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Why I picked it up: In my research, I am seeing a high degree of correlation between avid museum-going and community engagement. That is, people who go to museums regularly tend to be more deeply connected with, concerned about, interested in, and involved with their community.
So learning more about attachment to place (or, as I'm reading it, community), makes sense. What are the theoretical underpinnings of place attachment?
Six interesting concepts:
1 - Relationship with community is much like an interpersonal relationship: the more supportive it is, the tighter the bond. Thus, the more a community supports its people, the more people are closely connected to that community (Scannell and Gifford).
2 - Having a strong connection with place is associated with greater well-being (Gustafson).
3 - Interest in the past is a better predictor of active attachment to a place than length of residence … and mobile individuals who connect with their communities often use history to jumpstart that connection (Lewicka).
4 - Concept #3 may be because while some long-term residents are "rooted in place" by choice, and very active/attached, more long-term residents are "tied to place" by default, with low levels of engagement (Gustafson).
5 - Place attachment happens across three dimensions: emotional bonds; cognitive aspects of memory, knowledge, meaning, and understanding; and behaviors to protect, preserve, and defend (Mihaylov & Perkins).
6 - "At the heart of any attachment is a story" (Rishbeth).
Read or skip? If your job is community engagement, or it is a concerted focus of your work, you should pick it up. In particular, pay attention to the first five chapters, as well as chapters 8 and 12. Those are where I found the most food for thought.
Otherwise, skip. While I am finding the theory very helpful for supporting the trends I see in my research from the past year, for most museum professionals, this isn't as necessary on a day-to-day basis. As I look at the intersection of museums and civic engagement more closely, you'll likely see me refer to this volume again on The Data Museum in the coming months, so I have it covered for you.
Full citation: Manzo, Lynne C., and Devine-Wright, Patrick (eds.). Place Attachment: Advances in Theory, Methods, and Applications. New York: Routledge, 2014.
Have a suggestion for my reading list? Email it to me at susie (at) wilkeningconsulting (dot) com.