Museums and local development: an introduction to museums, sustainability and well-being

Karen Elizabeth Brown (Guest editor)

Research output: Contribution to journalSpecial issuepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


The ability to ‘Think global, act local’ (Patrick Geddes) has never been more pressing for museum and heritage professionals. In recent years, museums, natural and cultural heritage sites and their communities around the world have been acutely affected by natural disasters, migration, conflict, war, lack of security, youth unemployment and related societal and environmental challenges. The situation is exacerbated in low- to middle-income countries where maintaining equilibrium, well-being, and community resilience is an urgent necessity in the face of global imbalances and rapid change, and for communities in remote rural and island locations, the challenges of globalisation are intensified by socio-political and environmental instability, lack of access to resources, depopulation and unethical development. Viewed in this context, museums and heritage organisations bear a huge responsibility for the communities they serve in the 21st century. Studies have shown that museums are among the most trusted public institutions around the globe (Museums Association 2013; Aksoy, in Report on Policy Round Table 2019, p. 5), and they therefore have an ethical obligation to support social cohesion and development, as well as to maintain traditional standards in collections care and management. As a result, museum and heritage professionals have increasingly found themselves asking: ‘what are museums for?’ If museums in the 21st century are coming to be understood as ‘polyphonic spaces’ concerned with ‘planetary well-being’ (ICOM website, ‘Museum Definition’ page), then in addition to paying attention to traditional concerns, museology as a discipline needs to keep abreast of debates in global challenges and sustainable development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-3
JournalMuseum International
Issue number3-4
Early online date23 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Museums
  • Development
  • Sustainability
  • Community
  • Climate change
  • Well-being


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