Wednesday 26 November 2014

Is there a future for the traditional museum?

'Is there a future for the traditional museum?' asks Christopher Beanland Independent Saturday 15 November 2014:
[...] Museums represent the last gasp of high culture in an age where showiness and novelty and thinness – even in the arts themselves – threatens to overwhelm us. [...] Museums are a bulwark against dumbing down and against the commercialisation of everything. Art and education, not money and the stuff we can buy with it, are the things that lift us from being working people to being civilised people. Museums and galleries democratise this idea. [...]
But then things like the British Museum's Portable Antiquities Scheme do not actually manage to be that 'bulwark against dumbing down' with its karaoke recording and partnering of artefact hunting as ersatz archaeological enquiry. I think the question is worth asking, what if this high culture no longer suits future societies? Justifying building 'encyclopaedic museums' at the expense of looted and smuggled stuff is rather a hollow endeavour if in the long term such museums cease to have any meaning for the societies they are intended to serve. If the study of the past teaches us anything, it is how mutable societies and their tastes and needs are.

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