Museums and Social Change : Challenging the Unhelpful Museum book cover
1st Edition

Museums and Social Change
Challenging the Unhelpful Museum

ISBN 9780367228019
Published July 10, 2020 by Routledge
214 Pages 23 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Museums and Social Change explores the ways museums can work in collaboration with marginalised groups to work for social change and, in so doing, rethink 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 book draws 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

1 Behind 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:equality and usefulness in action at Glasgow Women’s Library

Adele Patrick

4. In the name of the museum: The cultural actions and values of the Togo Rural Village 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


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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.

Bernadette Lynch is an Honorary Research Associate, University College London. As a writer, researcher and museum professional she is known internationally for her work on public engagement and participation in museums. She has thirty years’ experience in senior management in UK and Canadian museums.

Klaus Petersen is Professor of 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 known for her activist involvement in social issues, the Danish National Apology to Care Leavers in 2019 and investigation into other institutional abuse in 2020.