Science Museum of Minnesota
Dialogue & Deliberation Fellowship
Born in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada and raised in the Pacific Northwest, David Valentine serves as the Community Engagement Specialist at the Science Museum of Minnesota. David has worked with several museums and cultural institutions, and his current focus is on power sharing, dialogue, and collaboration with communities.
The Boys Totem Town Community Conversation Collective is a group that emerged out of meetings between the Boys Totem Town Land Preservation Group and its partners, including the Lower Phalen Creek Project, Penumbra Theater, Friends of the Mississippi River, and the Circle of Peace Movement.
Boys Totem Town is a 72-acre site, of which 10 acres were developed for a juvenile detention center which is no longer in use. The remaining portion is an oak savanna, and it is also near significant Indigenous sites including Dakota burial mounds and the historic Kaposia Village. The county owns this property, and there is much public discourse around how the land should be used, which the county has indicated that it wants to be responsive to.
This project focused on bringing together community members and local government representatives, facilitating conversation, and connecting the outputs with local government. The Science Museum of Minnesota also brought a scientific lens to this project, including providing information about the unique ecosystem preserved on Boys Totem Town land.
Project partners disseminated information about Boys Totem Town and gathered community opinions about what should be done with the land, including potentially creating an open space with trails and educational markers, preserving and interpreting the history and culture associated with the site, or creating a nature center, community center, or community garden.
In addition to in-person events, community input was collected through online platforms. After the events, the project team will work with an external evaluator to summarize community opinions into a report to share with participants and the community, and present to city and state representatives. State representatives have indicated that such information would be referenced in future processes when such decisions are being surfaced.