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Re: Museology

In a message dated 3/10/99 9:51:47 PM Eastern Standard Time, Jonkeria writes:

<< While Mr. Varner's take on hands-on things for children at museums was
indeed extreme, the point was simply that if something more than what is
currently on exhibit is needed, the exhibit itself does not necessarily have
to provide the diversion. >>

I think from your very sincere essay you did understand the point I was
making, and I think further discussion (offlist, as you suggest) would produce
Despite all the different facets of the problem, the major issue set before
the list is:  what should a museum expect to provide its visitor?  The
question then follows, who is the visitor?  If the answer is 'everyone' then
the scientist or enthusiast could reasonably wonder whether s/he will be a
forgotten minority.  If exhibits are directed too much toward scientific
curiosity, though, then the museum will not be attractive to someone looking
only to exercize an interest, not be forcefed learning, possibly including
uncomfortable ideas.
Briefly, I suggest that the commonality between scientific types and those who
want to understand more simply because they are interested is that both want
to understand the alien dinosaur (etc) world.  Do people learn all these
anatomical and species names and functions for their own sake?  I assume that
the interest is in assembling correct details and putting them together to
provide a true glimpse of 65+ million years ago.
The challenge for a museum is to make both groups anxious to visit and return.
Before going into details, that goal is best met by displaying what we know or
can reasonably guess, made more compelling by touch, by re-creation with real
objects, even by technical effects.  Once the purpose has been set, everything
else is a matter of available resources and finding a successful strategy for
using them.
As for the castings and fragments and things outside the basic narrative of
the museum, many museums are big places.  Whatever fills in the gaps and
provides great interest to a substantial and important part of the population.
I just don't want a museum to turn into dry technicality or the expression
simply of a point of view.  Think of it as a zoo for extinct animals, at least
in part.
Thanks for the consideration you gave to what I said.