This is Not the Exhibit You Knew 10 Years Ago
How does a curator go about deciding what goes in an exhibit? One thing is for sure: nobody asked for your opinion. But they probably should have.
Kathleen McLean suggests that the “most dynamic conversations and exhibitions take place around the edges, in the margins, in the overlap of disciplines, and in the framing of questions in surprising new ways” (76-77). Exhibits themselves are a starting place for historical discussions and interaction beyond the museum walls. Traditionally the curator chooses the content and the visitors walk through a series of rooms but rarely take the content back into the outside world.
An interesting way to change the museum experience would be to make a single exhibit space individualized for every visitor. Similar to crowd sourcing or YouTube “suggested videos” each visitor could choose liked, dislikes, and interests. Living museums allow for some kinds of interaction like this now. Old World Wisconsin doesn’t force anyone to milk a cow if they don’t want to (though why you wouldn’t want to I don’t know), and the National Holocaust Museum has barriers in place to hide more graphic content from younger viewers or anyone who doesn’t want to experience the most violent parts. But how does content get selected to be in a museum?
Source: stolen from imgur
According to Indy, “that” belongs in a museum. And so do you.
By filtering out unwanted content it’s more likely visitors will enjoy themselves and recommend the experience to others. It could also be possible to cater to specific interests by offering other related information based on what pieces of an exhibit visitors respond to. Response could be measured by anything from social media interaction to immediate response within the exhibit itself or surveys. Both child and adult focused exhibits can be set up in interactive ways because, let’s be honest, what adult doesn’t want to poke at a touch screen or move plastic boats down a tiny, fake canal.
Other living museum exhibits including the house discussed in Benjamin Filene’s article (138-155) use “unconventional” ways of collecting information for public consumption. As an outsider, I generally assume that all information in a museum comes from historical documents and pictures because what is chosen to be preserved is usually already in the past. By creating a museum based around the lives of those currently living, the current world can be preserved as normal people see it rather than how those in the future assume it should be reconstructed. Asking individuals who all shared similar experiences at different times could create a timeline of experiences rather than records of specific places or lists of events that all occurred in the same time period.
Finding commonalities among experiences in different parts of the world would also be an interesting thing to explore; these similarities could be represented by use of languages from every region where similar events occurred.
Global experiences can also be represented in this way. Something as significant as President Kennedy’s assassination would be a good historical moment to snapshot by interviewing people still living of various ages and compiling an international map including ways in which this event changed their country. World wars are obviously also prime candidates for this type of project but are more widely studied than single-day events.
I’m interested in using personal interviews and “choose your own adventure” learning in some way. For the purposes of a final project, interviews of locals from the Green Bay area of varying ages would be helpful to me as I am not originally from here. Long-time residents of this area have a fuller picture of what life is like than someone like me who has only lived here for four years. I would also be interested in finding out what sorts of things people from the Fox Cities would want to see represented in an exhibit. Some people may enjoy the Packers while others will probably see the toilet paper industry as the most significant contribution to the economy and would prefer to have trees, not cheese, take center stage.
If every person wants something different from a museum experience, they should be able to consume only specific aspects of the whole and also take part in designing and sharing their wants with other visitors. Historical grounding should still remain at the heart of all learning, but the margins and overlap between disciplines are becoming ever more significant.
Stolen from here.
Rather than let museums die off and fossilize in a dark cave, we as consumers should interact and provide feedback to increase our own enjoyment. If feedback and personalization were immediate (as most people prefer things to be) each trip to a museum would be different. Completely digitized exhibits are also available online as an option for those wanting to experience history at their own pace. Savvy adventurers might want the option to explore outer space and the Battle of Little Big Horn at the same time; that would be unique.
Filene, Benjamin.”Make yourself at home-Welcoming Voices in Open House: If These Walls Could Talk.” Letting Go? Sharing historical Authority in a User-Generated World. Ed. Adair, Filene, Koloski. Philadelphia: The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, 2011. 138-155. Print.
McLean, Kathleen. “Whose Questions, Whose Conversations?” Letting Go? Sharing historical Authority in a User-Generated World. Ed. Adair, Filene, Koloski. Philadelphia: The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, 2011. 70-79. Print.