"Authority. What is it and who has it?
Or better, Who used to have it and who has it now? Museums generally,
but history museums especially, have been wrestling with these
questions for two decades. This useful and intelligent offering from
Pew, with contributions from 21 artists, educators, and museum
practitioners, may help us get closer to some answers. Or even refine
the questions, which seem to be along the lines of What is lost and
what is gained when we invite the public into the once-sacred realm
of interpretation? "
- Museum Magazine
"Technically, historical authority has always been shared with the
public, but the expert public voice has not always been able to break
through the practiced illusions of monumental scholarship and
hallowed history. The marvelous and inspiring examples in Letting
will shape the aspirations of the future history museum as
its practice leaders readjust their grip on ideas of authority. It
will also guide institutions as they fulfill the next steps after
letting go: reaching out, embracing lives, and reflecting, in the
presence of the past and each other, on the complex beauties of our
culture. This is a book about becoming something together, our most
important process as human beings."
- David Carr, author of Open Conversations: Public Learning in Libraries and Museums
"Our values direct what we do and how we do it. Letting Go?
recognizes power structures in existing models and challenges us to
articulate our values, reflect on our work, and sharpen our practice.
Are we truly living out our values? Letting Go?
directions for meaningful, responsive and strategic community-based
- Cassie Chinn, Deputy Executive Director, Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience
"User-generated content—it’s the cutting-edge idea behind
everything from Facebook to Wikipedia. And it’s making a huge
impact on museums and other public history venues. In this volume
you’ll catch some of the sparks shooting off of this exciting new
work. And also discover some of the principals that are emerging: how
good boundaries paradoxically make for better creative expression,
and why historians’ traditional strengths—context, editing,
presentation—are needed even more in this new world."
- Tom Hanchett, Staff Historian, Levine Museum of the New South, Charlotte
"This wide-ranging collection of perspectives from some of public
history’s most innovative practitioners doesn’t so much reject
the idea of authority as expand it. Each one shows us how we can
develop new expertise for enacting inclusive processes, which not
only raise the visibility and social value of what the public may
contribute, but simultaneously cultivate the strong community
relationships sustaining our institutions into the future. It’s
both an essential and energizing set of examples, putting this vital
ethos into completely practical terms."
- Daniel Spock, Director, History Center Museum, Minnesota Historical Society
"Opening a capacious window onto today’s core challenge to history museums—situating historical authority—the chapters in Letting Go?
range from the scholarly to the eminently practical. … [It] reminds us that no matter its theoretical appeal, public curation still must be examined from the visitor’s perspective. An ambitious collection, Letting Go?
will be valuable for scholar/practitioner/student of the museum field as its continues to define, address and advocate for greater public engagement in our digital age."
- Leslie Bedford, Director, Leadership in Museum Education Program, Bank Street College of Education