Following My Own Advice

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In 2014 I wrote a post for my Wider World column on the Tufts Museum Studies blog called "Getting to Know a New Area." In it, I summarized a number of articles and recommended a few more on the subject of getting to know a community, especially one with residents who are demographically or culturally different from you. I knew that a lot of museum studies students would soon be taking new jobs in new areas, but I also knew that these practices can be useful even if you've lived somewhere for a while. In this update to the catalog, I will be adding several activities that will help me get to know elements of the greater Boston area I'm not too familiar with. To me, knowing your community is essential to navigating the relationship between a museum and its community, something I care a lot about and something this blog is partly about.

  • Read some publications from one of the urban youth writing programs in the Boston area, like 826 or WriteBoston. This would be a way to get to know perspectives from members of the community I rarely interact with.
  • Lynn T. suggested “explore the intersections between museums and archives,” which I think I’ll do by attending some workshops or meetings for archivists, and comparing to my experiences in museums.
  • According to a summary of the 2014 Pew Religious Landscape Study, a third of people in greater Boston are religiously unaffiliated, and the most common religious affiliation at just under a third is Catholic. Most of what I know about Catholicism is from the media and literature, and visiting cathedrals as a tourist, so to get to know my city a bit better, I'm going to go to a few Catholic services. I will do this as a respectful guest and earnestly try to get to know the community life of the church I visit, and be careful not to use it as cultural tourism.
  • Vik F. suggested watching the documentary “Art and Craft,” which is about an art forger. I find anything to do with the world of fine art to be fascinating and bizarre, so close to my world of history museums and yet so very, very different, so I imagine I'll enjoy this.
  • Revise a paper I wrote in college to submit for publication. There's nothing like working with old writing to see how far you've come, but the real reason I want to do this is that I find that editing my own work, especially when editing is a challenge, helps me with my writing skills. I will tell you all whether it's as painful as I am half-expecting it to be.
  • Get to know a little bit about Brazilian-American culture. According to the Immigration Law Center, Brazil is one of the most common countries of origin for immigrants in Massachusetts, but I don't know much about Brazil or Brazilian-American culture.
  • Read a book that was a bestseller 100 years before I was born. Literature is a great way to access history, but we generally only read older books if they were are classics or "high literature." A year's bestsellers usually include some books that stand the test of time, and others that don't but are still a window into that year in some way.
  • Andrew C. suggested “Take a small child (under the age of 5) to a non-kid-focused museum (so not The Children's Museum or the Museum of Science). See what they see, engage with what they engage with.” I like this, it's a different way for me to look at both learning and museums.
  • Jess C.H. suggested I read "The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration" by Isabel Wilkerson. Most of what I know about the Great Migration, or movement en masse of African Americans out of the South over several decades, was what I needed to know to define it on a US history test in high school, so I'm curious to learn more.
  • Attend a meeting relating to the MBTA. Boston's public transit system is... complicated? Struggling? The source of a lot of frustration and the target of a lot of jokes, that's for sure. There are plenty of public meetings about them, and I imagine I'd learn a lot about people and my city while I'm there.