A Conversation about Community Engagement Curators

Museum Fundraising Conversation | Community Engagement Curators

An increasing number of museums and cultural centers are adding community engagement curators (CECs) to their staffs to build two-way conversations about how to make our work more relevant to our neighbors and to give them a voice in what we do within and outside the museum walls.

As I head for Phoenix for AAM 2018, the annual meeting of the American Alliance of Museums (May 6-9), I have been exploring what people will be talking about at this year’s conference.

Museum Fundraising Strategies

One topic that caught my eye and captured my imagination was the subject of community engagement curators (CECs). An increasing number of museums and cultural centers are adding CECs to their staffs to build two-way conversations about how to make our work more relevant to our neighbors and to give them a voice in what we do within and outside the museum walls.

Community Engagement for Museums

With tight budgets and a long and ever-growing list of good ideas, it is tempting to think that we can cover community engagement in episodic ways—by having days for specific audiences, encouraging the use of social media (Instagram anyone?), and promoting partnerships with schools and leadership organizations.

The challenge is to sustain and broaden this engagement and help it thrive. While, yes, this is everyone’s job, putting someone on point means that you are serious about the need to innovate community-based programs, involve people beyond your “inner circle” in program development, and measure the impact in terms of what your community thinks and how it responds.

As Elizabeth Merritt aptly writes in her blog for the Center for the Future of Museums:
“At their core, museums are storytellers, but whose stories are we telling? How are we telling them? Are we reaching out to and co-creating with our communities in a culturally competent manner?”

The Role of the Community Engagement Curator is on the AAM program for Monday, May 7, at 1:45 pm and will feature community curators in children’s, art, anthropology, and history museums. For more on this topic, visit the AAM blog.