Lebenskünstler

“…like libraries, without the party atmosphere.” – Why I hate museums

Posted in Uncategorized by Randall Szott on 08/26/2013

Opinion: Why I hate museums – James Durston

[Fun to read this in light of this piece wistful about good old fashioned museum experience and this one defending the new “participatory” experience. But I do take issue with condemning the exhibition displaying an “old brick, an old piece of rock, some hair and a napkin.” Sounds pretty great.]

Graveyards for stuff. Tombs for inanimate things.

Their cavernous rooms and deep corridors reverberate with the soft, dead sounds of tourists shuffling and employees yawning.

They’re like libraries, without the party atmosphere.

I’ve always hated museums.

Yet twice or three times a year, I somehow find myself within one, shuffling from glass case to glass case, reading the little inscriptions, peering closely at the details, doing what any “good traveler” does.

Two hours later I walk out bored, hungry and far less glad to be on vacation than when I went in.

The main thing you learn in museums, it seems, is how not to run a museum.

Worst of all, there’s a climate of snobbery surrounding this whole industry.

Confess that rather than stare glumly at an old beer chalice on a plinth you’d prefer to drink happily from a shiny new one in a pub, and you risk being outed as an ignoramus.

Well, I’m outing myself. I’m a museo-phobe.

They provide an umbilical link between our planet and our history to the future.

But inside these crypts of curatorship, the connection to humankind falls short.

Last year I visited Doha’s Museum of Islamic Art — a landmark at least as celebrated, if not more so, for its architecture than its contents, and no wonder.

After the 200th glass case containing an old bowl — or was it a plate, or perhaps it was some more cutlery, who knows, who cares — I decided the photo opportunity across the sea was the best thing about the place.

Where’s the “muse” in all these museums? Where’s the theater?

Fair enough, I don’t question the wider benefits of museums, economic or otherwise.

But the collect-and-cage policy that defines the visible exhibits, much of which is not even visible most of the time, is anathema to an engaging experience.

This smacks of the most smugly provocative modern art, which insists that anything the curate deigns to put inside the building inevitably becomes “interesting.”

Where’s the relevance? Why, in places designed to celebrate life and all its variety, is there such a lack of vitality?

My trip two years ago to Hong Kong’s Science Museum convinced me that if there were a World Championship for Most Dreary Things To Do On Vacation, museums would be disqualified for going over the top.

But where’s the equivalent for adults? Why should over-16-year-olds, who still make up the significant majority of museum-goers, be subjected to stiff, dry, academia-laced presentations as if fun were a dirty word?

Where’s your joy gone, museums?

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