Friday, 15 July 2016

A Citizen's Guide to Museums (Courtesy British Museum)

Tuning in his grave,
Augustus Wollaston Franks
The days of scholarship at the British Museum seem definitively over. When asked to define a term used in one of their official publications, the best the Museum could offer was "the Museum would agree with the Oxford English Dictionary definition, that archaeology is ‘The study of human history and prehistory through the excavation of sites and the analysis of artefacts and other physical remains’. Hmm. That rather looks like a definition of the discipline written by philologists than practising archaeologists. Anyhow, following that line of Bloomsbury Reasoning the British Museum would therefore presumably also agree with the Oxford English Dictionary definition of museum:
A building in which objects of historical, scientific, artistic, or cultural interest are stored and exhibited
That's it. The definitive definition of the modern museum and its functions, a roofed store and exhibit space. And here we have the crux of the problem, I have not been corresponding with scholars at all but a building, an inanimate construct of stones and mortar, glass and steel. How ridiculous it is of me to expect a sensible answer from a building.

Anyway, Grebkesh and Runn the antiquity dealers have a shop (building) in which objects of historical, scientific, artistic, and cultural interest are stored and exhibited, lots of them. All reasonably priced, too. Grebkesh and Runn must therefore be by definition museum curators. As is the metal detectorist in his bungalow (building) with his collection of historical, scientific, artistic, and cultural interest stored and exhibited scattered unlabelled on shelves around the building (he has another building, a shed, containing more - two museums in one).

Citizen Museum Outreach officer Mike Pegg
in the museum's main exhibition space

Cutting edge modern museum display design

Watch Museum research officer Mike Pegg do his citizen outreach in his citizen museum:.

I discussed this video several years ago 

[Just for those dull-of-understanding artefact dealers who cannot tell which of the recent posts on the topic of citizen archaeology are very much tongue-in-cheek [Americans have difficulty with irony] this one most certainly is. It is poking fun at the unprofessionalism of an insular institution which cannot properly answer a simple and perfectly justifiable question about the terminology used in one of their official publications].


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