Participation and the Museum

Final Reports


The working group "Together"

From the wide range of possible tasks given by the Världskulturmuseet our group decided to work on the new exhibition for the family room, which should be a permanent exhibition but at the same time be changeable over the next years. We choose “together” as the subject for the new exhibition.

We identified the strongest connection between the museums task of creating a permanent exhibition and our research field of participation in the programme “being visitors – becoming producers” in the way participatory strategies can change the exhibition content by many actors. By doing so, the exhibition is not only varied and therefore interesting for many visits in a certain period of time, but also the museum space becomes a “contact zone”(Schorsch, 2013) and a forum of social negotiation.

To focus on this bond we looked from two angles: on one hand, we started with an explorative and process-orientated definition of the term and concept of “being together”. On the other hand, we looked at participatory strategies in museums and how to apply them to the topic of “together” in a family room.

Regarding the term “together”, one of your first finding was, that being together can be seen as a topic and a method at the same time. By trying to define the topic of together, we developed subtopics, which can be understood as reasons for and efforts of being together. We defined the following subtopics as important aspects of the term “together”: relationships, secureness, power, exchange, roots & heritage, orientation, experiences, creation. Because being together is a highly emotional topic and an important part of being human, the topic “together” provides an easy and personal approach. Therefore, we valued the topic “together” as suitable for any age, which is important in a family room. Concerning being together as a method, we thought of activities people do together like playing, laughing, exploring etc. Beside activities, we also considered actors with whom you get together, what leads us to our second finding.

We recognized that “together”, seen as topic and method, provides perfect conditions to create a network: together with the objects, with visitors and different communities the museum can initiate a contact zone in Gothenburg dealing with global issues and having an exchange via the web. By doing so, the Världskulturmuseet provides many possibilities of participation. Having this conceptual approach in mind, we wanted to step deeper in the exhibition design. With the desire to allow a lot of participation in the family exhibition we focused on two different approaches: the objects and the exhibition space. To meet the concerns of creating a family exhibition we did a research on children abilities and learning theory (Kolb, Mc Carthy) to provide them accessibility which allows participation. To meet the concerns of creating a contact zone, we thought about possibilities for communities to participate.

Regarding our results, we decided that “relational objects” (Krankenhagen, 2013) are well suitable for children and their families to be explored in the exhibition but also interesting for communities to connect their mission with the museum’s space through the objects. As example for relational objects, we choose different puppets from the museum’s collection. Relational objects, as puppets, are made for (inter-)personal use and therefore, connect people, allow exchange and create networks. As examples for communities that are linked to puppets, we defined theatre groups, art and textile classes, schools etc.
Based on the idea of relational objects, we created the idea of an “experiment room”, where visitors can approach to the objects (that can be changed after a period of time) in many different ways. The experiment room can be seen as the starting point of the exhibition. Around this starting point many rooms are arranged radially. The rooms pick up the subtopics described on top and the visitors can decide freely where to go. The concept of the exhibition is described more detailed in our video presentation and the online presentation.

Also referring to our results, we designed two rooms as examples: the relationship-room and the experience-room. For the experience-room we considered the baby’s visual field and designed show cases inserted in the ground to crawl on, a hilly landscape allows older children to climb on and explore the surrounding from different levels and a mysterious atmosphere awakes their exploratory spirit. The relationship-room in contrast is based on an everyday-life atmosphere with a cosy bed, family portraits and storytelling, which invites families to reflect their own family life and to make their own family portrait in the exhibition.


Philipp Schorsch (2013): Contact zones, Third Space and the Act of Interpretation. In: Museum and Society 11 (1), p. 68–81., 05.11.2013.
Stefan Krankenhagen (2013): Das relationale Objekt. Überlegungen anhand transnationaler Sammlungsstrategien der Gegenwart. In: R. Johler, C. Marchetti, B. Tschofen und C. Weith (Hg.): Kultur_Kultur.: Denken. Forschen. Darstellen. 38. Kongress der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Volkskunde in Tübingen vom 21. bis 24. September 2011: Waxmann Verlag GmbH, p. 384–393.


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