Thoughts on Reinventing the Museum, Part III

The theme fit perfectly for this week, there needs to be change within the museum’s and how they conduct their business operations.  Like everything in life, things change, and museums need to change as we are in the twenty-first century. Falk and Sheppard’s section on “Creating a New Business Model” showed the importance of strategy within a business. If you do not have a strategy, the business is not likely to succeed. One of the things they brought up that seemed most relevant concerned the notion that museums, or non-profit organizations in general, need to follow the models of the for-profit organizations (383). I loved how they kept reminding us of the importance of change, nothing can stay static for very long in a society that is constantly evolving. They also stated museums once lived in a world free from the “tawdry demands of the marketplace.” (381). Well, that is not the case anymore and therefore changes must be made to cope with that changing market.

However, as Kotter noted in “Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail,” change is not easy and it takes a certain individual to make it happen (521). Leadership is required for change to take place and it makes sense because not everyone thinks they need to change, so it takes a leader to make it occur. The eight steps Kotter addressed to transform an organization were insightful and seemed relevant and logical approaches to tackling such a task. Simply by looking at what he claimed an organization needed in order to transform, it did seem a daunting task, but a necessary one in many cases where organizations have fallen behind in the twenty-first century.

The chapter “Museums and Libraries in the 21st Century” discussed the three shifts having effects on museums and libraries in this era: the economy, societal needs and audience expectations (497). With the changing society, technology, economy, etc, new skills are needed. In a country and a century that many consider technologically advanced, more interactivity is expected by the audience. As our society changes, the expectations do as well, therefore our organizations must change. A very enlightening set of chapters that stressed the need for change which it seems many are either fearful of or not prepared for.

Thoughts on Reinventing the Museum, Part II

The articles all dealt with an area of museums that I am very unfamiliar with which is how they conduct business. I always knew there has been a controversy over some museums, such as the British Museum, in what they take and whether or not it was taken lawfully. However, I never knew how in depth the process was and the laws put into effect because of it. “Deft Deliberations” confronted a very important topic with regards to the rights of Native American’s and the objects museum’s have acquired. Monroe and Echo-Hawk noted that “one of the many ‘trail of tears’ in American Indian history is the fact that U.S. museums and universities hold staggering numbers of dead native people who provide mute testimony to the pervasive violation of Native American rights.” (73) Knowing where, and how, a museum acquired its belongings is very important, I think the public should be aware of it as well. I have a hard time believing that the public would find museums dishonestly filling their displays as acceptable conduct. That being said, the article really set the stage for the coming articles in the sense that each one dealt with honest and dishonest methods museums used to acquire their items.

In Malaro’s article on deaccessioning, she explained the issues museums have with removing items from their exhibits. Where do they go? The codes listed by the AAM included some vital rules for museums to abide by, especially number 2 “When considering disposal, the museum must weigh carefully the interests of the public that it serves.” (80) One thing that really troubled me was the idea that since museums are a nonprofit organization, the governing board has the authority to dispose of what they want to get rid of, without getting permission from anyone else. What troubles me about that is they might overlook how the public feels or the historical significance of certain items in the museum and get rid of them. Like Malaro pointed out on page 84, they should use outside opinions to decide what to get rid of. Fiona Cameron’s article “Museum Collections, Documentation, and Shifting Knowledge Paradigms” included another troubling feature to me, that museum collecting “are rooted in 19th-century empiricist modes of thinking.” (223) The fact that many of them did not upgrade to keep up with the changing technology seems odd to me. If, as Cameron mentioned “collections management databases are the primary means in which museums document their collections,” (224) why haven’t they upgraded their methods? It seems, after reading these articles, there is a lot of work for museums to do in order to keep up with the 21st century.




Thoughts on Reinventing the Museum Part 1

Trying to bring the museum to the public, as this book has shown, is a real challenge.  The authors in Reinventing the Museum really covered that well, especially Lisa C. Roberts in chapter thirteen. How can you be honest, while at the same time present the information clearly enough for the general public to learn from it? Roberts showed what a struggle that can be when interpretation is concerned. The key sentence in that chapter for me was on page 147: “just because visitors look does not mean that they learn.” George E. Hein, when he talked about the Constructivist Museum, stated one of the keys was to present the content in way that makes it easiest to understand. However, does that make it any easier to learn? In a museum where there is an abundance of exhibits and a wealth of information, someone can be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of knowledge. How can you be sure anyone will come out of the museum feeling like they learned something? I think there is more to it than just effective communication, like Roberts suggested. Hein talked about the need to focus on the visitor, not the content of the museum. In class we talked about selling out when creating history the general public wants to see. Well, how do you not sell out by focusing on the visitor? If you cater to the visitor, isn’t that the same as the History Channel catering to the viewer? Just some thoughts I had. One thing I did find very intriguing was John Cotton Dana’s desire to create a museum for the immigrants and the housewives. Dana was from the 19th, early 20th centuries, which made it unusual for a male of that era to focus on groups such as immigrants and housewives.