“Community is part of figuring out the planning process.”

- Adriel Luis, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center

Our Process

Plan the Outcome (show the culture lab beliefs) - We wanted to describe what change positive social change would look like for Louisiana Museums

Describe Outputs (Show the Blueprints) - We wanted to create conceptual designs for a blueprint of a museum that would represent the community, and encourage community ownership of the museum

Design Inputs (Schedule) - We developed an inspired tour of Louisiana cultural community spaces

Gather a group of experts (Group Roster)- We brought local and national community and museum experts

Experience the inputs together (Panoramas)- We moderated a migrating discussion on community, culture, and place during a the two-day tour

Discuss radical solutions (Photo/Quotes)- We shared our impressions by focusing our conversation on a specific museum space

Define outputs (Madame Johns designs)- We designed solutions to the problems we saw in the environment into the blueprint of the museum.

The Culture Lab Cooperative builds off Shift's previous symposium, Architecting Sustainable Futures, and the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center’s philosophy behind Culture Lab to deepen the conversation of sustainability and community engagement in cultural organizations. The retreat gathered a carefully-selected cohort of local and national curators, education specialists, community leaders, administrators, and other museums practitioners to cultivate tangible, applicable methods of community-centered museums practice. Participants discuss, collaborate and design to develop innovative, socially-engaged museums programs nationwide.

What do you want to learn today?

  • I hope to learn things I didn’t know before

  • Assist people in thinking creatively and differently

  • Learning about community

  • Get more connected to the land

  • How to become more connected to storytelling

  • How to work smarter not harder, and authentically with community

  • Have my assumptions challenged

  • Get more ideas

  • How to work in partnership with our audiences

  • Reactions and help with our projects

  • Hearing everyone’s perspectives

  • Feedback to help Filipino community connect with the public

  • Strategies for staying resilient

  • Ambition and evolution

  • Histories of NOLA

What Brought us Here?


Visualize relationship

Events, but no outreach support

Change the story from the rich guy

Museum as a lab


Center on communities

Our communities aren’t trusted as experts

Idea vs. actual community engagement

How to work with community from the beginning


Empower through knowledge and skill

How to fill life without rushing

How to work as a cooperative




-jon voss, shift design

Over the course of two days, Local partners opened their spaces for tours inspired by the beliefs of the cultural manifesto. The cooperative then held a discussion based on group experiences dealing with the topic.




Feeling of timelessness, bring on the “edge” of history beyond the wall next to the water.

I remember, and will always remember, the sounds of tourists and drunken revelry from the balconies of historic pain, joy, terror and pleasure (specifically at Pontabla Apts.)

Impression of history left on bodies.

Challenged and inspired by discussion of ownership over art and creator in Pres Hall (and beyond)

In Madame John’s Legacy House, I remember feeling a sense of sadness, mystery, pain, neglect for all ways the stories of those who lived in/owned the space are reverenced, remembered, and documented but those who built it, were stolen and forced to work there, died there, and possibly buried there have been thought so little of to have been under-documented, known by who they were told they belonged to, and in essence, forgotten.

I remember being stuck on the bridge hearing about the hurricane coming and all the people forgotten

Visiting the Pontabla Apartment

On the levy bridge listening to Ms. Cherice recall memories from the school children who dies in Katrina. The rain fell and the weight of the past was still present.

Land acknowledgement- multiple people coming together in this place.

“The fastest way to become irrelevant is to ask how to be relevant.” Ron Rona

Inclusive view of Neighborhood at Madame John’s balcony

At Shell Beach, I thought about privilege of having a place to escape, having refuge that is isolated from other communities, how that is protected by access and fear, and how that same privilege is never afforded to my people because every space we claim is infiltrated without the same kind  of protection.

At Pres Hall, I remember feeling a sense of awe by the talent and the holiness of the musicians and the ways which they told stories but was saddened by the idea that black art/people were “on display” for the entertainment of mostly white tourists.

Seldom heard stories - farm workers, laborers, waves of migration, movement

Memory - the view from a balcony in the quarter. What does it mean to look down into the street? Who gets this opportunity?




