As anchors in these communities and custodians of community identity, museums are increasingly looked to not simply as places that engage and inspire our imaginations, but as agents of social change. Museums have shifted their role in society from passive repositories to active participants that make communities vibrant and sustainable. Now, more than ever, museums are uniquely poised to make significant contributions to the social, cultural, and educational fabric of Alberta.

A responsibility to maintain

Museums have a responsibility to influence awareness about cultural inclusion and celebration through programs that offer the opportunity for communities to interact, celebrate, and understand the worldviews that shape not only ourselves, but those from other social, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds.

"Regional museums are often very successful at this because they were established by local people who had a passion for their community’s history..."

To do this successfully, museums must be in tune with the community it serves. This relationship takes many years to establish and requires that the staff of the museum make a commitment to engage with the local community, especially the youth. Regional museums are often very successful at this because they were established by local people who had a passion for their community’s history and are eager to share this knowledge with the next generation.

Getting our youth involved

Some of the most successful examples of museum programs making a difference in their communities are those that offer youth programs. By engaging youth at an early age, museums are uniquely positioned to provide a sense of cultural identity and belonging in an ever-changing society.

The Leighton Art Centre, just outside Calgary, offers unique art programs that seek to engage youth with art and nature, in order to nurture their appreciation and visual literacy. The Esplanade Arts and Heritage Centre in Medicine Hat also has several youth art programs that seek to share the stories of our great collective culture, told through art and artifacts. There are many more museums across the province — from rural villages to urban centres — that seek to be that bridge of trans-generational knowledge and a safe place of learning and development.

Leaders in innovation

Alberta’s museums are seen as leaders in Canada for their innovative programs, community engagement, sustainability, and dedication to the highest standards of museum practice. Explore one today — take the kids! Together, museums and communities can contribute to a shared vision of cultural belonging and understanding for all its participants and future generations.

Carrie-Ann Lunde, Communications Lead,
Alberta Museums Association