Key Source: Museums of Ideas

Lee Hood
Museums of Ideas: Commitment and Conflict has been my inspiration for writing and researching my thesis. Focusing on specific case studies that pertain to a certain exhibition design has led me to focus on four different museums and exhibitions throughout the world. (
Museums of Ideas, is a collection of essays written by museum professionals across the world. The essays focus around institutions that are founded on the basis of ideas. Museums that approach challenging subject matter that covers human rights, social inclusion, peace, war, health, LGBTQ Rights, and climate change.

I’ve chosen three case studies from this book. Subjective Storytelling from the Museum of Free Derry in Northern Ireland, Memory as a Muse for Morality at the Museum of Memory and Tolerance in Mexico City, and Diverse Points of View from the Levine Museum of the New South. I’ve been able to make contact with Adrian Kerr, exhibition developer at the Museum of Free Derry, we have spoken twice on the actual exhibition, design, content, marketing and funding tools they have used. He writes in his essay, “Our museum was set up as a way of resolving them, not just recording them. It was set up to be an active part in the process of resolution and reconciliation, not just a passive window on the past. It was set up as part of a campaign for justice.” (Kerr, pg. 431). Each case study I have chosen from this book allows me to focus on museums of different sizes and budgets. The Museum of Free Derry has only three staff members and a very small operating budget, however small, this museum and exhibition design are still highly effective. No matter the size, successful exhibitions can be created, which is a powerful idea and tool for the museum world.

Thomas Hartnett, staff historian from the Levine Museum of the New South, has given me information regarding the process of developing their exhibition on immigration in the Charlotte, North Carolina region. The collaboration with other organizations throughout the Charlotte area, has allowed me to focus on a measure of success of certain exhibitions. Not only is the feedback on the exhibition overwhelming positive, the amount of collaboration, both from the efforts of the museum and other organizations is incredible.
While I’m still trying to reach staff members at the Museum of Memory and Tolerance in Mexico City, I’ve found excellent research on the topic of using memorials as a way to create dialogue and how they can be used in exhibitions as powerful tools to convey the message of the public, as well as the mission of the exhibition. Museums, Equality and Social Justice, another collection of essays, has given me the research to support my findings within Museums of Ideas.
Other great resources have included: Museum Revolutions: How Museums Change and are Changed, The Convivial Museum, Visitor Voices in Museum Exhibitions, and Museums and Social Issues: A Journal of Reflective Discourse.
Finding a key source, one that offers inspirations and furthers ideas, is crucial when researching and writing your thesis. Museums of Ideas has been an incredible resource for me.