I remember, and will always remember, the wind blowing over the choppy water and the feelings of being simultaneously heartbroken and in love.

Standing in a circle on the edge of the water listening to people’s stories, memories, traumas of the place. My eyes closed on their own will and took in the wind, the rock between my fingers, and just listened.

The history of New Orleans is one about humans trying to claim domination over nature.

Bulbancha crossing into unprotected land.

Hearing about St. Malo

St. Malo as a location (freedom place) St. Malo as resistance! Fearless maroon. Maliile, epic. Remembrance, inspiration, ME!

Hearing about the Philippine community in St. Malo- challenges of ensuring a community isn’t forgotten - already discovered!

Driving the highway dividing the African-American neighborhood, reminded me of what they did to Black Bottom in Detroit

On the beach at Fort Proctor, standing in the windy circle I couldn’t stop the tears flowing from my eyes.

Shell beach - discussing privilege of journey, expanding notion of museums




Sitting together at the Pontabla with a small group in the cool breeze.

Acknowledging not being from here- self-awareness in different meanings

Joyful in Pres Hall - Honored to hear Ms. Chreice share the power and traditions of the guardians

Feeling myself; human and disarmed

Learning more about the holistic approach of cultural work at Ashe - how to celebrate and support community in real and meaningful ways

Spaces in Ashes cultural center. Possibilities they provide for communities to come together.

“Layers” of culture, personality and time at Preservation Hall


- ron rona, preservation hall

The design thinking workshop assisted the cooperative in condensing all the presentations into a collection of addressable issues. Participants extracted overarching observations, and re-imagined an ideal form of a museum around these concepts.


Designs for Subverting Power


Designs for

subverting Power

Generative potential of emptiness

Overlapping timelines

Artist residency

More than one narrative


Challenge that narrative

Community-driven name

Space for collaboration


intentional left our

Think about the ground floor

Telling contemporary history


Designs for Tremendous Cultural Loss


Designs for

Tremendous Cultural Loss

Negative into positive

Cultural preservation


Preserving recipes and food

Connect and invite loss

Languages that were lost

People who worked there

Music as language preservation

Honor people who worked, lived, and died there

Not exploitive

Share music and honor people

Vessels - Rebeccah Moissier - musical souvenirs

How separated we were

Music and food inviting not exploited


Carry on stories


Designs for Connecting and Inviting


Designs for Connected Inviting

Supporting Mme. John’s

Porch (who is allowed)


Porch as a spot of entry


Rocking chairs

What porches mean

Stories are created there

Space to breathe

Escape into neighbors

Music creation

Safe space

In between space

Language on porch

(the storytelling)


The point of entry

Inviting into the space

Sparking curiosity

Inspiring lingering and connection

The place where the story is often created

The connecting point to the community - you come out to greet. Where you feel alive, have space to breethe, relax

The place where adults tell stories and relate to each other

The safe space - kids go play outside but “stay on the porch!”


Bulbancha - centering different types of storytellers, not the white institutionals voice co-opting the story

Sharing your own stories

Artists interpreting space/ sharing space

Music as a part of storytelling

The music of the porch



-warren montoya, REZilience

How do we tell stories?

How do I hold this?

Where do I go?

Multi dimensional experiences

Memories - erasure, failure, injustice, resilience, beauty, narratives, rediscovery, recovery, surfacing

Reclaiming space - Ashe non-profit run by African American women

Each space had powerful and layered histories the dhared time, space, events. Each story was equal adding to the diversity of New Orleans. The memory of shared experiences.

Layers of history and memory, framing of narratives

Movement, layers and palimpsest

Seeing things and wanting to show/share with loved ones. Don’t know if/when they’ll make it

Memories - erasure, failure, injustice, resilience, beauty, narratives, rediscovery, recovery, surfacing


Empty Shell

Energy left

Hold meaningful space

After filled with crap

The fucking truth

Where is the guy

overload with truth

Its heavy

Intense history

Share senses

Immersive walk between theatre and home

None without people

Hearing interactions


Sounds evoke feelings

How do we honor the decades

Surreal to walk into - unAmerican entrance - “Are you with Culture Lab?”

Walking down alley to slave quarters