It’s a Thesis Revelation!

Callie Montalvo

One of my few different revelations when crossing through various resources for my thesis is mainly from the work of a few other students, whom are also from fellow graduate museum programs. Now let me just go back and give a brief overview of how my thesis has progressed. It all started from focusing on museum inclusion for visitors that have different cognitive disabilities. Since the summer, that focus has changed to those in our museum audiences that have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, not just including veterans and military families. As I was just getting into resources from outside the museum field, I came across a blog called the Incluseum, which is a blog discussing the issues of museum social inclusion throughout areas such as disability, poverty, immigration, and race. And later on this summer, I found a bunch of articles from the Museums & Social Issues Journal, which also focuses on social issues and how museum.  

Coming from the Museology program at the University of Washington, a few of their students have contributed to the Fall 2011 issue with different topics that discussed different audiences. One, discussing museums’ role in had given me some kind of light bulb in my brain. This article, contributed by Tomasina DeVitis, who discusses the issue of children who age out of foster care. There are many issues that come with this particular audience. When aging out of the system, the constant moving has already interrupted education or dropping out, and they can fall into the groups of young adults to be incarcerated, have young pregnancies, post traumatic stress, and even homelessness. This was another audience that museums could reach out to as further awareness and support for resources. 

Photograph from Seeing Their Voices, an exhibition 
from Friends of Children, Inc., in Amherst, MA.

DeVitis discussed a few cases, but in this excerpt, talked about an advocacy collaborative organization called Youth Offering Unique Tangible Help (YOUTH), which is a non-profit organization made up of former foster youth and social work professionals, who aim to improve child welfare practices. YOUTH may not be a museum, however, there have been designed two exhibitions to educate social workers about the foster care population. The first, Museum of Lost Childhoods, shows artifacts and reminders of horrid past that foster children have experienced while in the system. The other, which has been displayed right across from the first exhibit, is the Museum of Foster Youth Empowerment, which displays the empowerment of foster youth, also in ways to better the foster care system.

What lit the light bulb for me is that as all the students had said in their excerpts, museums could use opportunities like this to connect, creating partnerships with these organizations, while increasing awareness amongst their audiences about this particular social issue. Then I realized, some of these other audiences, like foster care youth, I could include in my thesis instead of talking about veterans, military, refugees and victims of sexual or physical abuse. Foster youth can fall into the category of those with PTSD as well. The Museums and Social Issues Journal has opened my eyes a bit more to the other audiences that could be looked at for my thesis, and I intend to include them.