The Democratic Potential of the Handling Collection

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What do you think happens when I take out a small yellow rubber duck from the display case during a school visit to the Democracy Does Not Exist—We Make It! exhibition? Curiosity is sparked. Participants question “Can she do that? Can she take out a museum object from its display case? What does a yellow rubber duck have to do with democracy?” This article explores the democratic potential of the handling collection by drawing attention to a specific case at the Museum of World Culture in Sweden. Learning through objects, or object-based learning, has great potential to open visitors’ senses and connect theoretical concepts, such as democracy, to real and tangible objects and stories. Drawing on the notion of the ignorant museum as well as literature on the importance of touch and tactile experiences in museums, the article asks how handling collections can help transform museums into a more inclusive, and thus democratic, learning environment.