Why a Local Approach?

A local approach to museum, exhibit, or project development is really an extension of caring for and contributing actively to your community, and about creating spaces and experiences that feel alive, connected, and meaningful to your audience. A local approach is also the next logical step when thinking about sustainability. By creating an interconnected local or regional web, you’re building both local capacity and local security, while creating resilient systems and communities that will be needed as we face the challenges of the 21st century.

The benefits of this approach are plentiful. Working collaboratively with local neighbors, schools, individuals, non-profits and businesses, creating exhibits and programs that stem from your place, telling your local story, buying materials from local vendors, working with local craftspeople, hiring local talent, and creating grass-roots funding strategies all go a long way toward building a well loved organization that people care about sustaining.

A museum-wide local pedagogy helps organize one’s work around real local issues that have meaning for a community. A place based educational pedagogy within the museum, which is inherently rooted in the local, takes the local approach a step further, as it is all about learning about the cultures and environment in kids’ own backyards. Place-, local-, or community- based education is a way of thinking broadly about the institution’s integral involvement with the local environment and community. One of the primary reasons for a local approach in the museum setting is that it connects children to their local communities, is easily accessible, and helps children recognize and appreciate the riches all around them. Only when children recognize the benefits of their community will they have the ability to understand what is important and why it is worth preserving and protecting.

For the purposes of this Toolkit, we have broken down the benefits of a local approach into the standard three pillars of sustainability, or the triple bottom line:  social, economic, and environmental sustainability.  Within each “pillar” there are several subsets to be explored, many with links to primary research and data.

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