Good Quotes from Elizabeth Merritt

JapaneseGardensMy last few posts have centered around my current thinking on the future of museums and the role they may play in evolving education models. This is probably my last post on the subject, but I wanted to capture some of the key points that Elizabeth Merritt, Founding Director of Center for the Future of Museums, made on Steve Hardagon’s webinar. The webinar is archived on his site and I highly recommend watching it if this topic interests you.

One point that I loved, and I hope to get the quote exactly right: “…we create systems where we develop a fear of failure. Unless people are unafraid to fail and understand the benefits of failure, we’re not going to have a truly innovative and creative society.” I can already imagine Thomas Edison, Charles Darwin, and thousands of other scientists and inventors from our history applauding this statement.

She continues, “In museums, you don’t feel wrong or dumb…you just explore.

As a former Montessori teacher and now someone who sees great potential in a movement towards a more informal learning environment, this statement intrigues me. I think about how much I, as an adult, have learned when visiting some of the world’s greatest museums. There were no quizzes, no standards to follow, yet I took away knowledge and appreciation of art, history, politics, and design that could not have happened otherwise.

Finally, she said something that I have heard in earlier discussions with those who are concerned about the future of our National Parks. She remarked on the fact that many museums still only appeal to a small group of affluent, Caucasian audiences. This is concerning when we consider that, by 2040, we will likely be a minority-majority society. Museums, symphonies, the ballet, national parks, and other cultural organizations are currently  struggling to appeal to a broader, more diverse, younger audience. This will be an important trend to watch.

Good food for thought – and thank you, Steve, for hosting such an intriguing conversation.

(Photo: Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon taken September 2010)

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