Decoding the Direction of the Museum Shift

The paradigm shift is all about moving the core of museums from conservation and collections to education and public service. This new focus gives rise to a plethora of questions. Should exhibits be driven more by artifacts or ideas? How can museums attract new audiences? Who are museums for? What should museums provide? When, if at all, is it acceptable to exhibit non-authentic objects? In the digital age of overabundant information, how can museums present information in enticing and novel ways? New questions are always surfacing, and old questions require revisiting.

Collections are only as interesting as the stories they have to tell. By starting with ideas rather than objects, exhibits can be fascinating and relatable to a wide range of audiences. In the modern age of people striving to become socially conscious and globally connected, museums must find ways to become the cultural meeting places for lifelong learners. The wonderful thing about education is that it never ends. Museums must provide programs and services for the public’s unquenchable curiosity. Museums as education centers challenge us to open our minds to unfamiliar stories and perspectives. Exhibits have special potential to show any subject or object in an interesting light. Today’s museums are aiming for enjoyable learning experiences. By beginning with ideas, museums become institutions for thinking rather than just things.

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2 Responses to Decoding the Direction of the Museum Shift

  1. emilykp47 says:

    I like the idea of starting with an idea and building an exhibit around that idea, rather than the traditional model of looking at your collections and deciding what to display (as this runs the risk of not having a coherent theme or compelling idea for your exhibit). However, if you start with an idea, you could potentially be unwilling to consider other viewpoints. I think all museum professionals have to be aware of this possibility, and be open to entertaining multiple ideas and viewpoints.

  2. A good point is made in that museums need to start with ideas and then move to things. We talk a lot about experience economy and this is really the heart of where we are trying to go. In today’s world people want to be able to experience things. They want to touch and interact. They don’t just want to read exhibit labels. This means that we need to put thought into the ideas before we can ever begin to think about how to display it. We need to create experiences within the museum that people can learn from. When people can feel involved in the idea of the thing they are more personally invested in the overall experience!

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