Tuesday, 13 November 2007

New ways of experiencing museums

This article presents a lovely perspective on the ways different audiences now engage with museums. It's also interesting to wonder how these changing perspectives affect the online experience of a museum, exhibition or single object.

The idea of a museum visit as a kind of promenade theatre event is a comparatively new one for me. I am typical of my generation, I suspect, in still expecting a trip to a gallery to be improving - with the emphasis on it as a place where one will be educated, and above all, somewhere one will be infused with morally uplifting sentiments.

Younger gallery-goers, by contrast, go in search of a more immediate experience - looking for something emotionally challenging, against which to measure the tide of information that floods us, in our engulfing sea of online information.

Or, in the case of Tate Modern's Turbine Hall or the V&A's Friday Late, they simply go to hang out with similarly inclined others, for the shared sense of occasion.

Last weekend's outing to Tate Modern succeeded in convincing me that the excitement of the encounter is an important part of today's visit to the museum.


According to the French intellectual Andre Malraux - Minister for Culture under General de Gaulle for 10 years from 1959 - whereas once the visitor went to a museum to be provided with answers, now, the responsibility lies with us, the visitors.

The museum experience exists most richly in our own imaginations, created out of a collection of images we each carry with us, gleaned from books, magazines, photographs and film. We bring remembered visual material with us into a museum space which has thereby become imaginary. The installation or exhibition merely acts as a catalyst, prompting us to ask our own questions which we look to the artist to answer.

From the BBC, Making contact

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