Where Can You Find a Creative Museum?

Where can you find a creative museum?  Pretty much anywhere, it seems.  Our survey respondents shared an amazing variety of museums that they thought were creative in some way.  From around the world all of you told us about museums large and small;  history museums, art museums,  historic sites,  science museums and a couple slightly unclassifiable (the City Museum in St. Louis, of which one respondent said, “Intensely artistic. Engages with adults creativity as well as children’s. Constantly changing. They do not appear to have any one model or one right way of doing anything. They are fearless explorers. They show both their creative products and engage visitors in the creative process.” and the Museum of Jurassic Technology).

Top responses, getting five or more mentions were:

American Visionary Art Museum  “They do something that no other museum can. Showcasing interesting things in interesting shows that other places can’t or won’t do.”

“The whole place is whimsical and fun. they make exhibitions about laughter and water deities. I’ve never known anyone to feel alienated or out of place as a visitor their. they have the best museum store I’ve ever been in and one of the best restaurants in Baltimore… with a view to boot!”

The Walker Art Center  “open to discussion, sharing, ideas, public involvement etc.”   “Everything seems to flow through the design office and presents a professional and cutting edge look and design.”

“It’s out of the box and unique with its web approach, which is one of the most important ‘first-impression’ components to a museum’s identity. It understands interaction and what people need to stick around longer, and learn more. Asking audiences their opinions has a huge role in understanding that, and they do a good job of incorporating opinions.”

Denver Art Museum   “In a lot of ways the Denver Art Museum is very creative. They have integrated educational spaces in each of their collections, allowing and encouraging visitors to create and explore as part of their museum experience.”

“I was recently impressed with “Marvelous Mud” at the Denver Art Museum. I loved the idea of a unifying theme that ran through multiple exhibitions. I felt that each exhibit– from contemporary work to ancient ceramics– was an interesting and unique interpretation of the theme, and I like to think that curators and educators were given lots of room to decide how they would respond to it.”

Lower East Side Tenement Museum  “asserts a point of view but fosters dialogue”

“They take risks, they design experiences that are visitor centered and they have no fear of trying new things.”

“I love the relevant connection to the past and today, how controversial topics are not ignored but invited.”

Brooklyn Museum   “always coming up with fantastic tools for engaging the visitor, both in person and online.”

Oakland Museum   They really seem to be pushing boundaries, engaging the public in new ways, shifting how the objects and art are organized and displayed.

Although many of the museums that received multiple mentions were larger ones,  small museums of all sorts received shout-outs as well.

“I love the Flipje en Streekmuseum Tiel “Doesn’t sound like much but they turned the museum upside down and inside out to reach out to new people and engage existing visitors. Amazing.”

“The Irish House Museum in South Africa, Limpopo Province, Polokwane. ” Some units are creative and some are not. The heritage management unit is so creative. It links communities with heritage sites adjacent to them in order to archive its objective and that helps immensely in terms of heritage managemnt. Communities adjacent to those are now aware and see those sites as value to them. Heritage awareness outreach is amazing. Most of our museum visitors used to think that museum are merely repositories for old object but now, they know where to discover their tangible. The unit involves stakeholders, uses them as story tellers to school learners and gives them a platform to raise their ideas and concerns.

“Not just one museum – more smaller museums are able to be “creative,” I think. IMHO it has something to do with the ability to see and make connections amongst seemingly unrelated things. For example, I think history museums that look at aspects of science and its impact on the past are being creative. Art museums that look to attract older men to their exhibitions.”

“Sometimes I think start-up museums are more creative because they are less entrenched in their practices and also have less to “lose” in terms of funding and support.”

We hadn’t set an easy task for all of you, and some of the comments reflected that challenge:

“To be honest, I can’t think one. However, I’ve found that the organizations most receptive to new ideas/novel approaches are tiny, community run museums. for the most part, these organizations have no preconceived notion of what a museum should look like or the kinds of things they should or shouldn’t be doing. As a result, they tend to judge an idea based on its own merit, rather than how “museum-worthy” it is.”

“This question made me think for half an hour already, and I´m still don´t have an answer.”

In reading the responses,  several threads stand out to me:  a passionate commitment to mission,  a deep commitment to community (however that may be defined) and a willingness to take risks.   We’ll be exploring all of these as our work continues, but we have identified several kinds of creative museums we’d like to know more about.  So,  fellow creative museum practitioners,  here are the kind of places we’d love to hear more about:

  • a small museum that’s creative with no funding
  • a creative department within non-creative institution that’s hacking the system
  • a museum that found a way to weave creativity into day-to-day work, despite all the other stuff in work-load
  • a museum that proved to its community that creative is better
  • a museum that did some failing but kept on going
  • a historic house museum with limited space and limited mission that found a way to be creative anyway

Got suggestions?  Comment away, or contact either one of us. linda [at] lindabnorris.com or rainey [at] raineytisdale [at] gmail.com.


2 thoughts on “Where Can You Find a Creative Museum?

  1. Hi, this is a great site. I would like to nominate the San Francisco Mobile Museum created by Maria Mortati. It does not have a fixed location, but “pops up” in different places, presenting different themes, throughout the San Francisco area. It is a great example of an experimental museum format as well as visitor-created exhibitions. Maria has a very informative website, and there is also an article about her organizing concepts in the Spring 2012 Exhibitionist (a shameless plug from the editor) at http://www.name-aam.org
    I look forward to reading about more examples. Gretchen

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