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Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum
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Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum

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Presented at the Museums Australia WA Conference in October 2013, a thought experiment on the topic of authenticity in museums: can it be defined, and why true authenticity is important for all …

Presented at the Museums Australia WA Conference in October 2013, a thought experiment on the topic of authenticity in museums: can it be defined, and why true authenticity is important for all museums, large and small.

Museums Australia (Victoria) is the peak industry body for museums and galleries. Find out more about us at: www.mavic.asn.au.

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  • Thanks to Soula, Rosie and all for inviting me.Acknowledging traditional owners here and back home.Asked to speak on authenticity. Tricky topic. Like Jennifer, this is a philosophical musing about what this means. Like Philippa, this presentation mostly uses examples from beyond the state of Victoria.This will be up on Slideshare so you can have all of the links.So…experiencing a museum begins when researching your visit online or perhaps…
  • …when you rock up at the door?‘Authenticity’ has been much maligned…
  • …and mocked as a pretentious cliche
  • Is it authentic when…You see the inner workings of exhibits?
  • Explain what this is.
  • Another example, of a music museum where you see the instruments, hear how they sound, and see the workbench where they’re made. From the Arabic ‘al-bûq’ meaning ‘the trumpet’ or ‘the horn’
  • Is it more authentic when…You see people playing the instruments live?
  • Is it more authentic when you get to touch the objects?
  • Maybe the ‘live’ exhibition is part of true authenticity.
  • Is it authentic when…You experience reproductions rather than the real thing?
  • Is it authentic when…People are shown interacting with the objects? How about mannequins?
  • OK so maybe we need real people to engage authentically?Explain this installation at the MAD Museum.
  • And live animal exhibits too?
  • Close-up of one of the live exhibits at the Drexel, Philadelphia
  • Is it authentic to show live exhibits anywhere we like? Is it about context as well?This is Baltimore, at the American Alliance of Museums ConferenceWe rented one of these ‘Chessie’ paddleboats after dinner. The building behind the Chesapeake has an unusual display.
  • A closer look at the building as it looked that night. It’s a five-storey window into the National Aquarium, and inside the Australian Exhibit.
  • The gallery is amazing, starting with some interpretation of Aboriginal Australian culture and leading you into walkways showcasing familiar Australian live exhibits such as barramundi, crocodiles, rosellas and kookaburras. This whole display can be remotely controlled by a program called Metasys and the curator receives a text message if there is any variance in setpoints, e.g. unscheduled rising water levels in a tank. John says that he’s managed systems remotely while in Darwin. And speaking of Darwin, he has brought some specimens over to Baltimore which you may recognise.
  • The ‘mouth almighty’ is a freshwater fish found in northern Australia. It lurks quietly until its next meal floats along, hence the name. The male mouth almighty also uses its mouth to incubate the female’s egg sackin his mouth for about two weeks before they hatch, and another week after they hatch.
  • Baltimore is the only place outside Australia where you can find Steve Irwin’s turtle, discovered by Steve and his dad in the 90s in QLD. You can really meet the animals. Great but why have Australian live exhibits in America? Not a unique problem to the US of course.
  • Perhaps it’s about being real, the people, and the context. Is it also about interactivity?Inviting the public to participate in museums isn’t universally appreciated, as seen in this article which criticises the Santa Cruz Museum for apparently being too interactive. Many of you know Nina Simon of course.
  • And Nina’s response to this is robust, as you’d expect. She is famed for the hugely popular book and blog, ‘The Participatory Museum’ and as a well-known voice on this topic, exercised her right to reply.
  • I’ve talked about what authenticity might be. How about what it isn’t? Reach Advisors blog in 2008 asked 5,000 visitors to outdoor history museums about this. Information provided must be grounded in research (58%) .Needs to be trustworthy.   Needs to be the real thing not a reproduction (25%) Attention to details (no sports shoes on 18th-century interpreters), careful site planning to minimize the appearance or modern facilities, and opportunities to create handmade takeaways (because anything you make yourself is authentic).  It is much harder to train staff to be friendly than it is to train them to demonstrate a historic trade.
  • To maximise the chances of authenticity, what is the museum industry doing about it? We use two sets of best-practice guidance above all others.
