Q&A: Michael Gagne, director of Philly’s first peace museum

A museum entry design concept rendering by FIT and SUNY students Danae Colomer and Amanda Zanski.

A new kind of museum is asking Philadelphia to give peace a chance. The Envision Peace Museum, slated to open its doors in 2014 in a yet-to-be-determined space in Center City, will feature interactive exhibits about social justice geared toward provoking discussion and encouraging action. And it boasts big-name advisory board members like Judy Wicks, Alan Greenberger and Ben Cohen of Ben and Jerry’s. Director Michael Gagne spoke with Metro last week about the museum’s vision.

What was the inspiration behind the Envision Peace Museum?

A big part of it was the idea of building a space for people to ask better questions about how change happens in our society, the roots of violence and where we’re going. The first chair of the board, an [architect and museum planner] named Tony Junker, went into a museum bookshop just after the start of the second Gulf War, the invasion of Iraq. And he noticed all these books about our nation’s military history, particularly geared toward children. He found himself asking, ‘How can we break the cycle if these are the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves all the time?’ And as someone who came from a museum field, he realized we have [thousands] of military museums throughout the country, but very few dedicated to peace and justice in the world.

What will the ‘What is Peace’ exhibit consist of?

I see that exhibit, which is just being developed, as kind of a skeleton key to unlock the larger content of the museum. ‘What is Peace’ will be a springboard allowing us explore what are the fundamental questions about peace and violence. … In terms of what it’ll look like, it’s not just going to be panels on the wall. We envision really experiential exhibits – not just multimedia, but simulations and games that invite people to draw their own conclusions out of those experiences, which I think is kind of congruent with the idea of peace-building.

What’s your timeline for development?

Right now, we’re seeing this as a phased development strategy similar to the Please Touch Museum, where you open a smaller space and use it as a [springboard] to launch a large space. We plan to open our first space in 2014. … Then, the timeline for the second, what we’re calling ‘the ultimate museum,’ might be five years later, but we’re in the process of figuring that out with the communities within Philadelphia and beyond.

What it will look like

Founded in 2007, the Envision Peace Museum underwent an extended visioning phase, soliciting advice from professionals across many fields while generating buzz through a series of traveling exhibitions and, most recently, a film screening and discussion.

The museum is in the process of forming an academic advisory board to establish even more “curatorial credibility,” as Gagne calls it. Envision Peace will on Nov. 3 hold an implementation conference to assess its progress since its strategic planning conference two years ago and to discuss its next step – namely, breaking ground on a physical location. Here’s a rundown of some of the components planned for the space so far:

– A prototyping space, or “peace lab,” where the public can come try out an exhibit before it launches and offer feedback, making the museum’s content a collaborative effort between curators and the community.

– Exhibition galleries featuring living collections, such as stories, discussions, simulations and tools for change.

– A gallery and event space for multimedia art, performances and discussions – special guests TBA. “I’m really excited about number of amazing musicians and performers who are very pro-peace and pro-justice who we see being really supportive about this,” Gagne said.

– An online museum that includes story collections, exhibits and forums for discussion.

Classrooms offering training for visitors to become peace-builders themselves, “So people aren’t just inspired on a head and heart level,” Gagne said. “But to ask, ‘How do I build the skills to become an agent of change in my community?’”



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

New Apple devices include default kill switch

By Marina LopesWASHINGTON (Reuters) - New Apple Inc phones include a theft deterrent system that enables users to lock their devices and wipe them clean…

Local

In third year, Occupy Wall Street a "leaner,…

Three years after thousands took to the streets and camped out in lower Manhattan, Occupy Wall Street members were out in Zuccotti Park on Wednesday…

National

PHOTO: Photographer comes face-to-face with deadly crocodile

A deadly crocodile comes face-to-face with a courageous photographer, who manages to take a set of jaw-dropping pictures of the teeth-baring reptile.

Local

Brooklyn packed for annual West Indian Day Parade

Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway was packed Monday with an estimated one million people showing up on Labor Day to celebrate West Indian culture.

Movies

Review: Kevin Smith's 'Tusk' is insane even for…

Kevin Smith returns to the horror genre, only with more jokes this time, with "Tusk," in which Michael Parks wants to turn Justin Long into a walrus.

Movies

Fall Arts Guide: NYC's repertory film scene boasts…

Among the best repertory film series in NYC this fall include old subway movies at BAM, Capra at Film Forum and actual celluloid at the IFC Center.

Music

Needtobreathe's revival: From broken up to resurrected

Needtobreathe talks about breaking up and reuniting while recording their latest album, "Rivers in the Wastelands."

The Word

The Word: John Travolta stands by 'Battlefield Earth'

John Travolta doesn't seem too bothered about the pending lawsuit from his former pilot, Doug Gotterba, who claims he also had a six-year romantic relationship…

NFL

NFL Week 3 full schedule (kickoff time, TV)

NFL Week 3 full schedule (kickoff time, TV)

NFL

Fantasy football: Run with Knile Davis, Khiry Robinson,…

Fantasy football: Run with Knile Davis, Khiry Robinson, Donald Brown

MLB

5 top contenders for NL Rookie of the…

The outing rekindled award talk for deGrom, who appears to hold the top spot for NL Rookie of the Year honors. Metro breaks down a few other contenders.

College

College football Top 25 poll (AP rankings)

College football Top 25 poll (AP rankings)

Sex

Why don't more couples use condoms?

  Call it the “condom moment.” That’s the name the authors of a new study have given to the pivotal conversation every couple should be…

Sex

Need an idea for a first date? Here's…

Picture your idea of a nice first date. Is it dinner and a movie? A visit to an interesting museum exhibit? Instead, an expert on…

Career

Here's why the newly-crowned Miss America deleted her…

Miss America pageant winner Kira Kazantsev quietly deleted her LinkedIn profile this week after her work history came under attack by conservative critics. Many of the…

Career

Zosia Mamet explains why leaning in is not…

Zosia Mamet is living proof that even if you don't think you can get a job you're going for, you should still try. Along with…