Monday, 14 December 2009

A Little...Evening...Music

I'd like to comment that the music has been most interesting. It's based on the Museum Studies Spotify playlist!

'Filling the void between museum displays and cultural identities to empower museum visitors' is the banner title for a number of research projects associated with the Museum of London. The work of four PhD students in various years, Kathrin Pieren, Mary Lester, Joanna Marchant and Elena Miles, this Collaborative Doctoral Project is based around the major theme of identities, and how museums present and even shape these. Called 'My London', a trail and interactive computer point at which visitors can comment upon objects and topics will encourage visitors to think about how the museum generates a London identity. Using the computer as a platform will allow the collection of qualitative data and collaboration between visitors.

Public museums use many media - diverse staff, rapidly changing exhibitions, community participation, workshops and events, old and newer technologies - highlighting that the conception of the museum as a value free space is no longer tenable. Museum narratives are always determined, whatever factors are brought to bear, and identities are often considered exclusive. Thus the identities they build are always mediated through a frame.

In terms of material objects, we often assume them to be 'the real thing'. But what is this real thing? Often, items are used to illustrate more intangible concepts, and thus they are more symbols than the truth of an idea when read this way. This is not to say that they do not have value in themselves, but this value of the things as things-in-themselves is often overlooked in favor of their illustrative value. The identities of an object is as important as the identities of the individuals apprehending it, and both are tied up in the production of individual, shifting identities that exist through relationships alone.

Projects like this are so heavily dependent on a wide spectrum of needs, demands and practical issues. To see individual research interests come together so cohesively is refreshing. But such projects have their problems and must be incredibly difficult to manage. I very much admire those who take such projects on.

This paper generated a lot of feedback and questions - which is great, given the ever encroaching dark outside. I hope the presenters got enough to mull over and augment their projects with!

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