Smithsonian Scholar Award, The Anacostia Community Museum - Cultural Psychology
Alison is a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Westminster. She will be working with the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum on a project exploring place-identity, belonging, memory, and the relationship between the museum and its local communities. What is surprising about this project is not that a cognitive psychologist is a Fulbright-Smithsonian scholar, but rather that more psychologists are not already working within museums. Alison’s research on attention, multisensory processing, mental representation and memory can enrich sector-wide understandings of visitor experience and audience engagement. Nevertheless, Alison has learnt that whilst scientists and museums may share some common language and goals, their respective understandings are often underpinned by different meaning and assumptions. This project provides her with the opportunity to understand museums and the US from within. In so doing, Alison’s interdisciplinary lens will provide important insights into longstanding and new museum sector goals: serving communities, democratising decision making on museum narratives, broadening participation, enhancing access, and redefining museums in the 21st century.