Then, at fourteen, I spent a semester at a ski program in Switzerland. I found myself gazing at the Alps wondering what possessed Hannibal to attempt them with his herd of elephant! This country with four official languages, had 450 different varieties of Swiss cheese, with further “variety within the varieties”, which the locals told me was a combination of vegetation and techniques passed from one generation to the next. We studied European history, and Swiss Mountain Guides taught us how to read snow and avalanche conditions. We watched weather to predict whether we would be skiing ice or powder from the way the crystals set up on our jackets. By then, I was a reader but reading comprehension alone could not have guaranteed success in these places. Thanks to my dyslexia, I had the foundation to employ multiple paths of engagement, which helped me draw as much meaning out of these experiences as possible.
Working transparently, museums must now move beyond mere representations of evidence to demonstrate explicitly how knowledge is developed, shared, or revisited. Making evident the gaps or omissions in our knowledge, identifying marginal or absent voices, helps audiences to explore with confidence and promotes engagement through nuance, perspective, and diversity. Authoritativeness has not enhanced cultural institutions, but authenticity has. Leveraging – and sharing – authenticity, museums must speak from multiple points of view, encouraging stakeholder and audience participation, even while bolstering scholarship. In assisting audiences to better understand how the past informs the present, how patterns and similarities can be observed in the seeming diversity and idiosyncrasies of history, museums can transcend institutionalism or parochialism to demystify a shared humanity in a singular world.