Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

MA Museum Professions


Communication and the Arts


Charlotte Nichols


Museums, Urban revitalization, Regional museums, Regeneration of local communities


Current perspective in museum discourse tells us the traditional model of museum-as-steward is no longer enough, that in order to fully serve their communities and respond to contemporary societal issues, museums must engage in community- building and socially relevant endeavors. Why is the old model of museum-as-steward no longer enough? How can museums engage with their communities in socially relevant issues and partner with civic and other social organizations in order to address current social and economic needs? This thesis addresses these questions and provides insight as to how and why social relevance is critical to the sustainability of museums as cultural institutions. One way in which museums can engage with their communities is through urban revitalization projects. Much has been written about the Bilbao Effect; however this thesis will not address that issue. This author will not explore how the architectural wonder of many of the world's flagship museums have stimulated economic revival of their home cities, but rather how local and regional museums can partner with other community organizations for the purposes of physical, economic, and social revitalization, as well as how museums can act as the catalysts themselves for urban renewal. This thesis examines three Massachusetts museums, each of which has each created a web of partnerships within their communities to stimulate physical, economic, and social revitalization of those urban areas - The Revolving Museum in Lowell, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA) in North Adams, and the Springfield Museums, in Springfield. Finally, this author offers suggestions for practical application of urban revitalization objectives.