Community activities – Community exhibition


The community exhibition is one way to reach out to and involve the citizens, as it is created at the initiative of the given community, it focuses on local culture, local history, traditions, (individual or community) performances, natural and social values, well-being, the relationship between the individual and the community and the content of local identity, while offering relevant feedback to the community about their activities and their present interpretation of themselves.

Purpose of the activity

  • To extend the group of local activists and to unfold their creativity; to strengthen collaboration between generations;
  • To elicit, find, collect, research, process and present topics relevant to the local community in a structured manner, at the initiative of the community members, with their active participation; to enhance community members’ confidence and skills through the exhibition and related activities;
  • To have the widest possible outreach. All locals are involved in one way or another: as masterminds of the exhibition, as members of the team working on researching and assembling the material, creating and installing the exhibition, or as members of the audience. As a topic relevant to the community is exhibited, it will be lifted from everyday reality, becomes an abstraction and, as a result of personal involvement, a reflexive community consciousness is constructed.

Key terms

unfolding creativity; relevant local topics; the processes of organizing an exhibition; community developer activating method; local value


  • personal: community developer, museologist, community cultural developer, a group of involved locals (volunteers) from various generations and with a variety of skills and abilities
  • material: a meeting room regularly available for meetings and exhibition, flipchart/pens; folding screens, lockers, post-it blocs, notepaper and pens, printer, A4 sheets, camera, dictaphone, film recorder, exhibition props: boards, glass cases, ICT devices, objects, documents, guest books, promotion tools: computer, invitation
  • financial: room rental fee (if needed), purchase of equipment, photocopying

Applied tools and methods

A community exhibition is the experience of joyful and shared preoccupation with and commitment to a community; it releases positive energies aimed at a shared goal, which promotes a deeper knowledge of the self and helps in changing our image of ourselves; it also offers direct feedback concerning the condition of the individual’s abilities and skills.

A community exhibition is not a one-off activity: it will only fulfil its effective, community developing function when repeated regularly, in line with the community’s needs. The community survey and the community interviews may also try to map what the community considers as values, and what values, (past and present) results they have, which may be collected, researched, shared and presented, to strengthen local identity, and which may be expressed as a community goal. The community developer may induce this process by asking relevant questions, in collaboration with those members of the community who consider themselves competent in this respect.

Even the topics gathered this way may be used to offer feedback to the community in the form of a report (small exhibition), e.g. by presenting the 3-5 topics we have uncovered at this early stage (a picture/object, a story in words/writing, a tableau), at a public discussion with the community. At such discussions the community may, on the one hand, identify with the topics and may internalize them and, on the other hand, they may offer further ideas and details or may introduce new topics to the common thinking process. The ‘active core’ of the discussion will prepare a summary of the findings and will make it available to the wider public for commenting through the accessible channels of communication. The topic that wins the widest support will become the focus of the first community exhibition.

Once the topic has been selected, we need to involve a museologist of the local museum or collection at the earliest possible stage, who will contribute with ideas, advice and coordination of the various group activities, will identify missing capacities, offer motivation and professional know-how, as a walking thesaurus, to help achieve the goal, and may also come up with ideas concerning the ways in which to present elements of the collection relating to the topic or to the community. Participants preparing the exhibition will meet regularly to discuss results, problems, ideas, and to finalise the content and form of presentation, to prepare the script, layout and design for the exhibition, each offering a number of opportunities for using the creativity of the community. During this work the community members may reveal new sides of themselves, and may acquire new knowledge and skills from one another during the shared activities. The entire community takes part in the implementation.

A simplified process of planning an exhibition in short:

  • Select a central topic for the exhibition.
  • Based on this central topic, plan for a number of subtopics and put them in order, as if presenting a story.
  • Assign objects and documents to the subtopics.
  • Do not forget to provide captions for the exhibits.

Select a date relevant to the topic (if any) for the opening day. Plan the opening event in advance: Who will be the speaker(s) from the community talking about the purpose, topic and process, etc. of the exhibition? The opening ceremony may be followed by a discussion, and we may want to announce in advance the discussions and other events that are connected to the exhibition. We need to display a guest book and encourage members of the community to enter their impressions, and we may also use interactive surfaces at the exhibition, which actively involve the visitors, who may immediately respond to and comment on the exhibition. We may want to provide information on the (number of) visitors to the community (in words or in writing), and share their comments, and thus, in other words, convey the exhibition’s impact to the community. This will all become very useful when planning the next exhibition.

The topics for the next exhibition will be selected from relevant phenomena of community life; they may be ‘heritage’ themes or may document or interpret the results of some relevant and topical community project.

Spreading community exhibitions as a community development method may greatly help in making communities more open to museum exhibitions and to taking part in them. At present we have few examples in Hungary of good practices relating to the types of community exhibitions arranged in museums. One outstanding example is the experiment of the Museum of Ethnography (please see in References). Nina Simon’s Hierarchy of Social Participation offers outstanding help in the study of community participation in museums. We may also arrange such an exhibition where works of art are created on the spot by locals, which serves their growth in a number of ways (through its aesthetic significance or through providing for conflict management and similar functions, such as the community murals created by the Murál Morál Group).

Results, expected outcome

  • exhibition about the community for the community, with related community events (min. 2: vernissage and finissage – final event)
  • the group of local activists is further extended
  • engaged, conscious citizens, capable of acting locally
  • a strengthened community identity
  • the birth of active community groups
  • the appearance of new knowledge and competencies in the community
  • the building of new contacts, neighbourhood relations és partnerships
  • the growth of local public forums
  • collaboration for the public good


Museum 2.0. Blog:
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Fejős, Z. – Frazon, Zs. (eds.): Plasztik művek. [Plastic works of art] Alternatív műanyagtörténet a celluloid könyvtáblától a felfújható fotelig. [An alternative story of plastic from celluloid book covers to inflatable armchairs] MaDok booklets 4. 2005, Budapest
Csíkszentmihályi, M.: Az öröm művészete. [The art of joy]. 1997, Budapest, Libri Kiadó
Katona, K. (ed.): Életre keltett falak. [Revived walls]. 2008, Zöld-Híd Foundation.
Pécsi Szín-Tér Egyesület [Pécs Szín-Tér Association]. 2015, A forrás magam vagyok. [The source is me] Methodological manual
Katona, K.: A bennünk élő alkotó felébresztése – a közösségi művészetek útján. [Awakening the artist in us – through community art]. In: Civil Szemle [Civil Review], 2014, No. 4. 19.

This article based on the following document: Community development methodological guide