How Museums Can Better Serve Veterans and Military Families

By: Kathy Kelsey Foley, director on November 30th, 2016

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of participating in the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ Town Hall convening focused on addressing the needs of veterans and military families.

While museums and libraries throughout the country welcome, serve, and assist thousands of community members every day, Town Hall organizers hypothesized that our institutions could do more – in powerful and purposeful ways – to serve veterans and their families.


Participants experience the Woodson Art Museum galleries during luncheons for spouses of veterans traveling with the Never Forgotten Honor Flight.

The gathering was productive and enlightening in ways I hadn’t suspected at the start. The fifty or so colleagues generously shared information, questioned assumptions, considered community assets and opportunities, and forged partnerships to yield greater understanding of the needs to be addressed.

Ultimately, the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Foundation Strategy Group will issue a report comprising field research as well as input gathered during the Town Hall. The report will be shared with the broad museum and library field with the goal of enhancing the knowledge and skills of museum and library professionals so that we can better and more effectively engage veterans and military families.

Over a day and a half during highly interactive and participatory presentations, we considered situational scenarios, undertook experience mapping, shared individual perspectives, and wrapped up with implications for museums and libraries.

Lots to think about, to be sure.

My many pages of notes are filled with not only my thoughts in response to what I heard and learned, but also suggestions for resources to pursue in our broad community, extending far beyond local “borders.”

The Woodson Art Museum’s commitment to Always Free Admission and barrier-free accessibility are two ways we serve all visitors and community members, including veterans and their families. The Town Hall program and the resources that will result have me thinking about even more robust ways for us to engage veterans, military families, and all potential visitors.

Stay tuned.

In the near term, Museum staff are readying exciting new exhibitions – Tiffany Glass: Painting with Color and Light; Enduring Beauty: Art Nouveau Glass; and Victorian Art Glass Baskets – opening Saturday, December 3. Our galleries will be filled with a dazzling array of colorful glass lampshades, panels, vases, and baskets. A perfect destination during the holidays and throughout the winter months, the Woodson Art Museum is always warm and welcoming to all.

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