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The Wider World: Getting to Know a New Area

Summer is often a time of change. Many recent graduates of the Tufts Museum Studies program are either already in, or in the process of finding, jobs that will take them to places they have never lived. Many of us are interning somewhere new to us. It’s great!

If museums are community institutions, and I believe they are (or should be), then when museum professionals are new to the community their museum serves, getting to know the neighborhood isn’t just a fun part of a new adventure in life. It’s an essential part of being  engaged and responsible in your new role. Here are some resources for getting to know a new area.

If your new area has a substantial population of a different ethnic background from you, or a significant low-income population, the series of “How Not to Be a Gentrifier” articles that were going around the internet a few months ago can be quite useful, especially if your own background includes racial or economic privilege. The most well-known and perhaps “original” version of this article refers specifically to Oakland, California. For a more generally applicable version, I recommend the one on Alternet. Both were written by Dannette Lambert.

Image by RedJar on Flickr, some rights reserved.

Image by RedJar on Flickr, some rights reserved.

Believe it or not, Mashable has some pretty good tips for putting your finger on the pulse of a new area, especially if it’s a city — Some of these are common sense, but when you’re dealing the the day-to-day details of living in a new place, like, “when’s trash day again?” it can be nice to have a list like this to help you remember the resources available to you for the more fun stuff.

While digging up resources for this post, I also noticed a number of common recommendations:
– Explore on foot or by bicycle to really get to know the place.

– Explore by public transit, even if you have a car.
– Take a guided walking tour offered by a community organization, another museum, or even a local hostel or hotel.
– Join local mailing lists or online communities.
I also loved one gem I only saw in one article. The rest of the article wasn’t very good, so I’m paraphrasing the best of it: read fiction set in your new area and written by locals. If possible, read local poetry, look at local art, listen to local music, and watch local films as well.
Have you moved to a new area recently, or do you have memories of getting to know a new place that you want to share? What are your recommendations? Feel free to chime in in the comments!

1 Comment

  1. Tegan

    Here’s another article I found recently. This one is specifically about gentrification. Many of us don’t yet have the opportunity to make large change in our museums, but I think we can still use articles like this one to think about the role of our museums in our community.

    “9 Ways Privileged People Can Reduce the Negative Impact of Gentrification,” by Katy Kreitler. http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/10/9-ways-privileged-gentrification/

    #4 Comes up again and again for museums, especially those that have recently been founded, have opened a new branch, or moved.

    #5 Includes questions that we should be asking about our own institutions. Are our custodial staff being paid a living wage? (Whether the part-time educators and front desk staff are getting a living wage is also a very important question, but it’s less likely to directly confront gentrification.) Is there something in the museum cafe that’s affordable for everyone?

    #7 invites us to question the presence of security guards and bouncers. Clearly, this is a bit different in museums. We do need those guards. However, there are ways that museums can perpetuate the same problems that the increased police presence in a gentrified neighborhood can. Do the staff assume “drunk” when a person who looks homeless walks in to a free museum? Do they assume “disruptive” when a group of African American teens approaches the admissions desk? If so, how can we change this?

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