Putting the ‘Public’ in Public Programs: An Inclusive Approach to Program Development in Museums

Kimberly Keith (Goldsmiths College, University of London)
Download the full paper here (PDF).

Abstract
This paper outlines how museums could better address the process of developing public programs. It presents a strategy for involving community members more meaningfully in the program development process, in a way that
can be tailored to the specific audiences of individual museums. It also
addresses the contribution that community-based programs make in fostering
diverse museum audiences and points towards ways of expanding sustainable audience support.

An examination of current public programs, art work projects and available
toolkits provides a view of the landscape in which this kind of strategy would be
placed. This initiative is different from other offerings in that it will literally put the ‘public’ back in public programs, by encouraging the participation of a diverse populace in the planning process. It proposes that an innovative methodology, which draws on aspects of evaluation research, action research and ethnography, can facilitate a new paradigm for public program development. This combination of approaches, while employing the methods of surveys, focus groups and interviews, produces rich and varied data which aids in more imaginative and innovative ways of involving museum users throughout the program design and development process.

Keywords: program development, museum, audience development, public
programs

Kimberly Keith earned her Bachelor of Arts from The Evergreen State College in 1990, and her Master of Non Profit Leadership from Seattle University in 2004.  Ms. Keith worked in the field of museums for over fifteen years developing educational programs, most specifically programs for at-risk youth and diverse audiences.  She trained in management at the Smithsonian in 2000 and was a New Leaders Fellow at the National Youth Employment Coalition in 1999.  She is currently pursuing her PhD in sociology at Goldsmiths College, University of London, researching leadership and sustainable public programming in the cultural arts sector.

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