Thursday, December 13, 2007

"What is the Single Most Important Function of Museums?"

The Digital Heritage Blog, the blog for the Centre for Museology at the University of Manchester, UK reports that "the [UK] Museums Association has made a short film asking museum professionals 'what is the single most important function of museums?' and uploaded it on YouTube." This is very cool.

I know that the Western Museums Association here in the States has also uploaded some videos (including of AAM President Ford Bell's address at the 2007 conference and psychedelic clown Wavy Gravy's keynote address), but what other museum associations out there are making this move into social media? Something to consider...

Not surprisingly, the functions mentioned most often in this video were:
-- Authenticity (real stuff),
-- Education/information dissemination,
-- Providing a forum/neutral space for exploring issues and
-- Storytelling/serving as a cultural memory.

The comments that I found most interesting were that museums were "secular cathedrals," that they should be sort of transcendent and inspirational and that they were for negotiating identities.

Personally, I agree with each and every one of these statements and I would be hard pressed to value one over another, but I will share with you my own biases by stating that what I love best about museums is their storytelling power. I believe that museums are stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves and about the world around us. My undergraduate thesis focused on museums as places for both cultural transmission (stories by us about us) and translation (stories by us about others), and I believe strongly that from these functions we learn and are educated, we experience moments of wonder and awe and that none of this would be possible without the real-deal, authentic collections. But really it all goes back to storytelling.

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