summer 2013 tech leafletAs museum’s work for continued relevance and diverse audiences in the coming years, there must be a turn toward being less “expert” on issues or people and more leaning toward being a conduit for compelling stories.

The challenge is that telling contemporary stories with authenticity requires museums to build capacity for understanding based on strong community relationships and listening.

Listening creates authentic connections, responsive relationships, alignment with the community and it stretches staff capacity.

In this technical leaflet, Levine Museum of the New South reveals the power and process of using listening sessions to build relationships and relevance.

In addition, a case study from the museum’s Latino New South initiative is presented to showcase the success and insights into the Latino audience found through listening.

Key Takeaways

  1. In order for cultural institutions to be ready for the changes in demographics, there must be some bold rethinking of programming, audience development and strategies.
  2. Listening sessions are not focus groups. Instead, they are a strategy for empowerment and mutual engagement.
  3. While difficult and time-intensive, listening sessions yield benefits far beyond the initial input.

Questions from Authors

  1. What issues need to be addressed in your community?
  2. Who needs to be in the room for you to understand your community and its issues?
  3. As you Ask, Seek and Listen to your community, how can the institution respond with actions?
  4. How do we transform the isolation and division within our communities into connectedness and caring for the whole?
  5. What role do museums play in creating space for civic engagement?

Technical Leaflet #263

Download (PDF, 226KB)