Museum Practice Chap 21: ‘The “active museum”: How concern with community transformed the museum’ by Elizabeth Crooke

In the last section of my new book Museum Practice, which was published recently (see last post), there are several chapters describing the outputs produced by the contemporary museum at work. Though the exhibitions considered earlier in the book could also be seen as the most obvious of museum outputs, here in Part IV ‘Publics’ we look at a more diverse and diffuse range of public products: from visitor research and community, to interpretation, learning, digital media and research.

In chapter 21, author Elizabeth Crooke looks outside the walls of the museum to the community. She considers how a concern with community effectively transformed the institution of the museum. Drawing on examples from around the world, but also at home in Northern Ireland, she reviews “the role of museums as a symbol of community; the connections between museums and community policy; and the use of museums for community action.” Crooke then argues for what she calls the “active museum,” the antithesis of the “disconnected museum of old,” which rather than only providing comment, at a safe distance, is an organisation that actively co-produces with its community, effects change and forges dynamic connections.

Crooke_photo_McCarthy (2)

Elizabeth Crooke is Professor of Heritage and Museum Studies at the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland.  As well as supervising PhD students, she is Course Director of the MA Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies and the MA Museum Practice and Management (distance learning). She has published Museums and Community: Ideas, Issues and Challenges (Routledge 2007),  Politics Archaeology and the creation of a national museum of Ireland (Irish Academic Press 2000), and many book chapters and journal articles. She is a member of the Board of Directors Northern Ireland Museums Council and the Board of Directors of the Irish Museums Association.


About mccartco

Conal McCarthy is a former museum professional and academic who has published widely on museum history, theory and practice. He is the Director of the Museum and heritage studies programme at Victoria University of Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand.
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