All posts by chcongo

Maintaining Museums in a Changing World

Twenty years ago, if you had asked any museum director where they see museums going, their response would more than likely involve technology, as that was a monumental societal shift that was happening at the time. The internet was just beginning to grow rapidly and people were communicating with more ease than ever before. Museums saw the introduction of technology as a way to expand into digital forms. They foresaw the use of digital exhibits, interactive participation, and even virtual reality in museums.

In order to succeed, museum exhibits should be able to withstand and adapt to any major social changes that may occur. Museum curators often keep in mind the prediction of what will matter in the future when they create these exhibits so that their exhibits maintain relevancy within the public sphere. For this reason, most museum directors are well aware of the changes happening in society and how their exhibits are being reflected in the public eye.

Museum directors are often aware of what they need to change in museums and how museum interactions will change over time. In a project called, #FutureMuseum, museum directors were asked where they see museums in the future. The majority of directors hoped for increased diversity, collaboration, and conversation to be generated by future museum exhibits. Museums have already somewhat started to make these changes, slowly but surely. Art museums are organizing their exhibits with the purpose of making a political statement, forcing visitors to think about the pieces they are seeing rather than mindlessly staring at a painting on a wall. Science museums have started a reboot that involves a heavy

An exhibit in the Cleveland Museum of Art includes an interactive digital curation experience. 

amount of interaction as compared to older science museums where the exhibits were just displays of scientific discoveries for the visitor to read about on a little placard.

As museums are centers open for public consumption, the main goal of any museum is to please everyone that happens to walk through its doors. However, the biggest challenge that museum directors face is to please everyone while also finding a way to challenge their views and ease them into an environment that engages them in those difficult conversations in a way that is memorable. In the #FutureMuseum project, nearly every director hoped to see increased social interaction and participation within the exhibits as opposed to the traditional learning emphasized by museums in the past. Directors understand that for the next generation, museums need to focus more on creativity and self-discovery rather than the didactic storytelling method of earlier times. As Clare discusses in an explication of

Exterior of the National Museum of African American History and Culture

the integration of the Black Lives Matter Movement with the recent opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the museum encouraged interaction by offering safe spaces to grapple with the heavier topics introduced throughout the museum. It is not necessarily about the display of culturally relevant objects; it is about applying them to an experience and how they can influence the future.

Further Reading:

Works Cited:

Clare, Rod. “Black Lives Matter: The Black Lives Matter Movement in the National Museum of American History and Culture.” (2016)

Identity and the American Indian Movement

For centuries, Native Americans have been possibly the most neglected, disrespected, and oppressed communities on American soil. They are often viewed as powerless or weak, and their wishes and rights are often disregarded. In 1968, a movement emerged in hopes of restoring the identity of the American Indian and the hope that had been lost for generations.

The American Indian Movement (AIM) began in Minneapolis, Minnesota as a response to police harassment in the area. A group organized an “Indian Patrol” to monitor police due to the alarmingly

Pin featuring American Indian Movement logo. These pins were from a pow-wow in the Minneapolis American Indian Center.  See

high weekend arrest rate (Bigony 47). The Indian Patrol was a shocking success and managed to gave new hope to other Native American communities nationwide that they could also fight injustices in their community, which birthed the American Indian Movement.

Many were attracted to the movement for the promise of a better life through AIM’s commitment to changing the oppressive social structure that Native Americans are forced to endure. AIM hoped to achieve this goal by stressing the importance of reclaiming traditional Native beliefs. Encouraging communities to reconstruct their notions of personal and collective identity and reclaim their Indian identity creates a sense of unity and solidarity within the entire community, which increases involvement in protests and activism (Nagel 958). The growth of the AIM throughout the late 1960s also saw a surge of Indian pride and consciousness throughout the entire nation.

Photo taken at the takeover of Alcatraz in 1969. See

The biggest turning point of the AIM was marked by the Alcatraz takeover. One of the most well known Native activist moments was when Richard Oakes and Indian students from San Francisco State University claimed Alcatraz Island by what they claimed to be “right of discovery.” The occupation caught the attention of the civil rights movement that was intensifying nationwide. The takeover was monumental for both those involved and those who simply witnessed. It changed the lens with which everyone was forced to view Native Americans, which often viewed them as powerless (Nagel 958). The occupation proved that Native Americans are powerful and successfully highlighted the injustices of Native peoples while promoting ethnic pride.

Since then, AIM has successfully organized many protests and demonstrations that resulted in major milestones in the movement, such as, the Trial of Broken Treaties, the Bureau of Indian Affairs building takeover, the occupation of Wounded Knee, the Federation of Survivor Schools, and the Longest Walk. Although many of these demonstrations did not achieve their intended goals, they all powerfully promoted ethnic pride and ethnic consciousness despite the oppression faced by the government in a movement that continues to this day.

Works Cited

Bigony, Beatrice A. (1979). Attempting to Close the Sacred Circle: The Endeavor of the American Indian Movement. Central Issues in Anthropology 1(2): 41–62.

Nagel, Joane. (1995). American Indian Ethnic Renewal: Politics and the Resurgence of Identity. American Sociological Review 60(6): 947–965.

Further Reading