Contradictions?

Mostly, the posts I write for this blog I’m happy with. I manage to get down what I want to say in a way that seems engaging. I usually spend a bit of time reviewing a post the next day or so after posting to see what I could have done better or differently.

I’m still thinking about the post I did yesterday, I think it might have some interesting contradictions in it that I’d like to tease out. I also read this post – another about MoaM – that I hadn’t seen.

When I said that museums only come alive with visitors  and then that outside trumps inside I think I might have been contradicting myself. It also occurred to me that Kate McGroarty is a ‘visitor’ and brought life to the museum (well, sort of). But, is it really a contradiction? Perhaps it is more subtle than that.

It is really the knowledge and experiences visitors bring to the museum that make meaning within the museum. I don’t want to get all post-structuralist on you, but I think that people tend to find the most meaning in something they have some context or some touchstone for. Sure, you can go to a museum and learn a whole new thing and be totally blown away by it – and that does happen, but mostly I think people like to find things they recognise or can associate with. We humans like to know more things about the things we already know. Again, there are exceptions.

Christopher Hudgens in that post I linked to above said:

The web, where pages are free to publish is the prefect place to build a trap for the human imagination so it can roll around joyfully in subject mater of individual pertinent interest like a pig in mud and learn, celebrate and know as much about your product as possible. Its not a billboard, its a quilt as I presume Kate McGroarty’s wise mother knows all too well. Woven with history, personality, flaws & perfection. Thats how social media works and without it that is how it fails.

I think this is a spectacular point. Museums should (and some do) build traps with their websites and online presence. Why leave the best bits for those who you get to walk in the door? Perhaps by giving away the best bits online, more will be more inclined to walk through the door; to see ‘in real life’ something they learnt about online. Museums need to be clever about this, of course, but I think it is the best reason I’ve heard so far for online, freely sharable collection databases, online exhibitions and building social media followers. It isn’t really about helping those who can’t get to the museum – it is about making those who can be excited to go.

Kate McGroarty is a perfect example in that she became an exhibit that visitors wanted to see. They went to the museum to look at the thing they saw online. She even said that lots of people wanted to see her inside her cube (back in your display case, exhibit!). Isn’t that weird? We think people want to get inside the display cases – touch and feel – but they really only want to metaphorically get inside there – they want all that other information (augmented-like!) but they want their exhibits to behave like, well, exhibits.

I’m off to Paris and the UK next month(!) and I’ve done so much excited viewing of photos of museums I want to go to. Mostly I’m trying to pick out details from those annoyingly small bits of photos that make up header banners or flash animations. I want to see proper photos! I want to get some insight into what I’m going to see and when I get there I want to see that! And more of course, I know there is always more, but getting contextual information about the museum just makes me more excited about going.

So. Did I contradict myself when I said that outside trumps inside. Sort of. But I still think that it is only when the life outside comes inside a museum that the real fun begins.

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Teresa Bennett, Jen. Jen said: Contradictions?: http://t.co/OlxIMIq follow up post to yesterday's thoughts on month in a museum and museum of life […]



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