Sunday, 11 October 2009

Long Live the Random -- Museum Exhibit Musings

Today I just have some questions and random thoughts.

First, what’s your opinion of timelines? Should there be one in the exhibit? Would it help to provided connections between the various themes? Or is that unnecessary? And too scholarly? I have a fondness for timelines but that could just be me.

Second, I was looking on-line at descriptions and information on other museum exhibits that look at the growth of the community. Many focused on the cultural growth of the community and diversity. One such, the Changing Places exhibit at Levine Museum in North Carolina, explored new and long-time traditions (among many other themes in the exhibit). This got me thinking about some of the things we do in southern Alberta that may (okay, probably do) seem strange to new people and I’ve been trying to understand why we do these.

In your kitchen cupboard or china cabinet, are your glasses stored with the open end up or down? Many people raised across the prairies (or who comes from families who have been on the prairies a long time) seem to store their glasses with the open end down. Why? The theory is that our families learned their lesson during the Great Depression and Dirty Thirties that anyone silly enough to store glasses with the open side up ended up having to wash the glasses prior to every use (because they got full of dirt). I’d be interested in hearing what your family does and your background.

The other is when you enter your house, do you take your shoes off or leave them on? This one seems to be more wide spread across Canada but I hazard a guess that most of you take your shoes off? I have no idea as to the origin of this. I have a few speculations but I would love to hear yours. Why do you think people do this?

Third (and apologies to the Museum 2.0 blog for some paraphrasing – check out this blog if you have a chance) is back to HOW to tell stories in exhibits. They suggest that one of the reasons that museums such as Creationist museums do so well is that they employ three primary areas of storytelling: passion, people and purpose and that other museums shy away from being passionate about subjects (must maintain our objectivity, after all).

As you may recall from past blogs, I believe that (while still ensuring balance) we need to let people know our opinions and beliefs. The Museum 2.0 goes further and suggests that museums tell the funny stories, show our anger and gasps of delight and help the visitor to do the same. That only in this manner can we help people new to the subject learn how and why to care about the same things that we passionately care about. And then they’ll want to learn more about the subject.

I’ve always know that it’s a good thing I’m opinionated and willing to share what I like and dislike (and why). Now I just have to make you (and the visitors to the exhibit) as passionate and as willing to be opinionated, too!

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