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Put ‘Em Up: Museums vs. The Gym

Recently, we hosted a Zumba Fitness class with instructor Amy Marshall as part of our Discover Culture program. The energy was wild and fun. The music drew in those who had planned to attend as well as those who wandered by and wanted to join the party. We started with a small handful of somewhat tentative people and before we knew it, more had joined and the place was hoppin’!

Discover Culture is a program designed to allow cultural practitioners to share their arts or activities with others once a month at the Museum. Cultural practices, like people, often immigrate from country to country and, like people, they change and adapt to new surroundings. This program allows us to actively take part in these changes and experience something new. It is one of many ways the Museum works with communities to offer programming that allows active participation and collaboration. Some past Discover Culture programs include Capoeira, Hip Hop Yoga, Argentine Tango, Swing Dance and Kung Fu. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had in a museum!

(Check our website for upcoming Discover Culture activities.)

It recently came to our attention, that some insurance companies would be uncomfortable insuring these types of events in a museum. They feared that by offering certain physical activities, museums were becoming less “typical” and more like a gym.

So we come back to our existential crisis. What is a museum? Is there something intrinsic to a museum that excludes participation in cultural or physical activities? Is the domain of museums to be purely intellectual? It reminded me that while the practice of museums has changed, the widely-held perceptions about them have not. 

How can we blame people for the misunderstanding when museum professionals don’t even agree? (See links below). In 1901 George Browne Goode said, “The museum of the past must be…transformed from a cemetery of bric-a-brac into a nursery of living thoughts.” Beyond living thoughts, museums are increasingly becoming spaces of living action: places where communities can come together and learn from one another.

What do you think? Can a museum and the gym get along? Is there a place for the here and now, the fun and active, the hip and happening, within the institution? Can a museum grow to be a part of, rather than for, its community? We certainly try.

 

Museum Definitions

International Council of Museums: http://icom.museum/who-we-are/the-vision/museum-definition.html

Canadian Museums Association: http://www.museums.ca/

Canadian Museums Act: http://www.canlii.org/en/ca/laws/stat/sc-1990-c-3/latest/sc-1990-c-3.html

American Association of Museums: http://www.aam-us.org