To whom does your museum belong?
Many organizations have a difficult time answering questions about community--defining who they serve, and if they are adequately representing them. When important communities are missing from our interpretations, we lose significant elements of the complex stories we are trying to tell. Museums and historic sites have an opportunity and responsibility to not only develop new relationships with underserved groups, but learn to share their authority with non-traditional historians. Join AASLH for a webinar on how a community and an organization came together to build an exhibition that they all could be proud of.
In 2013, the Minnesota Historical Society was approached by a committee from their local Hmong community with a proposal for an exhibit about Hmong history and culture, anchored on the 40th anniversary of the first Hmong refugees’ arrival in Minnesota. Concerned about having their impact on the state lessened in the eyes of MNHS’ visitors, the committee asked the institution to fully collaborate on the project by sharing curatorial control with Hmong community representatives. Instead of dismissing the proposal, the MNHC welcomed the opportunity to mark this important anniversary and build on their institutional objective to improve internal and external diversity and inclusion. From March 2015 to January 2016, Peb Yog Hmoob Minnesota (We Are Hmong Minnesota) drew near record-breaking attendance, with over 4,000 visitors, including 62% who self-identified as from Asian Pacific heritage.
This presentation, including representatives from the We Are Hmong Minnesota committee and the Minnesota Historical Society, is a conversation on relationship building and community outreach, through sharing authority. Using real-life examples with clear takeaways, learn the strategies that MNHS used to develop a truly community based exhibition and programming series, and strive toward building a long-lasting, mutually rewarding relationship with an underserved group.
Peb Yog Hmoob—We are Hmong Minnesota won an AASLH Leadership in History award in 2016.
About the Speakers:
Brian Horrigan has been Exhibit Curator at the Minnesota Historical Society since 1990, and was co-curator, with Noah Vang, of Peb Yog Hmoob/We Are Hmong Minnesota.
Noah Vang is an independent researcher from St. Paul, Minnesota. Aside from writing and working full-time, he also volunteers for local community causes and events.
Sieng Lee is the exhibit designer for the Peb Yog Hmoob/We Are Hmong Minnesota exhibit. He is also a visual artist who creates work about his Hmong American experience.
Nicholas J. Hoffman is Chief Curator at the History Museum at the Castle in Appleton, Wisconsin. He has served on the Awards Committee since 2012 and will become the committee chair in 2017.
Dan Spock is the Director of the History Center Museum and Exhibitions & Diversity Initiatives at the Minnesota Historical Society.