Brooking Paper on Creativity in Museums

The Brooking competition recognized innovative accomplishments that produced new ways of thinking and seeing within the museum field. Papers described examples of creativity in any aspect of museum operations, from collections, programs and exhibitions to finance, marketing and administration—or anything in between.

The competition was discontinued in 2013. The Alliance extends its deep gratitude to Dolores Brooking, a pioneer in museum work who endowed the prize, for her many years of generous support. 

2013 Brooking Prize Winners

This year’s judges were: Katherine French, director, Danforth Museum of Art, Framingham, Mass.; Dennis Kois, director, DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park, Lincoln, Mass.; and Susannah Cassedy O’Donnell, managing editor, Museum magazine.

Following are the winning essays and comments from the judges.

First Prize Winner

Heather Radke, exhibition coordinator, Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, Chicago, for “Unfinished Business

Judges’ comments: “This compelling essay tells multiple stories and tells them well. We learn about the evolution of this historic house museum, the collaborative process of developing the exhibit—and even a little about what it’s like to be a domestic worker. The result is an engaging and poignant tale of an institution that has successfully enacted today’s museum precepts to work with the community and give a voice to those who have traditionally been overlooked.”

Honorable Mentions

Rachel Abbott, program associate, historic sites & museums, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, for “New Ideas, Same Old House: Public Feedback, Change and the Alexander Ramsey House

Judges’ comments: “Abbott’s paper clearly delineates how their audience evaluation project differed from the norm in the field by empowering the steering committee and attempting to enculturate the lessons learned into the organization. She includes some valuable tactical advice about negotiating change in her description of how Ramsey House worked toward ‘… finding a balance between old and new ways, implementing significant changes within the context of the site as it is—limitations and all.’”

Peter Morton, manager, strategic policy and planning, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, Australia, for “Opening the Museum: The Powerhouse Experience

Judges’ comments: “By placing the idea of a participatory museum at the heart of its strategic planning process, Powerhouse takes a concept that is rapidly becoming best practice within curatorial or museum education circles and asks visitors to become partners in helping to define strategic goals. After first assessing data, the museum understood the hard truth that once-innovative exhibitions had become dated. They committed to an uncomfortable (and expensive) process of not only embracing new programs but also new architecture. By clearly articulating participatory engagement as part of a plan that will unfold over many years, they mandated changes across the institution and not just within certain departments.”

Funding was provided through the generosity of Dolores Brooking, retired professor of arts administration at California State University, Dominguez Hills and former director of education at the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas. The Alliance reserves the right to edit and/or withhold print or electronic publication of any paper at any time and to alter prize designations at any time.