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For Whom Are We Building These Gems? Redefining Impact at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca

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Abstract   Can museums still be valuable to populations that don’t visit them? The city of Oaxaca, Mexico is home to a flourishing museum scene, but despite a desire by those museum professionals to serve the Oaxacan community, the city’s museums largely lack a local visiting base. This article, which reflects on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Oaxaca in 2010, explores the implications of the disjunction between intention, assumption, and reality in some of Oaxaca’s museums, especially the Museo Textil de Oaxaca, a small private textile museum in the city’s historical center. By considering the museum’s inherent value and its innovative attempts to tangibly impact a specific community outside of the museum edifice, I suggest a way to rethink impact in museums by, in effect, turning them inside out: shifting the focus away from “public value driven by a universal right to cultural access” (Stein 2012, 219), toward more tangible, external outcomes, including direct interventions in the dynamic world beyond the quiet galleries.

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