we 'know bets'...[M]museums can teach visitors more about points-of-view, the scholarly underpinnings of museum works, and the inherent fluidity of museum interpretation. As the clothing store advertisement extols, "An educated consumer is our best customer." (Bunch, 1995; as cited in Boyd, nd; p. 201) Boyd relates that museums should be "affirmative in reaching out for diverse perspectives. In doing so, museums will improve the quality of exhibits and reflect the multiplicity of views present in a pluralistic democracy. Those selected to create the exhibit should include representatives of the diverse groups whose cultures and environments are reflected in the exhibit." (Boyd, nd; p.202) it is important to recognize that within the group there will conflicting points-of-view and "principal centers of the group may live at a great distance from the museum." (Boyd, nd; p. 202)


The work of Shilton and Srinivasan (2006) entitled: "Participatory Appraisal and Arrangement for Multicultural Archival Collections" states that the "power to represent has been wielded by information institutions throughout history, and the manifestations of this power have helped to build societal definitions of much of what we understand as culture. This power applies not only to museums, but also to the institutions of culture and preservation that we know as archives, manuscript libraries, and special collections." (2006) Shilton and Srinivasan note the work of McKemmish, Gilliland-Swetland and Ketelaar who wrote: "Frameworks for the selection, collection, arrangement and description, preservations and accessibility of archives are...closely linked to societal processes of remembering and forgetting, inclusion and exclusion, and the power relationships they embody." (2005) Some documents are chose by the archivists and others are discarded with the archivists "using the power of appraisal to consciously or unconsciously assert chosen narratives as truths and ignore or reframe others." (McKemmish, Gilliland-Swetland and Ketelaar, 2005) Through the manner in which acquisitions are arranged and described the archivists "...impart narratives and knowledge structures to explain the relationships among records in a collection." (McKemmish, Gilliland-Swetland and Ketelaar, 2005) it is inevitable according to Shilton and Srinivasan that the "assertion, ignoring, or reframing of narrative that accompanies archival appraisal, arrangement and description is inevitable." (2005)

No matter how diverse archivist teams there is no way to choose all documents or describe all the collection's knowledge or to represent all truth and experiences represented in a collection. The work of Couture (2005) is noted as stating that archival appraisal "...must ultimately offer comprehensive evidence of societal actions and conditions." Shilton and Srinivasan state that "comprehensive evidence too often does not cover a diversity of racial and ethnic communities, and has not included marginal narratives from migrants, refugees, or diasporic communities. Instead, memory institutions have alternately ignored experiences outside of the history of the powerful, creating collecting gaps within archives, or lifted the histories of marginalized communities and applied arrangements and descriptions of the 'other' to form incomplete and decontextualized representations of cultural groups." (2006)


When marginal voices are left out of the record of history the result is "systematic disenfranchisement." (Shilton and Srinivasan, 2006) Shilton and Srinivasan write that it is fortunate that archivists posses tools that aid in preserving "empowered, contextualized narrative and thick description to avoid distorting the record and marginalizing cultural identities." (2006) Shilton and Srinivasan state a suggestion that archival principles that are committed to appraisal and arrangement and description will enable the facilitation of "preservation of representative, empowered narratives of traditionally marginalized communities when they are utilized within a participatory process." (2006)

Shilton and Srinivasan add:

Re-envisioning archival principles of appraisal, arrangement, and description to actively incorporate participation from traditionally marginalized communities will not only allow these communities to preserve empowered narratives, but will allow archivists to move towards the oft-debated, and still unrealized, goal of representative collections. A key component of achieving the shift from internal principles to participatory practices will be to expand appraisal, arrangement and description into tools designed to respect the knowledge systems embedded within community contexts. Through tools for the participatory facilitation and preservation of contextual information and localized knowledge structures, archivists can not only create representative archives, but also can move beyond objectification and aid understanding of local knowledge and marginalized narratives." (Shilton and Srinivasan, 2006)


Shilton and Srinivasan (2006) relate that when archivists "choose to preserve one memory, they forfeit the resources - human, physical, and financial - to preserve another." In fact, the work of Bowker relates that when there is a "scarcity of preservation resources" necessitated is "diligent attention to preserving a wide diversity of memories a 'spread' of diversity to best represent life on earth." (2005; as cited in Shilton and Srinivasan, 2006) it is because of this reason that archivists cannot collect all but instead must in awareness collect in a diverse manner in order to respond to the need for representation of social history. Shilton and Srinivasan hold that "at the root of archival marginalization of multicultural narratives is the inverse of diverse collecting: a historical undervaluing and misidentification of marginalized community records." (2006; p. 8) There is "a lack of recognition or acknowledgement in western archival science and practice of the legitimacy of local and indigenous forms of recordkeeping and memory preservation." (McKemmish, Gilliland-Swetland and Ketelaar, 2005; as cited in Shilton and Srinivasan, 2006)

Boyd writes that museums "should be affirmative in reaching out for diverse perspectives..." And that this will result in the improvement of "the quality of exhibits that reflect the multiplicity of views presented in a pluralistic democracy. Those selected to create the exhibit should include representatives of the diverse groups whose cultures and environments are reflected in the exhibit." (nd; p.202) Boyd relates the approach of the Field Museum that "recommitted to its role as a center of learning for a diverse public." (nd) Boyd states that a museum "is not just a place for the educated; it must be a place where diverse people of diverse backgrounds can learn about the natural environment and human cultures, their variety, and their interconnections. Indeed it is this 'connectedness' that is the fundamental rationale undergirding the Field Museum's overall mission." (Boyd, nd; p. 204) Boyd relates that the Field Museum has historically held concern with connections "within and across nature and cultures, and with reflecting these in its own connections with both the local community and with those whose cultures and environments are presented in the museum's collections and exhibits." (nd; p.204) Boyd additionally relates "since institutions tend to be inwardly driven, outwardness requires a concerted mindset and action." (nd; p.205)


The Field Museum, undertook a reappraisal of its exhibitions covering approximately 350,000 square feet and realized that the exhibitions were "old and did not incorporate the new knowledge being generated by the museum's curatorial staff and their disciplinary peers elsewhere in universities and research museums." (nd) as well the exhibits failed to reflect the "changing attitudes about nature and human cultures. Furthermore, new exhibit processes and technologies that could expand the effectiveness of dioramas and labels, engaging the visitor's mind as…[continue]

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