Museum Politics, Part II

The main aspect of this week’s reading that intrigued me is still the claim from Timothy Luke that museums are places of power, that they can “fabricate a nation’s consciousness.” Perhaps I am finding it difficult to come to the same conclusions as Luke is because I have not visited very many large musuems, and have not witnessed exhibits that were controversial. I have visited mostly small museums, the largest being the Oregon Trail Center in Oregon. I can begin to see how such a large exhibit like the Oregon Trail one can begin to shape a nation’s consciousness, but what about exhibits in smaller musuems? I think I better go visit some more musuems with Luke’s conclusions in mind, and see for myself. What type of power plays become evident in a small museum?

The other interesting part of the reading hit me while I was reading about the United States Holocaust Museum.  Luke appears to value low-technology museums more than the high-technology ones, as far as the values participants could garner from those types of exhibits. What does this mean for museums trying to engage their audiences with a variety of technologies? Are participants getting the same value from an online exhibit as they would get in person? What if they are using a mobile device to explore the museum? Thinking about these issues, I started to wonder what it might mean for our digital projects, and whether or not we could expect our projects to serve as valuable learning experiences. I believe that they will, but taking into consideration what Luke said about the United States Holocaust Museum, could our technology fail to send our participants away with valuable information, or a significant moment of epitome? Knowing this, what can we do in our individual projects to help solve this and allow our audience to have a connection to our project/message? I feel that this week’s reading from Luke has left me with more questions than answers, and the desire to go explore the exhibits at the Idaho State Historial Museum and the Capitol to see what types of values that they are trying to instill in me.

One thought on “Museum Politics, Part II”

  1. You make an interesting point about the relationship between entertainment and the distilling of information in museums. I think museums will need to focus on the entertainment aspect more and more in order to compete with the myriad of other ways people might spend their time. I do not think that this means museums have to sacrifice their educational agendas. They just need to find ways to make learning fun and entertaining (why can’t patrons learn without even realizing it). Combining entertainment and learning would seem to be common sense. I know from my own experience that the teachers I learned the most from were not those who stood in front of the class and spewed information at me in a lecture, but those who found ways to keep my attention by presenting the information in an entertaining way. Learning and entertainment are not necessarily at odds.

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