Matagorda County Museum Our Blog The Importance of Inclusive Historical Exhibits in Museums

The Importance of Inclusive Historical Exhibits in Museums


In museums, historical exhibits are a vital part of the transmission of knowledge. They communicate the past to diverse audiences with a variety of backgrounds, interests, and needs. Exhibits contain interpretive judgments about cause and effect, perspective, and significance. They can memorialize tragedies and injustices, celebrate common events, or raise questions about controversies that are still relevant today. Regardless of the subject, all historical exhibits contain some artifacts that are central to their message.

A successful exhibition is more than just history displayed on the wall; it is a visual form of culture, a nonlinear argument, and a metaphor. The best exhibitions use objects, photographs, graphics, and re-created spaces to connect with people on personal levels. They are also a way to spark curiosity and imagination to understand the world in which we live.

The challenge for contemporary museums is to ensure that their exhibits are inclusive by using multiple voices, integrating a range of perspectives and including objects that represent the diversity of the communities that make up our nation. In doing so, museums can demonstrate that they are fulfilling a valuable service for their tax-exempt status and deserve the support of their donors.

Creating inclusive visual histories requires hard work, research into new sources, and engaging with the communities whose history is being told. It also requires that we look at history through the lenses of a variety of cultures, religions, and social justice issues, such as homelessness, inequality, and social mobility.

Museums need to be open and willing to discuss the content of their exhibits and to accept criticism. Trying to suppress exhibits that challenge a particular point of view or to impose an uncritical point of view is inimical to public education and should be discouraged. The same holds true for attempts to censor or limit the language used in an exhibit.

Museums need to embrace the idea that history is not only something that happened in the past; it is a continuing process of interpretation and reinterpretation. They need to be willing to take risks and explore controversial topics in order to serve their visitors’ interests and needs. The resulting exhibits can be as meaningful to those who disagree with them as they are to those who find them compelling and informative. By embracing the value of diversity, museums can build a stronger future for themselves and their constituents. We are proud to be a part of that effort. We hope that you will join us in our mission to engage, inspire, and inform the public about the richness of our region’s history.