  • The National Standards provide standards on running museums, with benchmarks, principles and links to other resources for further information.This document is used as the basis for all our services, including our Accreditation Program.
  • Significance 2.0 is the best practice handbook on defining and interpretingthe three types of cultural heritage: built, tangible and intangible.Note here I’ve listed just some of the significance criteria for illustration purposes. However, as Jennifer mentioned in her statement about ‘breaking rules’, significance isn’t sacred either.
  • Significance can be subverted.In 2012 Elizabeth Merritt, founding director of the Center for the Future of Museums in the US, wrote a great piece about the Significant Objects project.Glenn and Walker collected op shop items and employed professional writers to invent significance statements about these objects before auctioning them on eBay. The collective value of increased by 2,700 percent.Merritt asks: Can museums flirt with fiction without losing their credibility? See OrhanPamuk’s Museum of Innocence in Istanbul. Can playful use of fiction enhance the value of collections – if transparent?
  • Perhaps part of this debate is about a sense of place. We talk about this with respect to Aboriginal sites , historic precincts and public events like festivals. Here are some examples.The temporary interactive, the Rickshaw Obscura, in San Francisco shows you a view of the area while you‘re transported around the foreshore by a museum volunteer.
  • This placemaking exercise is a historic residential precinct in Brooklyn.The photo to the right is the official signposting on street lights, and the bottom left is a sign in someone’s garden.The photo on the top left is nailed to a tree, to advertise a competition by the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens.So there’s something authentic about the mix of official signage and self-promotion by residents.
  • I’ve included this example of context and place because I spotted this in Sydney and it made me think ‘that’s an authentic symbol of Australian childhood’.
  • Here it is again in context.
  • Some further examples of subversion, this time with the form itself not the interpretation.This jewellery exhibit is about a metre across and comments on the Iraq conflict. It’s made of 1,000 toy soldiers painted black and references the Victorian tradition of mourning the dead by wearing jet black jewellery.
  • Another example is Wei-Cheng’s ‘Happy Valentine’s Day exhibit. Built to the real scale of a gift shop selling individual chocolates, on closer inspection you see each ‘chocolate’ depicts tanks, guns, soldiers, fighter jets and other motifs of war.
  • Training staff to be friendly is part of many authentic experiences, as the US researches showed us in their survey earlier on outdoor history museums. Here I almost missed this piece at the White Rabbit Gallery until I was guided to it by the lovely librarian. The exhibit is best appreciated from a distance…
  • Standing at the far wall of the library, you can see it better.
  • Some final words about authenticity, context and museum practice.Museum practice itself can be described to the public very effectively on occasion.
  • Such as preventative conservation practice…how museums care for collections…
  • How to make dioramas – designed for kids but plenty of adults playing with this interactive.
  • As promised, here are the two slides about Victorian branch activity.In Victoria we share collections on museums websites and on the Victorian Collections website. This gives settlers, migrants and Aboriginal Victorians a forum to share their objects and stories. We train groups how to catalogue, digitize and share their collections and stories.We work with traditional museums, ethnic community groups (migrant stories) and veterans. As John Day mentioned in his comments on the Arts Summit (16 May 2013).
  • Because this is us. And whatever authenticity is, it is about our stories and our people.
  • We also provide online training in authentic museum practice on YouTube.In the last issue of the Museums Australia Magazine [prop] I wrote about the welcoming, accessible museum, and I’d like to conclude by quoting me, at you:“The museum profession benefits from people with arts and cultural heritage backgrounds, and also people who transfer from other sectors such as banking, insurance and marketing. If the sector can capitalise on the diversity of people running museums, perhaps we can also look beyond the museum walls for inspiration to enhance the museum experience. For example, what makes your favourite shop so welcoming? Can these techniques be used to improve the front-of-house museum experience for the shy or skeptical visitor? Why do your children love reading in the local library? What strategies do the library staff use to make the physical space warm and friendly? What makes it a playful space? [pause] [emphasis] What gives people permission to express themselves?”
  • Transcript

