Reinventing The Museum Part II

In the world of the 21st century, it would seem inconceivable that museums would have collections that actually need to be given back to their proper owners.    I was not surprised that certain institutions before 1990,  when the Native Grave Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 was passed had probably not returned to Native American families the remains of their loved ones.  I know the article was written 23 years ago, but one has to wonder if certain museums have returned these remains or if by the status that certain institutions have obtained, they might have felt above the law.  Another question this Act might propose is that if the artifact mentioned is older, as to say, 9000 years, who has the right to claim the body?  Do the Native American Indian tribes as the case of the Kennewick Man, claim the bones or does the institution, whose property it was on can claim it?  The body was found on Corps of Army Engineers property, so they want to claim it.  Five Native American Tribes want to claim it. The courts eventually appointed the University of Washington to safeguard the property even though the Army Corps of Engineers claim ownership.  Many legal quandaries exist, and really this man should be laid to rest with his descendants.  One wonders how or if through law, or how and why this legal conundrum could be affected at all by the ICOM Code of Ethics.

The article on deaccessioning, seemed that on the institutional level when the institution was finished with the artifact, they needed to part with it in a timely manner.  Selling the artifact as a collectible would be one way for a museum to make money.  There is always someone willing to add a piece to their collection that would be pleasing esthetically to them as collectors.  Museums and collections today have a momentous task to be moving and to remain fluid to keep the public’s appeal.  Proper and correct implementation procedures of deaccessioning would greatly enhance the institutions image and would secure additional funds to be more viable as an instrument to serve the public.

The movement for digitizing and electronically cataloguing collections has grown greatly.  These new methods can be seen in larger museums that are using this new paradigm shift to scanning, using digital photography and new other new techniques.  This makes the publics experience more memorable.  Institutions are using these techniques to make “virtual exhibits” on the web.  New innovations can be adapted and used in the museum to inspire and educate a broader audience.

Through modern media the need for the “wow factor” has to be presented to the public. We,  as future public historians have to be able to mine this feeling.  Public historians need to be able to go outside the bubble and be able to look at something that would be beneficial and intriguing to your audience.  The article, “Mining the Museum: An Installation Confronting History”, gives us a very good checklist to engage and evaluate how well the exhibit performs and if interpolates the present with the past, and meld them together to work. If this procedure does indeed work well, then it certainly captures that “wow factor” that is needed.