Museums

I have always liked museums, and I guess this is still true after a fashion. I like some of the objects which are now only available in museums, and definitely believe that those objects are better off in museums for people to see than in private collections for just the wealthy. The problem is that, increasingly, I see history as a flowing thing, rather than a static one. It is something that cannot be expressed by a singular narrative or pile of objects, the blurbs that accompanying them giving some measure of information, but largely the narrative or the curiosities.

My (first) problem with museums is that they present a distinctly static view of history. They do so because their objective is not history, but the objects in the collection, which themselves give a glimpse into a particular time and place–the problem of course is that for them to mean anything to the average observer, they need to look at the blurb, and the blurb gives only a very limited version of the history. Nonetheless this is the same problem I have with diluted history across the board, including elementary, middle and high schools and may stem from this being my life’s ambitions.

Related is that the removal of these objects from their original place dilutes the meaning. Some were clearly intended to be placed on walls an observed, or in buildings, but others were intended for outdoor or other public spaces. On one hand their removal may have actually saved some, on the other the impression is changed.

The second problem I have is that museums present a specifically constructed history. This is more obvious on controversial topics, and patriotic ones, but is there across the board. For example, today I saw a exhibit on horses and native culture in America. It was an apologetic account, for better or for worse, and emphasized a few choice issues in the history. Yes, the United States government did some awful things to the aborigines of this continent, but there is much more to the cultures than just that.

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