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The Internal Culture in the 1970s and '80s Boston Children's Museum: A Reflection

Written by Elaine Heumann Gurian

In this chapter I write about the internal culture of what was known then as The Children's Museum (TCM) of Boston from 1971 to 1987 when I served as the Director of the Exhibit Center, later called the Visitor Center (the public "museum-like" portion of the museum). I am not doing this as a reminiscence; rather I am attempting to ascertain why working at The Children's Museum was more emotionally satisfying than any other position I would hold during my long career in the museum industry.

I write about that time long ago from my perspective in 2008 as a senior museum consultant who has specialized in government museums for the past ten years and who, for the previous twenty-five years, served as a salaried deputy director for four different organizations. I look backwards as a now seventy-year-old and try to recall myself as a young woman in her thirties and forties. And I remember an especially idealistic time in American history (the 1970s and 1980s) from the vantage of the first decade of the 21st century, the deeply troubling Bush era.

This might seem a nostalgic journey of possible misremembering. I am hoping it is not. I seek to uncover the particular qualities of that time in a way that might prove useful and relevant to those young museum professionals who are beginning their own careers now, as I was then.

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