tl;dr: Vagnone is right, but is this visionary?

Like Rica, I am both excited and skeptical of Vangone’s approach to the historic house museum. Vagnone, like Simon, shows investment in community, creativity and culture for the field. But, as Rica discusses, none of this seems particularly anarchist/revolutionary? Sure, Vagnone may be the first to compile it into a text, but much of this language has been part of what I consider public humanities literature and discussion of at least the last 5-10 years. I feel bombarded with “museum visionaries” like Simon and Vagnone to the point that this is my norm and my expectation for museums. The person that needs to be convinced is no longer me – in fact, it probably never was me, because this is the standard for thought leadership in the field at the moment.  I’m interacting with the “right” people – the people interested in change and ~revitalization~ – and so I’d be more curious to hear from classmates who’ve been on the inside about just how difficult these kind of changes are once inside the museum. Is Vagnone directing his work at the wrong person? Or am I just too optimistic about how change works?

I’d also like to point out that Vagnone takes a page from Mark Schlemmer’s playbook with #ITweetMuseums. But one should note that #ITweetMuseums started as a way for cultural workers to tweet about museums – an independent initiative, separate from the organizations themselves, and also not directly for these new audiences that Vagnone talks about for HHMs. Why is that? Well, these suggestions requires a lot of investment on the part of the community to be interested in your museum! Citizen Advisory Groups, young volunteers, N.U.D.E. tour guides, new paradigms of thinking – these are great partnerships for the museums, but I’m not sure if visitors/communities understand the benefits they would be getting from this conversation. And they’re the ones who, at the end of the day, need to be convinced as well!

I’m also interested in how Falk can play into conversations with Vagnone and Simon. Both seem more focused on getting people in the door with dynamic presentation, but not necessarily getting into the intricacies of those visitors’ needs and desires once inside. Which shifts into my next point…

I want to share the “Maslow in Museums” hierarchy of needs pyramid from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. I came across Elissa Frankle on Twitter a few weeks ago and feel it fits quite nicely with our conversations this week re: accessibility and visitor engagement. Frankle and the team behind this chart have recently piloted it in the museum with some interesting results. Publications/talks are coming soon, so I don’t want to share too much here. But if we have a few minutes in class, I’d be happy to elaborate on the conversation I had with Frankle re: its development.

3 thoughts on “tl;dr: Vagnone is right, but is this visionary?”

  1. Thanks for sharing Emily! I’d love to hear more about your conversation with Frankle and if/how she’s thinking about building on work like Falk, whose categories seem to mostly be functioning in the higher/highest psychological needs area of the hierarchy.

  2. So I’m way behind the eight ball on this, but in a search for another article I came across this post and here are my answers!

    – I encountered the “Visitor Bill of Rights” after I started talking about the hierarchy, and have started including it in subsequent talks–very good call!
    – Bryn: Falk is ALL OVER the in-person presentation when I speak about the topic! The orange level (basic psychological needs) is where I find his identities to be most relevant: visitors should be made to feel that there is no wrong way to experience the museum, and not made to feel bad for whatever about of time or energy they have to share with the museum that day. Presentation slides and notes are at

    Please reach out! Happy to talk more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *