From Passive to Active

So far in my life, I have only been to museums that follow the “old” way of doing things- I approach a painting or artifact, read the brief description, then move on in the low-light galley to the next object. I have never had the opportunity to use digital devices, participate with strangers, or create an object d’ art. I think that is why it is hard for me to visualize the effectiveness of all these new ideas within my museum context. One thing is for sure; the concept of what museums are to be is going through a major revolution. Last week in class, we discussed the blurring of lines between digital and physical presentations, as well as the shared ownership of authority between curator and community. This week’s discussion focuses two other changes that I feel are much more daring. One, the lines between historical and art museums (or other artistic groups such as playwrights, and dancers) are becoming blurred. This includes the idea of bringing in an artist and having them curate with the museum’s artifacts or creating a play about a historical figure. Secondly, and probably most revolutionary, is the idea that historical museums are moving away from being collectors of the past to being active creators of the present.


Using the Mining the Museum exhibit as an example, I wonder what the public reaction was to the collaboration.   People are used to being shocked and pushed in art galleries, but not necessarily in historical museums.   Instead of seeing the stagnant displays that had been there for years, visitors were treated to displays that were meant to create strong emotion and discussion.   Challenging the emotions as well as the intellect can be a difficult process for visitors. That being said, is challenging emotions such a bad thing?   Probably not, but it will be something that visitors will have to get used to in the new museum model.


Curators will have to become much, much, more creative when developing new installations for museums.   It seems that museums will spend less time will be spent building up collections in lieu of creating collaborations with others.   Ideas are now the focus, not things.

One thought on “From Passive to Active”

  1. You make a nice point that I did not really consider before Mandy! People are used to being shocked and uncomfortable in art museums, not history museums. I wonder what percent of the visitors would really appreciate “artistic” displays and provocative exhibits and how many of them would prefer tradition? I’d like to see the feedback from visitors of these museums.

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