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Editor's Corner

Archaeology and the museum have a natural bond. The objects we excavate and the stories we tell about them are literally as well as metaphorically housed in these places. But like all institutions that claim to interpret culture, museums have becomes the object of scrutiny and, in some cases, scorn, as arguments develop over the constituencies they serve and how stories about the past are told. We know these controversies best in the great museums, but what about the small local museum? County and historical society museums are common throughout North America, while the goal of many Latin American communities in which I work is to create a small museum or display to highlight their local cultural heritage. There are probably thousands of these museums throughout the hemisphere, and for many of them, they are likely the only way a community can learn about its past. In this sense, the small museum is right on the front line of archaeological education.

To explore these issues, we are developing a new series on the ways in which small museums cope with educating the public in its many forms. We want to know how archaeology is used and how it can successfully serve the public. We are currently working on three columns -- Washington state, southern Peru, and Tierra del Fuego. Look for these in upcoming issues!


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