But we began with some conversations with staff and docents about what a family is. To museum educators, family programs has quite a specific meaning. Generally, it's programming designed for parents and elementary age children. But is that how we should be defining a family? Here's some of the responses:
- They choose to be together and consider themselves to be a family
- Wide range of ages
- Group or unit that's somehow connected together but not necessarily living together
- Some relationship: love, blood, dependency
- Self-defined as related to one another
- 2 or more people long-term invested in each others well-being
- Caregivers too?
- Extended family who choose to associate together
- A hierarchy of relationships, within an established group
- and, as one docent definitively remarked, "It's not the 1950s any more!"
Two or more people in a multi-generational group that has an on-going relationship; they may be biologically related but not necessarily. In fact, the general rule is that if a group defines itself as a family they are one!We asked the volunteer docents at the Rosenbach to share their most memorable family experience in a museum. Lots of intergenerational work at play: grandmothers sharing recent visits with grandchildren; a look behind the scenes at Williamsburg with family members; learning a story about a family at a historic site. One docent shared the experience of going to the Philadelphia Museum of Art for an open evening event with friends, people she considered family.
Does this mean that we'll rename family programming at the Rosenbach? Not necessarily, but I think we'll be asking this question as we go forward in conversations with all sorts of audiences and potential audiences and be particularly aware of barriers to participation that the lack of thoughtful language might bring. How do you define families at your museum?