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The Participatory Museum

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  387 ratings  ·  26 reviews
Visitor participation is a hot topic in the contemporary world of museums, art galleries, science centers, libraries and cultural organizations. How can your institution do it and do it well? The Participatory Museum is a practical guide to working with community members and visitors to make cultural institutions more dynamic, relevant, essential places. Museum consultant ...more
Paperback, 388 pages
Published March 2nd 2010 by Museum 2.0
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Jenny (Reading Envy)
May 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book says it is about museums, but it has been popular amongst the ALA Think Tank Facebook group, full of public and academic librarians. It has some great advice for designing participatory exhibits and spaces, and I got a lot out of it from a library perspective too.

"The best participatory experiences are not wide open. They are scaffolded to help people feel comfortable engaging in the activity. There are many ways to scaffold experiences without prescribing the result." - She gives an
Hannah Givens
Nov 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Awesome! Provides an entire theoretical basis for participation in museums. Why and how! Plus plenty of case studies for inspiration. Basically you can read this for theory, take the arguments to your institution as needed, and return to it as a methodological guide for any project. Brilliance.
Mar 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Very readable discussion of ways that museums can increase participation, through guest contributions, collaborations, hosting community events, etc. This would be a little hard to use as a reference, it's really a book that you read through and attempt to keep its main points in mind for the future. Simon is right on the money with a lot of this, for example, I (and I'm probably not alone here) hate museums that ask questions of the public that are just supposed to 'get you thinking', or ...more
Mar 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A book I want to press into the hands of all my museum colleagues and say "Read this before you make any more plans about the future of your museum."
I've been reading Nina's blog ( for years now, so her big ideas--ways to help visitors engage with the museum, ways for museums and visitors to work together and talk--weren't new to me. But it was revelation to have all those ideas in one spot.
This is one of those books I read with a pencil in hand--underlining key points
Dec 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, business
I found something that made me want to jump up and down on almost every page of this book. As a museum worker, I long to see more of the community engage with museums, and throughout Simon's book I consistently had the thought: "YES! Someone totally GETS everything a museum could be!"

The examples she uses of participatory models are extremely poignant. Simon has the ability to imagine how incredibly innovative systems like Nike + can be relevant to the museum industry, and does a marvelous job
Betsy McGee
Jun 05, 2011 rated it it was ok
I love Nina Simon's ideas about make museums more interconnected with their guests and communities, but I could have taken or left this book. It would be wonderful if all museums could be participatory, but I feel that, in all honesty, there will always be a place for the cold, look-but-don't-touch museums of old. To me, the book borders on "preachy" in some places. That being said, the book is an absolute must for anyone looking into museums as a career.
Jul 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
- Packed with a bunch of great examples and case stories
- Nicely split between a introducing theoretical part and a more practical second half
- At times it can feel a bit out-dated, but Nina's blog provides for great supplementary reading
Jan 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: museum-study
This book probably deserves a higher rating than I gave it. It is loaded with examples for museums, historic sites, libraries and other institutions of how to go beyond the typical one-directional information sharing process with its visitors. Some of the suggestions are strictly for larger venues, employing expensive high tech equipment and services. Others are as simple as markers and sticky notes.

Perhaps it was a little overwhelming for me in one take, and there was definitely a fair amount
Mar 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a truly great book on museology but I have to admit it took me a long time to get through it over a period of years because it is so dense with ideas and case studies. Now I need to go back to all the pages I flagged to see what I wanted to do with them. :-) Simon's Art of Relevance is a much quicker read to get started and for sharing with boards, etc.
Sep 13, 2017 rated it it was ok
A good book for organizations, especially cultural institutions to make themselves more participatory. Case studies and clear examples populate the pages. In my opinion the second section of the book was more engaging.
Seema Rao
A seminal work that questions all the received expectations of museum work.
Jan 04, 2011 added it
Shelves: museums
If you work in museums, you NEED to read this book. Largely because everybody else is. Or at least says they are.

I want to hate Nina Simon, but I don't. She IS a business woman selling a product which she's happy to help you with (please make no mistake) and yes I think she can be a little too Pollyanna at times, but I tend to agree with her and find I like many of her ideas. What I do (really) hate is the cult that has grown up around her. Her ideas are good, but they're not the only ones. I
May 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I have been reading Nina's Museum 2.0 blog since 2007. I always loved her ideas and examples, but really wanted a holistic framework in which to understand her ideas and place the clear applications she presented. The Participatory Museum is just that. I found it useful as someone working on a web application as well as someone interested in working in the museum field someday.

I think the book is great for cultural professionals, volunteers, museum lovers, educators and anyone interested in the
Ed Smiley
Sep 04, 2011 rated it liked it
This book is for those interested in museum interactivity, or participatory events. It is written by our new head of the Museum of Art and History in Santa Cruz CA.

Having met Nina, and having seen her enthusiasm, I was able to appreciate this book more than some general readers.

She argues fairly persuasively that participation and collaboration with the community is a meaningful value for public cultural institutions, form an adjunct to, not a substitute for, or an alternative to, its other
Michael Fiegenschuh
Jan 12, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: museums
Great book. Given the evolution of visitor expectations in the "Experience Economy," this book could easily be titled The Future of Museums. It will be exciting to see how institutions embrace and execute these ideas in the coming years.
Oct 28, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: grad-class
Great! This is a read that all museum professionals and aspiring museum professionals. There are great ideas about incorporating participatory platforms in the museum. It took me a while to get through it, but that is okay, it was still really informative.
Feb 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I highly recommend this book to everyone working in the museum field. This book provides an opportunity to open up a conversation at your museum about the future of museums and how we will act, look, and remain relevant.
Brian Newman
Mar 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
Great book for thinking about participatory culture and art
Sheri Trapp-Cordova
Mar 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: design
Engaging look at how new media are being used to create social experiences in the world of museum (exhibition) design.
Jul 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-again, museum
Honestly this needs to be the museum bible.
Vincent Houghtaling
Mar 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Valuable, approaches a lot of the needs of a modern museum with regards to engaging content and making a worthwhile experience for visitors.
Jul 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Also applicable for libraries! Fascinating ideas and great instruction on how to pull this off!
Jan 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Excellent practical guide to creating not just great exhibits but a participatory environment.
Jacqueline van Leeuwen
Apr 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A great and very inspiring book!
Linda Derrick
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