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Evaluating Public Engagement: Deliberative Democracy and the Science Museum

This 7-page paper by Angie Boyce and Christine Reich was submitted to and presented at NCDD’s 2004 conference in Denver, Colorado. Museum of Science, Boston reviews evaluation tools and methodologies in the dialogue and deliberation field and reflects upon how these strategies can be applied to the museum context. Can the museum be an effective space for dialogue and deliberation?

Abstract:

Can the museum be an effective space for dialogue and deliberation? Typically, the dialogue and deliberation movement has stemmed largely from the political arena, in which public participation and democratic deliberation amongst citizens are key issues, with the larger goal of increasing the legitimacy of democracy as a system of governance. Recently, this concept has been adopted in the museum context; this is a new and developing phenomenon. However, does the larger goal of increasing the legitimacy of democracy apply to the museum context?

While in post 9/11 America the museum community has emphasized the role of the museum as a civic institution, the goals of the museum, especially the science center, center more on education. With this focus on education comes an increased need for evaluation; the question of “does it work” is not necessarily linked to the larger democratic goal. This paper reviews evaluation tools and methodologies in the dialogue and deliberation field and reflects upon how these strategies can be applied to the museum context.

Resource Link: www.ncdd.org/exchange/files/docs/Boyce-EvaluatingPE.doc

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