Description: The terms below provide some context for how the museums in this study have been interrogated for the purpose of this research project.
Identities: for the purposes of our study, this complex term refers to the ways in which personal, familial, ethnic, regional, and national conceptions of self and group are represented, expressed, and displayed in small town and rural museums. Outcomes
Economies: this term refers to the financial issues surrounding museums, including the ways in which these organizations contribute to regional growth and visibility, while requiring ongoing funding for the care of collections and work of staff members. Although small town and rural museums both produce and consume economic capital, they also increase the social capital (networks of relationships) of the museums’ patrons, staff, and volunteers, and the cultural capital (or prestige) of the town itself. In this study, the term economies describes the strategies used to increase the monetary, social, and cultural value of specific individuals and places.
Places: The literature on “place” considers how spaces become meaningful places that contribute to the production of identities and economies, ultimately providing new ways of understanding the world. Museums and historic sites play a significant role in the transformation of mere spaces into significant places, with the necessary participation of visitors who help to create those places. Museums furthermore exist in relation to and distinction from other museums and sites, another aspect we consider in our discussion of specific museums on this website.