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Crowdsourced Resources on Museums & Creative Aging

Category: Museums and Aging

IMHO, the best thing about webinars—a feature not replicated by live events—is the chat room. Chat offers the thrill of passing notes in class, but with the explicit validation of the teacher. Last month’s virtual Summit on Museums and Creative Aging was no exception. During the keynote, discussions and panels, participants shared a wealth of observations, affirmations, and resources with the 400-some people in our virtual room. It has taken me some time to go through the chat transcripts and track down links—with this post I’m sharing the consolidated wisdom of that crowd. –Elizabeth Merritt, VP Strategic Foresight and Founding Director, Center for the Future of Museums, American Alliance of Museums.


Attendees were delighted with the video shorts, some produced by Aroha Philanthropies, some by AARP, that ran between the main talks, and asked for links. Here you go:

Aroha Philanthropies has commissioned a great collection of videos about the practice of Creative Aging, most around three minutes long, featuring staff from the Heard Museum, Louisiana State Museum, and the Craft Contemporary, among others. During the Summit we aired:

Creative Aging: The Essentials

Creative Aging: Untapped Opportunity

Creative Aging: Isolated to Connected

From the folks at AARP we shared:

No Donuts For You! Fake Age Limit Targets Ageism: a “Candid Camera”-type setup in which, well, I won’t spoil it. Just watch.

AARP What Age Do Millennials Think Is ‘Old’? To file under, “it’s only funny because it’s true.”

Not shown during the Summit itself, but recommended by a participant, Baile de los Viejitos: The Dance of the Elders, from the 2015 Día de los Muertos Festival at the National Museum of the American Indian.

(Regarding videos of the Summit itself–everyone who preregistered for the free Summit received a link to view the recording, and videos of the presentations will go up on the AAM web site as member resources later this fall.)


Susie Wilkening joined us to discuss her Data Story on Older Adult Museum-Goers, reporting that, contrary to many expectations, adults over the age of 50 are the least likely age group to visit museums, and summarizing what museums could do to better serve this demographic. (You can find all of Susie’s excellent Data Story infographics on the Wilkening Consulting website.)

Creativity and Aging Study: The Impact of Professionally Conducted Cultural Programs on Older Adults, NEA 2006. This seminal research launched the NEA’s work on creative aging by measuring the benefits of professionally conducted, community-based cultural programs for the health and well-being of people aged 65 and over. The research was directed by Dr. Gene Cohen at the Center on Aging, Health & Humanities at The George Washington University.

Interventions to Reduce Ageism Against Older Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. AM J Public Health 2019. This metadata analysis examined 63 studies to compare the effectiveness of three approaches to combatting ageism: education, intergenerational contact, and a combination of those two. (Spoiler alert: the combination approach worked best.)

One participant recommended keeping an eye on Culture + Community in a Time of Transformation, a research project being conducted by Slover Linett Audience Research and LaPlaca Cohen, noting that future data mining may include analysis of how different age cohorts interacted with arts and culture organizations during the pandemic, including stats on digital engagement. (The project has already published a report analyzing the data to illuminate BIPOC perspectives.)

Some great organizations, exhibits, and initiatives related to aging

The exhibit Building Bridges: Breaking Barriers, part 1 and part 2, hosted by Ruth’s Table, “aims to help break barriers in perception by recognizing the unique agility and skill possessed by professional older artists at the pinnacle of their careers, their continued value and contribution to the arts and society, leading us to building bridges of an intergenerational nature.”

The Minneapolis Institute of Art is working with The Cultural Wellness Center (CWC) and their artists and scholars to offer art-making around the theme of “legacy” for MIA’s existing audiences and community members of African heritage served by CWC. (This came up in a discussion around how recruiting community “culture bearers” as teaching artists was a way for museums to share power and authority.)

The Frye Art Museum in Seattle offers a suite of creative aging programs and related resources to “explore the rich potential of aging and offer opportunities to impact the community’s health and wellbeing,” with an emphasis on serving adults living with dementia. (You might also be interested in related articles on their Frye from Home blog.)


Here are some resources and links related to specific segments of the Summit:

Aging and Equity

The Summit keynote “Creating Belonging to Combat Anti-Asian Hate and Protect our Elders” was delivered by Daphne Kwok, Vice President of Diversity Equity & Inclusion, Asian American & Pacific Islander Audience Strategy at AARP. One of the panelists in the discussion following the keynote was Edward Tepporn, Executive Director of the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation, and attendees recommended the Immigrant Voices archive maintain by the Foundation, pointing in particular to “My Sorrowful Journey to Gold Mountain,” a memory recorded in 2018 with Calvin Ong, who came through Angel Island as a 10-year-old in 1937. Other resources mentioned in chat during this panel were:

  • The Center for Asian American Media, which is dedicated to “presenting stories that convey the richness and diversity of Asian American experiences to the broadest audience possible.” It includes a repository of AAPI films.
  • The Our Stories Digital Storytelling Initiative, of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, which supports the dissemination and perpetuation of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Island cultures through the media arts.
  • Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) as a source for resources to help combat bias and hate.

Creative Aging Workshop

Annie Montgomery and Maura O’Malley of Lifetime Arts presented a workshop on “The Societal and Personal Impacts of Creative Aging,” during which they shared a lot of resources, including:

In addition to these materials shared during the Summit, you may want to browse the compilation of museums and creative aging resources on the Alliance’s website, not least, Marjorie Schwarzer’s report, Museums and Creative Aging: A Healthful Partnership.  Please add your own recommendations in the comments below, or by tweeting links and tagging @futureofmuseums #creativeaging. Thank you!

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