Museums and Libraries

After reading the article “Museums as Agents of Social Inclusion” by Richard Sandell, I have started wondering how museums are actually like libraries. I have a degree in Librarianship so I can view a lot similarities between museum and libraries but what I have never thought before is actually the “social inclusion” that museums offer to their visitors. (Maybe this things has been discussed in class in more details or maybe my points are completely wrong in this article but as I have missed the class, I do not know what was said so I am bringing you this article.)

Before getting to the social inclusion part that I would like to comment on. I would like to quote Howard Besser and his text from 2004 where he states what is the difference between museums and libraries (he also talks about archives which I left behind in the further commentary as I have no in depth knowledge about the this field in general). I really like the differences he points out between these institutions.

“The traditional library is based upon the individual item, but it is generally no unique. Archives manage groups of works and focus on maintaining a particular context for the overall collection, Museums collect specific objects and provide curatorial context for each of them. These distinctions of the fundamental unit that is collected and why affect each institution’s acquisition policy, cataloging, preservation, and presentation to the public.

Both libraries and museums are repositories, but libraries are user-driven. The role of the library is to provide access to a vast amount of material through which the user freely roams, making his/her own connections between works.  The user chooses which items to look at.  Museums, on the other hand, are curator-driven. Historically, they have only provided access to limited holdings, usually exhibited through a particular interpretation or context, as provided by curatorial and educational staff. The museum provides a framework of context and interpretation, and the user can navigate within that smaller body.”

What I like about Sandell’s article is that he actually differens between three kinds of social inclusion museums which are the: the inclusive museum, the museum as agent of social regenaration and the museum as vehicle for broad social change. Each of these museums have certain goal as to achieve cultural inclusion, improbe quality of live for individual or influence positive social change. These goals are achieved through various things such as public debates, education, enoucaring personal development and access for those who were excluded. This is what makes in my eyes a museum a community center which is one of the most important function of libraries as well.

Maybe these things seem obvious for someone but I have personally never thought of a museum as community center which is why this article left such a huge impact of me and made me think how libraries and museums are actually alike and how many functions have their in common.

Also, for someone who has not studies librarianship before, this is an interesting article about how libraries actually influence the whole community in the given place:

What points would you say that libraries share with museums?

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