Museums progressing to stay relevant in today’s times

Seeing things a new way

“I feel that history isn’t something we should just drop freely”, spoke Melita Town Councillor Eric Forster after the screening of “Turtle Mountain Mud”—a historical recount of Manitoba’s coal mines by Ken Storie held at the Mountview Centre in Deloraine for the Turtle Mountain-Souris Plains Heritage Association’s Annual General Meeting on Friday, March 22. “And personally, I don’t believe you know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been”.

Although Melita is no longer represented on TMSPHA, board member Bill Warren still felt Forster deserved a voice in their roundtable discussion—Perspectives from Museums in the Region.

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A research study conducted on innovation in museums by Southern University of New Orleans read, “In recent years, innovation has become a topic of significant interest among museums and has dominated the discussion in many museum conferences, workshops, and seminars. This is probably because innovation, if applied correctly, can help museums achieve their organizational mission more effectively and efficiently.” (Eid)

The consensus is that museums are facing an identity crisis in today’s changing times and need to revamp their institutional model to stay relevant.

For instance, The Civic Museum of Regina (Formerly the Regina Plains Museum) closed after more than 30 years. To make up for the loss, the museum reinvented itself as a “museum without walls”.

“Our programming is not about people coming to a location, but how do I get into your location? How do I tell history in different ways? One of the partners the museum has worked with is Casino Regina, where its largest artifact, a locomotive, is displayed in front of the building. Now two million people go through the Casino in a year and everybody gets a glimpse into the work we’re doing.” (Hwang)

In the UK, museums are up against the “it’s not for the likes of us” because they’re viewed as “something for the likes of the Jacob Rees-Moggs and Boris Johnsons of the world--older, whiter, posher people.” (Radford)

To solve this, UK cities are getting the public involved.

“We systematically put co-production at the heart of what we do, and there is more engagement and support as a result. In other words, getting locals involved in all aspects of an exhibition means they are more likely to visit, recommend others visit, or – in the case of the most knowledgeable volunteers – actually be the reason more people want to visit.” (Radford)

Museums are important, there’s no doubt about that. Not only do they educate, they provide meaning to our surroundings by telling yesterday’s stories for tomorrow’s generations. They are cultural-historical time capsules, ready to spark the imaginations of young and old.

So how will museums of southwestern Manitoba stay relevant in today’s changing times?

Forster is of the opinion collaborating and partnering between towns and municipalities will set the momentum.

“Different aspects of the community bring in different stories. Working together with the local communities and museums themselves. How we promote each other”.

“Especially with the younger generations. The way that they interact with everything is a lot different than we did growing up”, said Forster.

Forster believes being “young and ambitious” is crucial to his role on the museum board and wants Manitobans living outside the perimeter to know that.

“Even though you’re in small town, rural Manitoba, it’s still exciting. It’s got a lot of cool things happening”, he concluded.

Radford, Ploy. “How can museums stay relevant to the UK’s rapidly changing population?” CityMetric, 8 Aug. 2018, Accessed 30 March 2019

Hwang, Florence. “Local historical groups strive to stay relevant in digital age” CBC, 24 Dec. 2017. Accessed 01 April 2019

Eid, Haitham. “The Museum Innovation Model: A museum perspective on innovation” MW2016: Museums and the Web 2016. 14 Jan. 2016 Accessed 01 April 2019

© Melita New Era