|A magnifying glass to look at small details of a painting can also |
be a fun element for a child at a museum.
Tucked in the corner of one of the last rooms of the exhibit we visited was a Dutch book from the 17th century. It called to me, but it seemed to attract few other people. And now, I wish that I had taken notes about it. I can not find any information on the Internet about its inclusion in the exhibit. I'm not even sure exactly what it was. My daughter was running toward paintings with flowers in them and I had to scurry on my way. But I keep thinking about this item. I wonder why it was there. The label copy in "Golden" was fabulous overall in that it provided much information about Dutch life, artists, and ideas. The interactive computer modules were also inspired. I learned so much about the time period, but the emphasis was clearly on placing paintings and furniture in context. Why was the book included here? What was it trying to tell me? How did it relate to the paintings? How did it help place them in context? What did it tell us about Dutch life during this period?
|Short thought-provoking labels are inspiring. Sometimes less|
detail is more.
|The camera captures this Campbell's soup can|
made of spools of thread. The human eye does
not view these details unless we look into the
glass ball included by the artist.
And I return to the strangeness of the book in the corner of the Dutch exhibit.... Museums, libraries and archives need to become more comfortable crossing into each other's spheres. Books, archives, art, and artifacts all relate and should do so seamlessly. Items made by people who are influenced by the world around them reflect society no matter what their format, but sometimes institutions falter when they try to make this point. We need to be clearer in our own minds about these relationships. Whether we are curators, archivists, or librarians we need to recognize that all of the actions and products of our lives and our environments can inform our knowledge about our past. Making these connections should be a central part of what a cultural heritage institution does.
Last year I wrote about the exhibit at the Museum of Our National Heritage called Jim Henson's Fantastical World. This exhibit creatively used archives and artifacts to illuminate its subject. I refer you back to my posting about it because more museums should be working this way in my opinion. Peabody Essex is on its way. I hope that they make it over the hump. I hope that is where their survey leads them.