I think that objects can play a key role in the question of how we encourage civic discourse among staff and visitors because they are secondary objects that allow us to take our scrutiny off of each other (and our potentially contentious views) and apply them tangentially to the collection. To me, the path to civic discourse is encouraging people to have more relationships with a wider variety of people. Relationships formed over common love, interest in, or confusion at artifacts could do that, just the way that dogs and sunsets and bowling balls do. It’s hard to imagine a museum cutting out objects and going straight to the issues and being successful. We’re all entrenched in our own preconceptions, and I might have very little interest tn going to an exhibit on, say, ABORTION. But I saw lots of good discussions go on in the halls of Bodyworlds among visitors, strangers to each other, talking about a plasticized fetus.
In the same way that the web allows us to deflect and filter our personae through virtual profiles, objects can allow us to turn to the side, speak a little more reverently, and get around to something important.