    • 1. Roll out the red carpet: The accessible, welcoming museum Thursday 3 October 2013 Laura Miles, Museums Australia (Victoria)
    • 2. http://www.hipsterlogo.com
    • 3. http://www.boudinbakery.com/at-the-wharf
    • 4. Boudin Bakery Museum, San Francisco
    • 5. Boudin Bakery Museum, San Francisco
    • 6. Musical instruments (albokas) at the Basque Music Museum
    • 7. Juan Mari Beltran playing the alboka, courtesy of adancingfool: http://youtu.be/Hbq3lsDTd_g
    • 8. http://www.powerhousemuseum.com
    • 9. www.qrator.org
    • 10. Museum of Local History, Fréjus, France Picture courtesy of Bridget Forbes
    • 11. Museum of Local History, Fréjus, France Picture courtesy of Bridget Forbes
    • 12. Museum of Local History, Fréjus, France Picture courtesy of Bridget Forbes
    • 13. Open Studios at the Museum of Art & Design, New York City
    • 14. Live exhibits at the Drexel Museum of Natural History, Philadelphia
    • 15. Live exhibits at the Drexel Museum of Natural History, Philadelphia
    • 16. Baltimore Inner Harbour Courtesy of armindefiesta.blogspot.com
    • 17. The National Aquarium in Baltimore Courtesy of John Seyjagat, Curator, Australian Exhibit
    • 18. The interior of the Australian Exhibit gallery Courtesy of John Seyjagat, Curator, Australian Exhibit
    • 19. The famous Mouth Almighty, Glossamia apiron Courtesy of John Seyjagat, Curator, Australian Exhibit
    • 20. Irwin’s Snapping Turtle, Elseya irwini at the National Aquarium Courtesy of John Seyjagat, Curator, Australian Exhibit
    • 21. http://www.artsjournal.com/realcleararts
    • 22. http://www.artsjournal.com/realcleararts
    • 23. http://reachadvisors.typepad.com
    • 24. Two key guidelines for museum practice: National Standards for Australian Museums & Galleries, and Significance 2.0
    • 25. National Standards for Australian Museums & Galleries: http://www.collectionsaustralia.net/sector_info_item/107
    • 26. Significance 2.0, Collections Council of Australia, archived at: http://www.environment.gov.au/heritage/publications/significance2-0/ • Historic • Scientific / research • Social / spiritual • Provenance • Rarity / representativeness • Condition / completeness + groupings of objects by theme, location, or chronology
    • 27. Sources: www.amazon.com & http://futureofmuseums.blogspot.com.au
    • 28. Rickshaw obscura at the Exploratorium, San Francisco
    • 29. Historic precinct in Brooklyn
    • 30. ‘Bunnies On The Line’ by Ann-Maree Moodie, as seen at Art & About, Sydney
    • 31. ‘Bunnies On The Line’ by Ann-Maree Moodie, as seen at Art & About, Sydney
    • 32. ‘Necklace for National Mourning II’ by Edward Lane McCartney, seen at the Museum of Art & Design, New York City
    • 33. ‘Happy Valentine’s Day’ by Tu Wei-Cheng, as seen at White Rabbit Gallery, Sydney
    • 34. ‘Happy Valentine’s Day’ by Tu Wei-Cheng, as seen at White Rabbit Gallery, Sydney
    • 35. ‘Pop Figure No 1’ by Xia Guo (Xia Jianguo) as seen at the White Rabbit Gallery, Sydney
    • 36. ‘Pop Figure No 1’ by Xia Guo (Xia Jianguo) as seen at the White Rabbit Gallery, Sydney
    • 37. http://sussexpast.co.uk/properties-to-discover/fishbourne-roman-palace
    • 38. Diorama-making exhibit at the Drexel Museum of Natural History, Philadelphia
    • 39. www.victoriancollections.net.au
    • 40. www.immi.gov.au
    • 41. www.youtube.com/museumsaustraliavic
    • 42. Takeaways: Videos and resources: www.mavic.asn.au Slides: www.slideshare.com/lauramiles Follow us on Twitter: @laura_miles and @_mavic

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