Thursday, 17 September 2009

Theoretical History or Brick Building 101 -- Museum Exhibit Musings

I have been in the mood lately for a little discussion and contemplation. So I decided to see what other museum blogs have been discussing. I came across a blog called ExhibiTricks that looks at museums, exhibits and design.

I got quite caught up in reading some of their blogs. The one that suggested that museums stop funding huge projects and mega-museums and instead “fund small ‘risky’ projects instead of ‘safe’ big projects” reminded me that the most fun I ever have and when I learn the most is when I do projects that get me in trouble with the “powers that be” or the arbiters of what’s right and wrong. But in the end they usually turn out to be the ones most worth the risk. Also, I’ve always found that organizations that live by their wits are required to be much more in tune with their community and their fans (I prefer that to visitors right now) because they have to be.

There were also a blog that questioned if you were designing an exhibit what one feature would you absolutely include and which would you absolutely not. The WOULD include was something that got the wheels in my head absolutely churning.

The idea was to have a Fablab or, as the writer described it, computerized or non-computerized designs tools to create objects to take home because, as the blog continued, exhibits usually show the end projects (the historical artefact, the art object, the building or whatever) without helping people appreciate the process.

This really spoke to me. The other day I described myself as a theoretical historian (I did once consider becoming a theoretical physicist but that’s a story for another day). A fablab would help me and many other people gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of how things were achieved. I have absolutely no idea if it would actually be possible to do any of these (whether in the exhibit or not) but how hard would it be to make a brick? Could we bring in sandstone and see if we could shape it into something useful? If we set out the math needed for one area of the bridge, how many of us could accurately work it out? If we found a nursing textbook from that time period, could we attempt some of the things that nurses learned during their training? I don’t know about you but I would sure be game to try.

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