Museums and Social Change: Challenging the Unhelpful Museum, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Museums and Social Change

Challenging the Unhelpful Museum, 1st Edition

Edited by Adele Chynoweth, Bernadette Lynch, Klaus Petersen, Sarah Smed


216 pages | 26 B/W Illus.

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Museums and Social Change explores the ways museums can work in collaboration with marginalised groups to work for social change and, in so doing, re-think the museum.

Drawing on the first-hand experiences of museum practitioners and their partners around the world, the volume demonstrates the impact of a shared commitment to collaborative, reflective practice. Including analytical discussion from practitioners in their collegial work with women, the homeless, survivors of institutionalised child abuse and people with disabilities, the bookdraws attention to the significant contributions of small, specialist museums in bringing about social change. It is here, the book argues, that the new museum emerges: when museum practitioners see themselves as partners, working with others to lead social change, this is where museums can play a distinct and important role.

Emerging in response to ongoing calls for museums to be more inclusive and participate in meaningful engagement, Museums and Social Change will be essential reading for academics and students working in museum and gallery studies, librarianship, archives, heritage studies and arts management. It will also be of great interest to those working in history and cultural studies, as well as museum practitioners and social activists around the world.

Table of Contents

List of contributors


David Fleming

Editors’ Preface

Introduction - Neither helpful nor unhelpful – a clear way forward for the useful museum

Bernadette Lynch


Museums and co-creation

1Behind barbed wire: Co-producing the Danish Welfare Museum

Sarah Smed

2. Rewriting the script: Power and change through a Museum of Homelessness

Jessica and Matthew Turtle

3. March of Women and the dynamism of equality at Glasgow Women’s Library

Adele Patrick

4.‘In the Name of the Museum’: The Cultural Actions and Values of the Togo Rural Art Museum, Taiwan

Ying-Ying Lai

Part II

Revealing hidden narratives

5. Revealing Hidden Stories at The Danish Welfare Museum: A Collaborative History

Jeppe Wichmann Rasmussen

6. Doors, stairways and pitfalls: Care Leavers’ memory work at the Danish Welfare Museum

Stine Grønbæk Jensen

7. ‘We cannot change the past, but we can change how we look at the past’: The use of creative writing in facing up to personal histories at the Danish Welfare Museum

Trisse Gejl

8. Invite, Acknowledge and Collect with Respect: Sensitive Narratives at the Vest-Agder Museum, Norway

Kathrin Pabst

9. ‘Nothing about, us without us’: The journey to cultural democracy at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales

Sioned Hughes and Nia Williams

10. Slow, Uncomfortable, and Badly Paid: DisPLACE and the Benefits of Disability History

Manon S. Parry, Corrie Tijsseling, and Paul van Trigt

Part III: Taking back

11. The act of emancipating oneself: The museum and the release of adult Care Leavers' case records 

Jacob Knage Rasmussen

12. A call to justice at the National Museum of Australia

Adele Chynoweth


About the Editors

Dr Adele Chynoweth is currently a lecturer at the Centre for Heritage and Museum Studies at the Australian National University, where she received the 2018 Vice Chancellor’s Award for Public Policy and Outreach.

Dr Bernadette Lynch is Honorary Research Associate, University College London. As a writer, researcher and museum professional she has thirty years’ experience in senior management in UK and Canadian museums. are either indifferent to the indigenous peoples or sympathetic to them. But they do not want our sympathy. They want their rights — as spelled out in the treaties between them and the Crown.Those "permanent nation-to-nation agreements" are what made Canada possible on the triangular foundation of aboriginals, Francophones and Anglophones. The indigenous peoples gave massive tracts of lands in return for a permanent partnership of equals. Yet "we pretend that we do not have partnership obligations." – Haroon Siddiqui Columnist

Klaus Petersen is Professor in Welfare State History and director of the Danish Centre for Welfare Studies at the University of Southern Denmark.

Sarah Smed is Head of The Danish Welfare Museum, and a board member of the Arts Foundation of the Islands (The Danish Arts Council) and the Society of Danish Prison History.

About the Series

Museum Meanings

Museums have undergone enormous changes in recent decades; an ongoing process of renewal and transformation bringing with it changes in priority, practice and role, as well as new expectations, philosophies, imperatives and tensions that continue to attract attention from those working in, and drawing upon, wide-ranging disciplines.

Museum Meanings presents new research that explores diverse aspects of the shifting social, cultural and political significance of museums and their agency beyond, as well as within, the cultural sphere. Interdisciplinary, cross-cultural and international perspectives and empirical investigation are brought to bear on the exploration of museums’ relationships with their various publics (and analysis of the ways in which museums shape – and are shaped by – such interactions).

Theoretical perspectives might be drawn from anthropology, cultural studies, art and art history, learning and communication, media studies, architecture and design and material culture studies, amongst others. Museums are understood very broadly – including art galleries, historic sites and other cultural heritage institutions – as are their relationships with diverse constituencies.

The Series Editors invite proposals that explore the political and social significance of museums and their ethical implications. If you have an idea for a book that you think would be appropriate for the series, then please contact the Series Editors to discuss further.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ART / Museum Studies
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Library & Information Science / General