10 April 2018

WHY WE SHOULD BOTHER WITH EXPANDING OUR GLOBAL MUSEUM EXPERIENCES

MUSINGS ABROAD

BY: KRISTEN MCLAUGHLIN

There is one thing that writing this column over the last year has made me realize: that in this field, people have the tendency to get comfortable. Comfortable in our knowledges, comfortable in our practices, and comfortable in our circles, whether it is Southern Ontario, West Coast, or East Coast. Whether it is America, Canada, the UK, or Australia.


In writing this column and wanting to have varied topics for each new post, I learned about so many stories going on around the world that are pertinent, useful, and humbling, to our experiences working in Canada. I have written about how nations deal with memorializing traumatic pasts in Eastern Europe and had friends bring forth recent and touching related family stories. I have discovered the powerful stories of women at work in museums in Australia and the intriguing trends of new museums around the world that we should be paying attention to.

I am passionate about the idea of museums as political players on a global scale, as sites of international relations, and got to write and research about that. I've learned so much more about the current tensions in the Philippines and how corrupt governments lead to interesting (and often incorrect) museum creations and the severe obstacles that museums in India face that can be easily related to small museums in our own country and continent. I learned about what it means to keep or erase memory through the lens of the horrific history of comfort women in Japan and the exciting local community heritage preservation work being done in Peru.

For example, go visit a heritage site or museum in a different country! Here's 19-year-old me, 
taking a bad selfie at Angkor in Cambodia. 

This alone is so much, and yet, barely anything at all. Museums, heritage practitioners, legislators, and visitors all across this world are doing interesting and amazing things in this field. There is also a lot of trauma, erasure, frustration, and obstacles that are valuable to learn about and appreciate, and can put your own experiences into perspective.

I like to learn. I think many people do--human curiosity is a trait we all possess. It is this curiosity that leads to exciting new steps in fields, to new discoveries, to paving the way and making a better world for all of us. The optimistic part of me has to believe that. So to sit back and get comfortable in our museum desk chairs, concerned only with what is happening in our vicinity, may not always be in our best interest. Local focus has its purpose and its need; this I will not deny.

However, by taking two steps out of our worlds and into someone else's--reading their stories, understanding their government museum structure, or hearing about what amazing work is being done by them--can inspire us, reinvigorate us, and give us new goals, directions, and ideas. I am a firm believer in this concept. Nothing beautiful or new or world-changing happens in isolation.

Our big/little world. Source.

So as I graduate this program and leave this column behind, I ask my readers to do this: take a step out of your world. Go apply for a job or an internship abroad. Volunteer at an international heritage or art organization. Go read a different country's heritage laws, just for kicks. Learn. Grow. And take what you learn and apply it to all your future endeavours. After all, we are not so far apart from each other in today's world.

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