So here’s what just landed on the desk: A hot-off-the-press copy of a new book titled: Positioning Your Museum as a Critical Community Asset. A Practical Guide. And the part that makes us proud – We’re in it!
It’s a book packed with ideas made real; with methodological and logistical inputs. It’s not about what ought to happen in terms of museums working together with their identified communities, so much as what does happen and what works and why. And among the case studies there’s one on a project of the UWI Museum: ‘Building a Community History at the University of the West Indies Museum’ by Curator, Dr Suzanne Francis-Brown.
In 2014, we put together a little exhibition with a big heart, called ‘Freeze Frame & Annotate’. It took still images from a 1953 film on the university and invited anyone who could to annotate them – to give us information on the people pictured – most of them early students – and on the events and experiences. We have names on over 70 percent of the images and we also pulled in various scripts and interviews with persons who remembered the period. At the launch event, students from the UWI Students Today Alumni Tomorrow (UWISTAT) group were involved in engaging with pioneering and other early alumni – something captured in one of the photos on the cover of the new book.
Beth Bollwerk, who among other things is an archaeological analyst for the Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery (DAACS) at the Thomas Jefferson Foundation – which has partnered with the UWI History & Archaeological department on work at the UWI Mona Campus – visited the museum while the exhibition was up, and urged the development of a case study for the book.
Among the lessons learned, the Curator notes that the initiative still has “significant unmet potential and remains urgent due to the natural decline and disappearance” of the aging population of pioneers. She is encouraged by the willingness of the audiences to be engaged, within the limits of ability. She also notes that the museum is working to identify volunteers, through the UWI alumni organization, to further build its relationship with this community.
We’re looking forward to delving into all the great work that a wide range of museums have been doing. There’s always so much more to learn.
Positioning Your Museum as a Critical Community Asset. A Practical Guide is edited by Robert P. Connolly & Elizabeth A. Bollwerk. Publisher is Rowman & Littlefield. 2016. A photo from the Freeze Frame launch event, by Aaron Ramsay is at the top of the cover, showing current students talking with pioneering student Dr Keith McKenzie, while another student records the event on a smartphone.