Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Emotions and Objects

Jennifer Gadsby's research focuses on the role of design in creating the value of the visitor's experience. But what is a value? In this case, it is what they seek in coming to the site balanced against what they have invested in making the visit. Mainly, she found, these are emotional, intellectual, interpersonal, physical and social (this last meaning the museum's place in the community).

What stimulates the emotion that a person feels can be anything, and it can be apprehended consciously or unconsciously. Some topics are inherently more emotional than others, yet we still find museums attempting to encourage even more impact upon events which are emotional in themselves.

Jennifer gave post-it notes to the audience, asking them to record how engagement with museums has created emotional effect in them. Sometimes this lies in the design of the museum space, in the interactives that might be engaged with, the dressing and contextualisation of objects in their cases. This dressing of an object can be very inexplicable, and to me, this fact simply highlights that the museum not only takes an object and present it, but recreate it as something new and strange. What is an issue here is not that museums do this, but that sometimes they fail to admit this. Through an admittance of the role that museums play in remaking an object anew (like the Yucatan artists of the previous presentation), the museum can itself become an object of deepening value.

How far should museums 'interfere' in the emotional experience of the visitor? Does such emotional effect impinge upon intellectual experience? Does it undermine them as institutions of learning - or does it simply highlight that they are not the bastions of objectivity that we sometimes think they were considered, but something more subjective and mutable - perhaps even a being with emotions in itself. Museums are, after all, built by, through and for people and we cannot help but feel.

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