The Roles of Museums and Anthropology

The International Museum of Cultures (IMC) is an anthropology museum. This puts the IMC at the center of two role advancements, one that is occurring in the museum industry and the other that is affecting anthropological study.

Cultural context educationWithin the industry of museums, there is a tide change from the traditional passive contemplation role that was very popular through the majority of the last century and the modern role of the museum to be an active participant in community and education. In Anthropology, there is an increased emphasis to apply the findings discovered in the field to the present culture and economic environment of the observer.

Museum 2.0

Regarding the advancing role of the museum in society, Nina Simon posted Participation, Contemplation, and the Complexity of “and” in Museum 2.0 “To me, the backlash against participatory and community-centered experiences is not surprising. I’ve always understood that participatory experiences are not for everyone. I’ve always known that some people feel that social work means mission creep for museums. What surprises me is the argument that participatory and community-centered initiatives, offered alongside many other interpretative strategies, program types, and projects, can erode the value of an institution and the experiences it provides.”

Museums are continuing to increase their role in communities and education by expanding beyond their brick and mortar. Museums are bringing their experiential abilities to the attendee rather than having the attendee physically enter the museum.

Anthropology Advancing

The traditional methods of anthropological study have been to visit far away cultures, report on them and then return to report on the findings. Many of us laymen have fond memories of watching documentaries depicting people living, in our context, within strange and exotic cultures. Anthropology is advancing its role in applying the findings to our contemporary world and our local cultural and economic environment.

The challenge is the acceptance of the fact that all of our perspectives are filtered through our respective traditions and culture. The advanced Anthropological studies understand the human condition of the observer and properly shares the observations in the proper context.

In a post call A Major Value of the Anthropological Project (as I see it), agamwell writes “Sharing our stories with others too, can be helpful, as long as we are able to also understand views as partial, as one among many, and as long as we allow the space for multiple stories, even if contradictory, to exist at the same time. While each of us might not be able to change the world, we can at least change ourselves.”

So museums and Anthropology are moving to expand their roles and, consequently, expand our understanding of the world. The International Museum of Cultures is moving along in step by being a true partner in education. The IMC ships genuine artifacts to educational organizations with related curricular and also offers an electronic field trip delivered to any Web enabled device, also accompanied with related curricular. The purpose is to bring the cultures of the world to our students, in the context of and to improve the student’s world.

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