Whose Barrio? Institutional Identity and Survival Tactics of El Museo del Barrio

By Susan Jane Douglas and Adina Muskat.

Published by The International Journal of Social, Political and Community Agendas in the Arts

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The history and analysis of the development of El Museo del Barrio in New York City clarifies the part that community museums play in the experience of political marginalization. In 2009, El Museo underwent a multi-million dollar renovation. It now seeks to represent the culture of all of Latin Americans and to compete with mainstream museums in the area. However, since El Museo’s original mission was to give a voice to the Puerto Rican and Latin American community in New York, the fact that its mandate is shifting towards global acceptance means that it must reevaluate its role in the community and the community’s needs. This paper argues that El Museo performs an ongoing tactical process of responding to the community’s needs. It suggests that the greatest threat to El Museo’s professional development, now that it has initiated a dialogue with the mainstream, is a loss of authority brought about by forcing a reconsideration of the terms of its foundational identity.

Keywords: Museums, Community, Latin America, Identity, Marginalization

The International Journal of Social, Political and Community Agendas in the Arts, Volume 10, Issue 3, September, 2015, pp.85-94. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 444.940KB).

Dr. Susan Jane Douglas

Assistant Professor, Art History, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada

Adina Muskat

M.A., Latin American and Caribbean Studies, University of Guelph, Toronto, Ontario, Canada