01 Nov Museums Manifesto
After spending a lot of time thinking about museums and their role in our lives, I would like to discuss the roles of museums in two different layers – On stage and Behind the scenes.
Behind the Scenes
When I come to think about it, I find museums as the most fundamental archives our society keeps. Wether it is an art museum, a history museum or any other, it is usually where we can find the knowledge and the remains | artifacts | representations in the topic.
In art museums, a lot of efforts are being made to fulfill this mission, as the art pieces worth great money and therefore being sometimes kept in strict conditions for conservation purposes.
After visiting the museum of natural history during the semester and seeing the millions of conserved species kept in drawers, I realized this mission of keeping this archive is as important at least, as sharing ideas and discoveries with the public. This is how we advance as society, how we keep track of our history, of our own discoveries and “truths”.
The other role of the museum is to make a topic accessible to the public. Exposing the public to the latest discovers, findings and ideas is indeed very important, but presenting them in an engaging and interesting way, in context to our present times, prove to be a pretty difficult task. This task is especially hard as the museum should be accessible to anybody and for understanding a specific subject, one usually should be familiar with more layers of this topic. Each layer is based on another.
I believe in the power of stories and narratives to drive topics and ideas. In order to really learn something one has to feel it in addition to “just” understanding it. The road to engagement must go through immersion. Immersion can be achieved in many ways, but they all share certain rules.
An immersive experience should be coherent, even if the choice is for it to be incoherent, the incoherency should still be coherent. The use of the space should be well designed in a way that will engage the visitor and will naturally lead him from point A to point Z. When designing a space in a museum we should always consider all of our senses. The importance of the smell in the space can sometimes be more crucial to the experience than the visuals.
The Level of interaction is yet another aspect that should be well address – How much interaction should the visitor have? How much freely should he explore the space? Should the “tour” be constructed or open to individual choices?
Museum exhibit design is a unique field as this “medium”, this “canvas”, allows the creator to have work in a public space which is dedicated to observation and learning. Presenting work in a public space is an interesting experience for itself – provoking discussions, thoughts and feelings, but museums are more than that – They are public indoor spaces.
Lev Manovich, in his article “The Poetics of Augmented Space”, discusses the role of museums in the revolution of spatial data –
“Augmented space […] is one opportunity for these institutions to take a more active role. While many video installations already function as laboratories for developing new configurations of images within space, museums and galleries as a whole could use their own unique asset – a physical space – to encourage the development of distinct new spatial forms of art and new spatial forms of the moving image. In this way, they can take a lead in testing outone part of the augmented space future.”
A museum is a space where people can move freely and do not have to stay in one place unlike cinema for example. A place where the purpose of coming there is to relax from daily routine and just go on a new adventure. What can potentially be more immersive than that?