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Story 09: Beyond Museum Walls

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Sidebar: Centre Street Project

Written by Patricia A. Steuert

Museum education concerning city life customarily has treated its subject matter in disciplinary fashion, interpretting physical, social and political history through the conventional media of formal exhibition. The traditional concerns of the museum—the preservation and interpretation of material culture and folkways—could, however, embrace more dynamic approaches to making the city understandable in human terms....

In April 1973, equipped with little more than a general familiarity with Centre Street and an instinct for discovery, the project staff began a minute investigation of the territory, variously described by people who shop, work, and live here as "average," "dull," and "dirty." "What's interesting about this place?" project staff asked many times over, up and down the street. "What's interesting about your place? Do you have special skills other people might like to find out about?'

The project canvassed close to eighty establishments along Centre Street, talking with proprietors about their skills, hobbies, stocks-in-trade, back-room curios, and their willingness to participate in the street fair. The experience was eye-opening: a candy-maker turned out also to be a concert violinist; the toy dealer an artist. In his basement, the owner of the hardware store had equipment right out of a turn-of-the-century catalogue.

—Introduction, Centre Street,1975
The Children's Museum

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