By Sheila Watson

Using case reviews drawn from all components of museum reviews, Museums and their Communities explores the museums as a website of illustration, identification and reminiscence, and considers the way it can effect its group.

Focusing at the museum as an establishment, and its social and cultural environment, Sheila Watson examines how museums use their roles as informers and educators to empower, or to disregard, communities.

Looking on the present debates concerning the position of the museum, she considers contested values in museum services and examines provision, strength, possession, accountability, and institutional issues.

This booklet is of significant relevance for all disciplines because it explores and questions the position of the museum in glossy society.

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Extra resources for Museums and their Communities (Leicester Readers in Museum Studies)

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Sensitive methodologies for consulting and working with community groups are needed if museum staff are to understand and respond to the way meanings are constructed and developed. We should not underestimate the very real difficulties museums have when they seek to change the balance of power in the relationship they have with communities (Witcomb 2003, this volume pp. 133–56). qxd 22/6/07 11:27 AM Page 11 MUSEUMS AND THEIR COMMUNITIES 11 to the collecting and exhibiting process or because museums are geographically distant.

Those subgroups tend to be more motivated and more organized while most [other] people are out there trying to put food on the table and go through everyday life. [This privileging of identity] is not their burning passion’ (Dubin 1999: 238, this volume p. 220). There is a temptation to work with such people, if only because they are accessible and usually want to work with museums. They do not necessarily represent the views of others but only themselves. The institution of the museum Reflections on knowledge and power have influenced thinking about the way in which museums function as social institutions and thus help us understand their relationship with communities.

Led by a charismatic volunteer, a small group of enthusiasts worked tirelessly to raise funds and develop a museum in their midst, a museum that provided a range of services to the community, including education courses, and opportunities to participate in saving something that the community perceived as being lost. qxd 22/6/07 11:27 AM Page 9 MUSEUMS AND THEIR COMMUNITIES 9 communities of interest, such as the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum in North Wales. Many such museums receive state or local government funding; others do not.

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