Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Museum 2.0 Book Club: The Great Good Place

While it hasn't happened here in awhile, a new Museum 2.0 book club will be starting in two weeks to read and discuss The Great Good Place by Ray Oldenburg. Oldenburg is the individual to whom the term "third place" is attributed, and this well-researched 1989 book put him on the map. "Third places" are places that are neither work nor home but occupy essential positions as anchors of community life. They may be parks, cafes, bars, hair salons--any place that is conducive to informal, welcoming, creative interaction.

Many museum and library professionals use the concept of the third place to describe the idealized vision of a cultural institution as a place for community use and civic engagement. I was surprised when I first picked up Oldenburg's book to confront many ideas in it that are frankly quite challenging to my original conception of a third place. Oldenburg celebrates places that are less structured, less designed, less facilitated, and less content-rich than most museums want to be. It made me wonder if cultural professionals really want to turn their institutions into third places, and if so, what it would take. I hope we can explore those questions together in the weeks to come.

Here's how the book club will work:
  1. Get your hands on a copy of the book in the next couple of weeks.
  2. Read it (or a large chunk of it).
  3. If you are so motivated, fill out this two-question form to let me know you want to write a guest post or do an interview with me about the book.
  4. For four weeks starting June 1, each Tuesday there will be a Museum 2.0 post with a response to the book. I'd like to write one or two of these at the most. The goal is to make the blog a community space for different viewpoints. I'll be looking for guest posters who represent different types of institutions or approaches to the material. You don't need to be a museum or library professional to be eligible--just a good writer with an interesting perspective to share.
I look forward to the discussion next month!

19 comments, add yours!:

Kooz said...

I'm in! Just reserved it at the library.

Rebecca Lawrence said...

Would love to join! Great idea! Nina, consider me willing to write a short post- perhaps just one-from the perspective of a museum educator at a small museum/library.

antorra said...

I'm in too!
I read the one by Henry James. Well, it's about time I read this one!

Miko said...

Hope to join in this one too. The museum I recently joined has done an unusually good job estblishing itself as a third place, where people use the facility for more casual interaction as a "place to be" as commonly as they use it for learning and exploration. Thanks.

Bodhibadger said...

I guess I had better read this, given that I just helped craft a call for action that has AAM challenging museums to be more like coffee shops and bubble tea stores. OK--will enjoy reading and discussing.

Xianhang Zhang said...

I'm in, just placed my order on Amazon.

Marianne said...

Just ordered the book! Am interested from the perspective of online community - our social media "third places" Either way, looks like a good read. Thanks for this!

J Goreham-Penney said...

Cool! I am delighted to discover that this book is checked in at my local library, and I've put a hold on it so I can go pick it up :)

Jeff Stern said...

I just ordered my copy - would be happy to do interview via email or maybe write a post from an MBA perspective later in the month (I'm off the grid June 4-15)

Marilyn said...

Great idea! I've ordered my copy from my local independent bookstore. I want to read the book first, but if you need another post/opinion, I will volunteer. I'm a small museum educator/contractor and JHU museum studies graduate student.

Mike said...

Are you interested in a rural perspective? I’m a huge fan of how third places are vital to rural communities. Here’s one post I’ve previously written -- http://reimaginerural.com/10-reasons-third-places-matter-to-rural-communities/ I look forward to hearing the museum perspective.

Xianhang Zhang said...

Mike: I for one would love your take on the rural perspective. I think it's one that's not brought up enough!

Nina Simon said...

Me too, Mike! It's great that there are so many people into this - we'll have to think about the best ways to make this "club" really work. Maybe people can partner to do conversations across different sectors and write posts from those dialogues?

I guess we should all finish reading the book first :)

Nina Simon said...

Since so many people have expressed interest, I'm going to put together an email list so I can get in touch with all of you to discuss the plan. Please fill out this superfast two question form so I can get all the info in one place. Thanks!

Doug said...

Probably not what you are expecting, but I can offer my experience of two "third places" that will add value to the discussion:

1. Traditional Music. We meet in a pub once a week to play music together. It's social, we chat, we encourage each other, we learn, we drink beer.

2. Cub Scouts. Yes! We meet in the "Den" once a week, a building with 50 years of history pinned to the walls. We run practical activities for the cubs where they can learn new skills through building things, playing games, being outdoors. There is a strong sense of community.

So what do you think, would you like to hear more or am I in the wrong place?

Mary said...

I've just started the book and am already thinking of how the internet serves as a third place.

Xianhang Zhang said...

Mary: I'm signed up to talk about the internet as a third place :).

One thing I noticed, having just started reading the book is the noticeable absence of religion as an institution for 3rd places (the index has no listing for religion or churches). This seems like a rather glaring omission and I would love to have someone examine the book from a religious perspective.

Mike said...

One of my favorite books showing a third place in action is Little Chapel on the River by Gwendolyn Bounds. She also has a blog by that name -- http://littlechapelontheriver.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

suggest you get someone from the UK since this wonderful book looks often at pubs and we don't have such a venerable institution as the getaway from the home for so many and so many classes. Does anyone know someone from the UK who wants in. I am thrilled you are doing this book. e--