Monday, April 01, 2013

Museum Discourse


Museums are ways to preserve collective memories for the majority. It's not about the controversies nor are museums obliged to to tell you everything. Museums are supposedly objective, but even in objectivity there are perception bias. Bias is not read negatively as irrational fear but deliberate decisions to focus (more) on one aspect than another.
So museum discourse appears to have these genres:
1. Security checks: are you in here for the righ reasons? Are you really here to learn? Only harmless people allowed. Security personnel must be firm but not fearsome.
2. Visitor centers: maps and brochures if you want to see everything. or the earnest who want to make the most of every visit. Visitor centres must have friendly and knowledgeable staff (wo)manning the counters.
3. Themed exhibitions: to make your learning managable. To break away from chronology as framework.
Usually has an overview, the introduction, a chapter, the next chapter, a case study, heroic stories, how its ends, happily ever after. quote of remembrance. The layout of these chapters must have text, artefacts, blown-up photos, posters, movie clips, spotlights, glass enclosures. Now think about what this means if you are writing up an essay.
4. Permanent exhibitions: the pride of place. The must-sees. Have spotlights, write-ups and set-ups to "simulate" the "real" environment. Often are object taken out of context. A bust, a frieze, a pillar, a part of something bigger than stuck on a wall or put on a pedestal. Token items takes away meaning from the value that could have come from having a context eg. its scale, location, other objects around it.
5. Convenient facilities: clean toilets, water fountains.
6. Gift shop: the most important aspect of a museum experience is to merchandise the expertise by minting souvenirs, books, posters, related memorabilia, paraphernalia so that visitors can take away a piece of history, or the history of having visited. Have items for kids, they are the ones who make the adults buy. Adult visitors with no kids in tow buy less, if anything, than family group visitors.