How do museums in small cities gain and wield soft power? Interview with Ngaire Blankenberg

Ngaire Blankenberg is Director, Europe and Principal Consultant at Lord Cultural Resources, where she has worked for the past eight years. Lord Cultural Resources is one of the largest consultancies specializing in museums and urban cultural planning. Ngaire is the co-editor of the book Cities, Museums and Soft Power. Can you define “Soft Power” for…

What do Stories Do? Interview with Lane Beckes

A few weeks ago I shared a post questioning whether storytelling was an appropriate or useful format for museums exhibitions. This post received a number of comments, including people suggesting that stories evoke emotions, and that emotions are important for learning. In order to better understand how stories work, I interviewed Lane Beckes, Assistant Professor…

Can what museums choose to exhibit or promote define the character of their cities?

Lately, I have been thinking about the relationship between museums and cities, and how museums support or impact their cities. As part of this exploration, I picked up Gail Lord and Ngaire Blankenberg’s recent book, Cities, Museums, and Soft Power. This book explores questions of cultural capital, and the ways in which museums wield power. The book makes…

Should we accept this gift?

A month ago, a donor offered to buy the Peoria PlayHouse Children’s Museum life-sized replicas of three dinosaur heads: Tyrannosaurus Rex, Allosaurus, and Velociraptor. This offer coincided with a decision to re-envision the display on our Sand Porch. The Sand Porch features a sand table with kinetic sand, which children love and play with for hours.…

When do we edit participation?

Last week, in honor of Bastille Day, we opened the PlayHouse Art Room to the public with a flag-making activity. We saw a range of flags created by kids and parents. As I share them, imagine some music playing, something vaguely patriotic but from an imaginary or unknown country. There were French-inspired flags: There were PlayHouse…

When does the risk of misunderstanding outweigh the value of an activity or program?

Franke L. Smith is an Education Coordinator at Hickory Hill, a Watson-Brown Foundation historic home, near Augusta, Georgia. At the American Alliance of Museums conference in May, Franke and I began a conversation about a program she offers, and whether and why it may be controversial. This program, “Cotton Pickin’ Field Trip,” teaches students about the history of…