Source Communities

Popularised by Laura Peers and Alison Brown in their edited reader, Museums and Source Communities, the term “source community” directly illuminates the relationship between originating communities and museums. Whilst the term has been critiqued by some as variously extractive and/or potentially reinforcing the binary between museums and communities, Peers continues to defend the ‘directness of the term’ and embraces the textured and uneven historical and continuing relationships that it signals to.

As an alternative, “communities of origin” is used by some to signal the primary relationship these communities have to their objects. However, both of these terms have the potential to obscure the fact that peoples from said communities are increasingly present as museum staff – bridging and complicating the binary between originating communities and museums as they do so. As this pattern continues, we will likely need to formulate new terms that recognise the dual presence of community members both within and beyond the museum.

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