Walking into a museum for the first time still involves a “stop-and-stare” moment for me, when I pause in the foyer just long enough to catch my bearings and begin anticipating what type of experience I’ll encounter. What do you do when you first step into a museum?
Museums are not just outdated behemoths full of dusty artifacts and ancient-looking tour guides. Historically speaking, they have been adaptable, responsive institutions, if a little slow on the uptake at times. They have the potential to influence, but often fall into the rut of catering to the wealthy few, becoming consumed with blockbuster exhibitions and corporate collaborations while blatantly ignoring their mission and vision. It’s a recent trend, the fact that musuems are now attempting to reach out to their audience, and build relationships with their local communities and with each other.
There is real potential here if handled correctly, which means that museums need to focus, stay on course, engage with new talent, and not be scared to push the boundaries and innovate. We are no longer living in a time when museums were exclusive realms of cabinets of curiosities. The collection is no longer the main draw. It’s the architecture, the programs, yes, even the cafe and shop. I am fascinated by museums because while they have eternal duties as caretakers of objects and art, they have the potential to build upon this in a very fluid, very marketable, and very educational way. The museum is now responsive.