Rebirthing a Classic: Collections at Work

Making changes in the museum field is easier said than done. America has spent a good part of the last hundred years preserving items, amassing large collections in everything imaginable. As we move further away from the historical periods that are saved, how do museum professionals make meaningful connections to the narratives of the past? Mesa Verde National Park, one of the first parks in the National Park Service, is trying to find the “best of both worlds”. The park hopes to connect their millions of visitors to a lost native culture, who come every year with expectations of a classic museum experience of large cases of beautiful objects with labels. To keep these older museums viable, changes must occur that keeps interest alive.

While this seems fundamental, analysts like Stephen Conn realize that ideas alone will not sustain these aging museums forever (i). While Lauren Finn, museum tech at Mesa Verde, feels the mission of the park is to protect artifacts, she admits that the 21st century is calling (ii). The collection at Mesa Verde, over three million objects strong, will soon be moving to a new facility at the base of the mountain. This will allow researchers and visitors alike to have easier access to the collection. With open storage and the talk of tours of the repository, not only will the collections be getting a new home, they will be accessible to the public. New visitor experiences will bring back those who’ve been and entice the rest. Isn’t this what museum collections are all about?

Sources:

i. Steven Conn, Do Museum’s Need Objects? (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010), 173.

ii. Interview with Lauren Finn, Museum Tech, Mesa Verde National Park, November 4th, 2011.

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