The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center’s Culture Lab Manifesto Playbook

In May 2018 at the American Alliance of Museum’s Annual Conference in Phoenix, Arizona, the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center debuted the Culture Lab Manifesto Playbook—an activity book based on their Culture Lab model. Each activity stems from an art installation or talk from one of their three Culture Labs, and is available for download from their website.

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Image: The Culture Lab Logo as well as the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center logo form a bright colorful center overlayed between two bright color fields of red and yellow.

We at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center (APAC) believe the soul of a museum lies not in its brick-and-mortar walls but in what happens inside those walls—this experiential friction between guests and hosts, history and future. We developed Culture Labs to bring artists, scholars, curators, and the public together in creative and ambitious ways—and to show that anyone can make a “museum without walls” by curating collaborative, participatory, and socially responsible spaces where people can come as their true selves.

A Culture Lab is hands-on, colorful, musical, emotional and highly interactive. It can be big or small and take many forms as long as it’s centered on building and empowering its community through art, history, science and stories.

The Culture Lab Manifesto Playbook leads institutions, organizations and individuals through the community-centered process that we follow when creating Culture Labs. This Playbook encourages you to dive into the Culture Lab process—each activity is linked to one of the beliefs in our Culture Lab Manifesto. By doing each activity, you recreate sensations, felt, heard, seen—and in some cases—tasted, from previous Culture Labs.

To download a copy of the Playbook, please click on this link. Each activity includes a space to write a reflection on the activity process, and at the end of the book, there is a call to send us ideas for beliefs you would add to our Culture Lab Manifesto.

APAC would love to hear from you—if you have questions about the Playbook, or would like to share how you’re using it, please contact me.

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Andrea Kim Neighbors is the Education Specialist at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, where she collaborates on co-creating models of future-focused education programs for P-12, family and adult learners. Before joining the Asian Pacific American Center, Andrea was Manager of Community Partnerships at The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC and Tour Manager at the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience in Seattle, WA, designing customized museum experiences to best fit the needs of local educators. You can reach Andrea here: NeighborsA@si.edu. 

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