MyAmericanFuture

MyAmericanFuture
MyAmericanFuture

Saturday, February 8, 2014

February 8-9, 2014: Elizabeth Duclos-Orsello’s Guest Post

[Elizabeth Duclos-Orsello is Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies and Coordinator of American Studies at Salem State University. She’s also one of Salem’s most active and engaged public scholars and community members, and has done a great deal of work with all of the city’s historic and cultural sites, including the House of the Seven Gables.]

First, two prior pieces of Elizabeth’s on my week’s final two topics:
And on historic and yet contemporary sites such as the House: http://www.valleyadvocate.com/article_print.cfm?aid=5763
Now, two new paragraphs from Elizabeth on these and other questions:
“Recently, I have been writing and talking a lot about applying the concept of “shared authority” to the process by which museums might begin to identify, learn about and then serve broader social needs. This process, rooted in ideas of philosopher Jacques Rancière (and reinforced in various ways by the likes of American Studies scholars such as Karen Halttunen) takes as a given that in the process of creating or developing a “project” or a “goal” someone (in this case someone from a museum) who knows something engages with someone (outside the museum) who knows something else. There is no way forward without recognizing the “other” as valuable to the thing being called a “partnership.”
I am buoyed by the fact that this is the process by which the Gables has recently undertaken its new approach to Settlement work, inviting proposals from non-profits in which non-museum partners who effect social change to explain their needs and work, articulate that work’s intersection with the Gables’ mission and suggest partnership projects which will move both organizations forward. The Gables staff claims authority and the partner staff claim authority and, new possibilities emerge. In many of the projects, service recipients also claim authority and apply it to new understandings of what the Gables means, does, and can be in the 21st c. For highlights of this approach see here. But I can’t help but celebrate a wonderful additional American Studies layer to this approach. In the spring of 2013 an American Studies student at Salem State (where I ply my trade) worked collaboratively with me and the staff at the Gables to develop a special “Strong Women of the Gables” tour and tea that was part of a culminating event for a program that had been using the Gables as a springboard for empowerment of at-risk young women through the creative arts. Many “someones” were consulted for and co-creators in this project which did not assume special “authority”:The Gables staff encouraged this program because of its alignment with the needs of the at-risk young women, my student learned much about herself and finding her own voice even as she embraced the role of “learner” and created an interactive tour which asked the young women who participated to bring their own stories with them and insert them into our exploration of past women who lived, worked, struggled in Salem. In this way the Gables became more than a museum and more than a "social service" organization. It emerged as a living, breathing site of strength in a new way, in a new century. Plans are in the works to develop a similar experience to serve homeless and formerly homeless women in Salem.”
[Next series starts Monday,
Ben
PS. What do you think?]

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