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Takeaways and useful suggestions from the seminar on Libraries and Museums in an Era of Participatory Culture.

Held in Austria in 2011, museums and libraries from over 30 cultures shared how terms such as community, access, and public value differ across culture and geography.

The seminar emphasized embracing new and changing ideas and perspectives such as evolving language, museums as multitasking civic centers, and demonstrating public value and social impact.

All these concepts feed into the larger idea of creating a true participatory culture and standard within museums and libraries.

To read the full article, you can purchase this issue of History News. The following is an excerpt:

“We are not your grandfather’s libraries or museums,” wrote Beth Takekawa, the executive director of the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience in Seattle, Washington, after attending a seminar on “Libraries and Museums in an Era of Participatory Culture” in Salzburg, Austria. Takekawa was one of fifty-eight library, museum, and cultural heritage leaders from thirty-one countries who gathered in October 2011 at the Salzburg Global Seminar to explore this exciting, highly relevant topic. As they wrestled with the meaning of “participation” writ large, the group soon became aware that such terms as “community,” “access,” and “public value” resonate quite differently in the disparate parts of our planet today.

The seminar was convened jointly by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the primary source of federal support for libraries and museums in the United States, and the Salzburg Global Seminar, a nonprofit organization known for its global convening power and based at Schloss Leopoldskron in Salzburg, Austria. The four-day session plunged leaders from Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and North and South America into discussion, debate, and the development of a series of practical recommendations for ensuring maximum access to and engagement in the work of museums and libraries worldwide.

Over the course of the seminar, they explored the role of their institutions at a time when individuals can carry the equivalent of an entire encyclopedia on their mobile devices and when people can use social media platforms to share information, analyze data, create new knowledge, and connect to communities of interest. Such technological developments obviously contribute to the creation of changing expectations for the museum and library experience. Organizers designed this seminar to engage thinkers with a wide variety of professional experiences (approximately half came from libraries and half from museums) and cultural and regional backgrounds to debate the changing roles and responsibilities of libraries and museums in their societies. As one participant wrote afterwards, “The combination of participants from various countries, continents, experiences, and life paths was a wonderful, unexpected, mixed masala.” Inspired by case studies from around the globe, personal stories, and more formal presentations, leading to sometimes contentious, always lively discussions, the participants recognized that this is a critical moment for libraries and museums worldwide and a time for possible reorientation and reinvention.