Community and the Role of Museums

I am not convinced that there has been or ever will be a simple answer to the question of what a museum’s role is in a community. Traditionally, the general response has been that museums are places that collect, preserve, and interpret artifacts; an answer that is far too broad to be of any real value. Even if defining the role of museums had been that simple at any point in the past, it certainly isn’t any longer. The truth is that museums exist to serve their communities. As the needs of those communities change, so too should the historical and cultural institutions that serve them. It is our obligation, our duty, to constantly reassess our methods for maintaining a positive relationship with our community. In Nebraska City, that positive relationship is especially important. This extraordinary city, with a population of just 7,300, contains 10 museums. That means…Nebraska City, NE can proudly boast having the most museums per capita of any city in the nation!

The best way to ensure we are actively meeting the needs of this community and living up to our impressive title is to have an open conversation about what those needs are and how we can address them. Nebraska City’s museums are bringing a lot to the table and filling a number of different roles. Museums are dedicated to the care and preservation of our rich heritage. Museums provide entertaining activities and events for children. Museums host interesting, engaging programs for adults. Museums are trusted sources of information and valuable repositories of knowledge. Museums are convenient sources of recreation for local residents and promote economic growth by attracting tourists. Museums have the power to unite communities through their shared history. Our aim is the rethink how we fill those roles for Nebraska City.

The lines of communication are open and we want to hear what you have to say. At the end of this article is a URL for a Museums and Community Survey. The survey will also be accessible through Facebook and Twitter. This survey is anonymous and takes less than two minutes to complete. Your feedback will help us to better serve you. Whether you are a frequent visitor to the museums, have never visited the museums, or didn’t know Nebraska City had museums, I urge you to take a couple minutes and let us know what you think. We will be conducting these surveys periodically throughout the year, but your questions, comments, and concerns are welcomed anytime by contacting the Nebraska City Museum Association at or at (402) 873-4262. (Note: Survey is now closed)

Dean ShisslerComment