Museums and Objects

Posted by on 19th Mar 2021

Recently the Victoria and Albert Museum has been in the news because of budget cuts and a staff reorganisation. Curators are being replaced by business people; objects are being ousted by experiences.

Since I recently started an online course with the V&A about exhibitions, I've been questioning what curators do and the role of objects in a museum.

We've been told that museums put people in front of objects. Once there, innovative designs enhance your experience of the objects.

We live in an experience economy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experience_Economy). Experiences bring in influencers and revenue.

What is the difference between a museum and a cafe, or a museum and a theme park, or even a museum and a casino?

Objects. Stories. Spaces. History.

If further proof that we are all the same were required, we could add a comparison with the extremists under Mao, and say that every generation everywhere in the world has those who try to destroy and denigrate historical objects.

Museums exist to conserve objects and stories and spaces for future generations.

Future generations might not value experiences the same way this generation does; future generations might value material culture.

The only battles fought in museums over objects should be intellectual and analytical.

People need to say no to extremism. We have to demand more from our national museums than a good day out. Museums are not casinos making money for the house.

Education. Education. Education.

Museums exist to enhance our knowledge of objects.

Over the years Fabian has done his best to instil a love of learning in Monty.

They’d spend hours at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester and Liverpool's World Museum, as well as the local museum and library in Bolton where the family used to live. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/family/life/want-raise-child-genius-send-state-school/

This article suggests sending your child to a state school if you want a child genius. Perhaps the suggestion would be better reframed to: Want to raise a 'child genius'? Take them to a museum.

Improving experiences shouldn't mean dumbing down content. Children from state schools derserve high-quality and challenging information.

Museums shouldn't stagnate, they should not be reframed for influencers. When restructuring museums, the priority should be ensuring Monty and his father Fabian in Bolton can access, enjoy, and learn from your content.

Museums exist to educate audiences. Entertainment might happen; education must happen.

Putting people in front of objects might be at the heart of a museum's purpose; information and research are the soul.

People can be put in front of objects and read about them online--it is better for the environment and makes the object and the analysis accessible to Monty in Bolton.