The Central Community Museum in Iowa

Portrait of Eric Morse

At DSE we have accompanied the evolution of the museum concept from a motionless exhibits space to a lively exchange encounter for community growing. DSE leaders Andreas Heinecke (CEO) and Orna Cohen (COO) have been actively contributing to the topic.

Andreas and Orna have published some articles and chapters in important books and magazines such as “fostering empathy through museums” book and the “Museum Journal.” Magazine. They participated in the Dalai Lama summit 2019 fostering universal ethics through museums. We strongly believe that the Dialogue exhibitions are at the content heart of the new museums.

Recently we got a request from the USA: Dialogue exhibitions pictures to be included at the website of the Central Community Museum in Iowa. The sender shared that our work at Dialogue in the Dark is one of his sources of inspiration. We decided to inquiry and we found out a great museum initiative in Iowa. Eric Morse is an independent museum professional in Des Moines, Iowa, in the United States and is starting a new museum, the Central Iowa Community Museum. He has a Master of Arts in Museum Studies from the Johns Hopkins University.

The Central Iowa Community Museum will be a place where the experiences of the people of Central Iowa are shared, explored, celebrated, and honored. It will also be a place where the community can come together to discuss and explore important issues facing the community. 

DSE: How did you get to the idea of the Community Museum?

EM: There are two primary inspirations for the Community Museum. The first is my graduate studies, which heavily emphasized the importance of a museum serving the needs of visitors and the community it calls home. The second are museums, exhibitions, and programs - like Dialogue in the Dark - that are doing the work of serving individuals and humanity. It is often said here in the States, and I think increasingly elsewhere in the world, that we are living in divided societies, and this is true. And yet, we live in a globalized world that is only going to get more diverse and connected. No later than the year 2040, the US will become a "majority minority" country, meaning the number of non-white people will outnumber the population of whites. This shift is already taking place. Our future depends on our ability to understand each other, build bridges to each other, and to celebrate our differences and diversity rather than have it divide us.  This is the inspiration for the Community Museum.

DSE: Why was Dialogue in the Dark part of the inspirations?

EM: I have long admired the Dialogue in the Dark experience. It inspires me because of the way it builds empathy between people. The program is powerful in that people are able to experience what it is to live as someone else. Those experiences are powerful in helping us shape the way we view others. I would be thrilled to be able to bring Dialogue in the Dark to the Community Museum! My hope is that the museum, through immersive experiences or the display of objects, helps people feel as if they understand what it might be like to live as someone else.

DSE: You have built a website. What is the future of this museum?

EM: I'm currently in the process of getting a non-profit designation from the US Internal Revenue Service. These are the three main things that must be accomplished to form a non-profit in the US. Getting a non-profit designation will enable me to raise funds through grants. I'm looking to grow this museum slowly and organically. My plan is to put together exhibitions about people by working with them to tell their story. Through the first few initial exhibitions I'm looking to grow support for the museum that will eventually launch it into it's own space. The museum's first location will likely be in downtown Des Moines, where it would be accessible to the most people.

DSE: Which kind of impact do you want to achieve in the USA?

EM: I believe the greatest impact the museum can have is a local one. I can't change the society of the US, but I believe the museum can have an impact on the society of the eight counties that make up central Iowa. The greatest impact the museum will have is helping people understand and appreciate each other, and serving as a place where people can learn about issues facing our region and come up with solutions to them.

We at DSE wish a successful brilliant future to Eric Morse and the Central Community Museum of Iowa. We are happy to contribute to those great transformative ideas!

Visit the museum website here and follow Eric on Twitter @museumutopia.