The following is the final paper I wrote for Museums and Libraries as Cultural Heritage Institutions.
Museums and libraries have been around for centuries, but they have not always worked together. Both are important cultural heritage institutions that would benefit from working together to help preserve and promote the cultural heritage of the people they serve. If museums and libraries can learn to work together, sometimes sharing space, they can from a mutually beneficial relationship with one another. By looking at current partnerships, we can learn from them to look towards the future to create new and lasting partnerships.
Museum and library partnerships “hold particular knowledge of the community’s living cultures and to use that knowledge to change the museum as cultural place…Libraries have always been about the people who use them, about those living cultures; it’s something museums can learn from them,” (Carr, 2011, p. 5). Carr states that:
These programs are evidence of how a cultural institution can be an organism, not a mechanism, how it can be responsive and adaptive. How the boarders between institutions can become permeable and no longer reflect the conventional limits of what a museum can be for its citizens. (p. 5)
Rodger, Jorgensen, and D’Elia (2005) state that, “Museums have had an active history of collaboration, both with other museums and with libraries and other community organizations,” (pp. 4). By working together, museums and libraries can become cultural centers of knowledge that benefit the community in more ways than one. Therefore, it is important in the 21st century that we begin to look towards these types of partnerships as mutually beneficial, symbiotic if you will, instead of as something that will lessen the efforts and collection of one over the other.
A current library-museum partnership is at the Florida Holocaust Museum, which is “home to the largest Holocaust and genocide lending libraries in the southeast,” (http://www.flholocaustmuseum.org/About.aspx). This partnership allows those researching the Holocaust to visit the museum and library simultaneously. While only museum members and University of South Florida students may check out items, the library is open to the community to use on site. This partnership is extremely beneficial to the citizens of St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay area, especially the thousands of students of all ages and the teachers and professors at Bay Area schools. The partnership is the perfect example of how a museum and library can work together to educate the community on the cultural heritage of an area or group of people.
However, such partnerships do not always share the same space or location, nor do they have to in order to work properly. In the first chapter of his book Open Conversations, David Carr talks about the partnership between the Queens Museum of Art and the Queens Library praising the partnership for its collaboration on cultural knowledge.
As a museum and library forge an active and engaged library partnership, both institutions can gather the experiences and energies of a community and recombine them as part of an underlying cultural presence…As institutions with respect for the aspirations of their citizens and their living communities, Queens Museum and Queens Library are engaged in the construction and capture of cultural knowledge and value. (p.7)
This community partnership is a great example for other museums and libraries who are wishing to collaborate to look to for inspiration in the future.
Looking to the future, I see the potential for a museum and library partnership in my own town. The City of New Port Richey is home to The West Pasco Historical Society’s Rao Mususuru, M.D., Museum and Library. The society was started in 1973 at the suggestion of Janet Lewis, the Librarian for the New Port Richey Library at the time (http://westpascohistoricalsociety.org/about_us.html). In 1981, the building was donated to the society and turned into the museum that exists today, with an edition added on to house the library in 1992 (http://westpascohistoricalsociety.org/about_us.html). However, while I had heard mention of the museum years ago, I have heard nothing since until recently. I’m not sure the community is aware of its existence, or of any events that might be held there. Kathryn Flannery and I attempted to visit the museum recently and found that it was only open from September to May, and I cannot find any explanation as to why on their website. How can they expect to promote the area’s heritage and research if no one knows the museum is there, or they aren’t open when visitors get there?
In order for the museum and its library to promote and share its cultural knowledge with the public year round, I feel it would benefit from a formal pairing with the city’s library. Together, they can work to bring the city’s cultural heritage to life with year round events and programs. The library’s meeting rooms and the courtyard between library and city hall would be a great place to hold a Local History Fest event with presentations inside and out. The library can assist the museum’s library in providing a publicly accessible archive of their historic documents and maps with links on both organization’s websites, and a link to the museums Flickr archive on their website. This would get the word out in the community that these resources exist, and would provide assistance to teachers and students in the community. Programs being held at the museum can be advertised through the library’s social media presence and in the library itself, so that they may reach a larger audience. The city library can also supplement the museum’s library by providing circulating copies of the books on local history that the museum sells, as well as advertising its own Florida History books at the museum for those looking to do further research. There are so many other ways these two organizations can begin to work together in the future to promote the communities history and cultural heritage.
The future of museums and library collaboration is now. It is time museums and libraries saw the benefits of working together to promote cultural heritage in the community. If collaboration can happen between museums and libraries in large cities, then it can happen in a small suburban town.
Carr, D. (2011). Open conversations: Public learning in libraries and museums. Santa Barbara, California: Libraries Unlimited.
Florida Holocaust Museum. (2013). About the Florida Holocaust Museum. Retrieved from http://www.flholocaustmuseum.org/About.aspx
Rodger, E., Jörgensen, C., & D’Elia, G. (2005). Partnerships and Collaboration Among Public Libraries, Public Broadcast Media, and Museums: Current Context and Future Potential. Library Quarterly, 75(1), 42-66.
West Pasco Historical Society. (n.d.). About Us. Retrieved from http://westpascohistoricalsociety.org/about_us.html