Nicole Vasconi is currently a master’s student studying heritage studies at B-TU Cottleu,Germany. She is from the United States, where she completed her bachelor studies in music arts administration and performance at Butler University (Indianapolis). Her research interests include topics within arts and cultural management, especially looking at decoloniality, democratization and participatory art projects within cultural organizations. When not wearing her academic hat, Nicole loves to sing in choirs in the Berlin area, teach yoga at B-TU, and work on a participatory art project in coordination with Southern Indiana University and the Brandenburg State Museum of Modern Art, which will take place in March 2019.
Examining a participatory approach to museum exhibitions and management:
A case study of a Día de los Muertos celebration at Denver Botanic Gardens (United States)
Museums, as Western institutions, have inherited long and uncomfortable legacies, which affect current-day relationships between museums, local communities and other publics that the museum seeks to serve. To offset this imbalance, participatory activities and exhibitions have become a standard practice within museums, and have been called upon as a necessary tool to making museums more relevant or meaningful. However, to what extent can “participation” actually make an impact, especially in granting access to culture and democratizing museum spaces? This paper aims to explore to what extent participatory projects—especially ones that invite or involve various communities to the museum to contribute to exhibitions—can share authority within museum spaces, namely those spaces situated between the museum and project participants. In order to do this, the paper will briefly define participation in the context of today’s museum and apply it to a case study of the 2018 “Community Altars” project from Denver Botanic Gardens (Colorado, USA). The goal of this paper is not to undermine or discount the rich and meaningful work that has been done at the museum, but rather to discuss how museums can develop more equitable relationships with communities and within such participatory projects.