Breathing life back into exhibits

By Laura Harvey

It is curious to see the influence of museum curation in web design as more web designers consider themselves to be “curating” a site, mostly because I think now there may just need to be a reversal, museums may need to learn from websites. Museum exhibits often lack narratives and contextual settings like those seen in public history websites and online exhibits. I see this especially in art museums where art is displayed on walls like trophies with little to no educational narratives, chronological context, or reference to original setting. Rooms are vaguely arranged around themes that are rarely explained to the public, where even a trained art historian would have to question the reasoning behind artistic pairings. Most exhibits now have online companion guides, but the online educational material for an exhibit is now outperforming the educational qualities of the exhibit itself. Why not make the exhibits themselves a comprehensive experience, otherwise we risk losing the physical museum goer to the digital.

I was just reading a blog post by Dr. Lynda Kelly titled “The role of narrative in museum exhibits” that talks about rethinking how museum exhibits are presented. She believes that exhibits should employ storytelling to teach the public and quotes Dr. Leslie Bedford:

Stories are the most fundamental way we learn. They have a beginning, a middle, and an end. They teach without preaching, encouraging both personal reflection and public discussion. Stories inspire wonder and awe; they allow a listener to imagine another time and place, to find the universal in the particular, and to feel empathy for others. They preserve individual and collective memory and speak to both the adult and the child (Leslie Bedford, Storytelling: The Real Work of Museums, quoted by Lynda Kelly).

I of course understand that there may be restrictions based upon funds,
Source: Visual Inquisitor  

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One Response to Breathing life back into exhibits

  1. Becca Adams says:

    I could not agree more. When history is told in the form of a story (whether on paper, on the web or in a museum) we feel so much more and remember so much more. I know reading historical scholarship that “tells a story” rather than simply presenting facts and figures is not only more interesting but leaves a deeper impression on me regardless of the subject.

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