Why Does a “Local Approach” Matter for Children and the Children’s Museum Field?

A local approach to creating meaning, celebrating one’s place in the world and carrying  out our most important work within the context of our local community is critically important for the children’s museum field. By adopting a local framework and creating a greater emphasis on the uniqueness of place, children’s museums can become more self-reliant, individualized, diverse, and transformative for the communities in which they are located. A “cookie cutter” or one-size-fits-all approach, while possibly initially easier to instigate, is actually counter-productive to creating a sustainable organization. Instead, experiences that grow out of the inventive minds and hands of the people who live there—the young and old alike—can help build and sustain the organization and community.

Kids on the rooftop deck garden at Madison Children's Museum

Adopting a local framework may be the next bold move for the children’s museum field. Being able to understand one’s place, its rich resources, and its value to the community is an important part of civic education for young people. As children of today reconcile the limits of our ecosystems with the demands of our consumer society, and resources become less plentiful, there will be an even more urgent need to respond to and live within the unique circumstances of their geographical place. Our own individual place provides us with richness and opportunity that can’t and shouldn’t be replicated anywhere.