Downtown Eugene

Monday, February 14, 2005

A new approach to "museums" -- Part II

Ideally, an exhibit should have all the benefits of a website -- a museum exhibit has the advantage of reality ... more tangible demonstrations, deeper interactivity, human interaction, workshops, demonstrations etc. But it should also be a place where you can sit down and delve into the subject more deeply, take notes, bookmark and annotate ideas, save them, buy something that relates, etc.

The easiest way to do this is to cluster exhibits into issues & subjects, and have staff there to rent & sell items, orient research, make demonstrations, answer questions etc. And then to have computers there, with access to the web, that let you investigate further, make notes, comment, act, etc.

A new approach to "museums" -- Part I

For centuries, it was at Art Museums that the best artists gathered to teach the best potential artists. So, for example, a Geology museum should be the place where new geologists are born. A historical museum should be where the best historians gather ... etc. Others can gather their too ... a historical museum should also be a place where engineers and artisans learn how to make things at least as well as their predecessors, for example.

Unfortunately this isn't the case. Let's find some reasons.

1. No economy -- if the best also could make a living at the museum, they would spend all their time there.

2. No community, no communication -- if the museum only works one way, to tell people what they should know, rather than to engage them in a conversation to improve the presentation, then people will go, and leave. They'll be back in a few years, at best.

3. No progress -- if a museum is changed, it should change using a very simple rule: keep what works, and fix what doesn't. It should not gut itself at once, in order to please a major donor, or it's new director, or the newest trend in museums.

4. No warmth -- somehow, even though museum workers tend to be very committed people, they manage rarely to be good at sparking enthusiasm in others. They are not activists, they are experts. But this doesn't serve the community, and it doesn't ultimately support them either. They must create a phsyical & social environment that invites people to join in an intimate understanding of the subject at hand. Itstead, one way or another, museums tend to present an intimidating presentation of established dogma.

5. Too commercial -- this is a new problem for Art museums, but an old one for, say, Science museums, which often had nuclear power exibits sponsored by General Electric. The community must come first, and the higher goals of a community, to empower and inspire individuals to do things for each other, to find their potential, to find independent and cooperative relationships with others, and to give their passion to something of their choosing.