Knowledge is an abundant resource in the developing world. Standard development models seek to exploit natural and human resources to solve economic problems, but often stumble due to lack of infrastructure, cultural divides, and entrenched colonial legacies. However, knowledge exists outside of these conditions; this overlooked resource cannot be enslaved, and hence provides an independent foundation for growth. Open Hand innovates by using museum exhibits to translate cultural knowledge into capital, shifting the one-way export of information and goods to the West into a two-way flow that directly benefits communities from which the knowledge was borrowed.
Open Hand also takes a uniquely indigenous approach to cultural collections. Existing museums store collections in static and usually inaccessible archives. Yet among many developing communities, constituents charge local leaders with collecting and caring for the community's culturally significant objects. Unlike most museums, Open Hand maintains this tradition by providing the people most qualified to do so—the community itself—the means to protect and use their collections.
Our exhibits are not just storehouses, with objects simply placed into lifeless simulations of their contexts. They reflect living people, as well as their stories, beliefs, and attitudes. Visitors of all ages touch and interact with objects, exploring their meaning first-hand and without glass barriers. In so doing, Open Hand captures the imagination and human spirit required for real social change.
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