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Old 09-18-2013, 06:33 AM   #1
Le Saboteur
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On Museums

Advance Disclosure: The following is an argument in progress. In other words, it's not fully formed. I thought opening it up to a wider audience might provide some interesting viewpoints.

Cartoons, Slavery, Pinball, Trains, Beatniks, Long-term thinking: these are some of the alternative museums here in the Bay Area. They occupy a niche alongside the more traditional (some would staid) offerings by the art, science, and natural history museums found on both sides of the Bay.

Growing up I have: been tossed from the Smithsonian, spent hours "lost" in Chicago's Field Museum and the San Bernadino County Museum. While traveling I have seen museums dedicated to erotic art, booze, the superb natural history museums in Vienna & Paris, the Lipizzaner stallions, and others. Yet, if I wasn't traveling would I spend that much time surrounded by dead and/or idle objects?

In some instances, yes, I would. As something of naturalist I could spend several hours combing through the local natural history museum, but wild horses couldn't drag me through the Hofburg's Silver Room again.

Why? Aside from the obvious answer of: How much of your life do you want to spend looking at the Hapsburg's silverware collection? Well, it's dead bric a brac used for only for the occasional state function. Yes, that Hapsburg Imperial Napkin Fold is fantastic, but after you've seen it once there's not much else about it unless you want to decipher the thread count. They don't share the secret to recreating the fold.

So, following a household conversation, the below video, and Stoo's comment about the welcome addition of in-character actors at the Sherlock Holmes Museum I couldn't help but wondering: What do museums mean to Ravenites? Does every niche activity/hobby/whatever deserve or need its own museum? Is everything dead? Or is everything fascinating?



If you're into the Natural sciences take a gander at The Brain Scoop, the lovely Emily Graslie's YouTube channel. She's recently taken up residence at the Field Museum.

The wolf dissection is worth the visit alone.

I, for one, prefer a living culture and/or history. A collection of cabins and houses in Valley Forge, for example, are just that; the living history actors really put things into perspective. The Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul is another example of a dead structure; despite a superb collection of mosaics, artwork, and Janissary-artifacts & weaponry it feels restrictive after a while.

Sure, the Mehteran Band has a summer programme every Wednesday through the end of September, but what about the rest of the months? How about a demonstration of Janissary combat, etc.? The Qur'an is recited 24-hours day in the harem museum, but could something else be done on the main grounds? A primer on Islam for the tourists?

Some of the referenced museums are:
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Old 09-18-2013, 03:51 PM   #2
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My favourite museum, so far, has been "The House of Terror" in Budapest, Hungary which chronicles the German and Russian control over that country. It is a totally immersive & overwhelming, multi-media experience. Not your average museum and one that will leave you thinking for a long time after you leave due to the situations that it puts you through.

This museum opened in 2002 and the Hungarian father of one my past girlfriends HATES the existence of it!

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2nd Favourite: Musée de l'Armée in Paris, France.

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What is a museum?
It's a public warehouse of stuff!
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Old 09-18-2013, 08:23 PM   #3
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Good thread. When I was 17 in 1985, I chose to do Work Experience in my senior High School year at the Queensland Museum, when it was at Bowen Hills just north of Fortitude Valley. Already then the plans for moving to its current location in the Southbank Cultural Precinct were in progress and I remember seeing the scale models of the current Queensland Museum.

But the old Museum, now known as the Old Museum Brisbane, is a fantastic old building that was just as fascinating as the exhibits and stores of specimens inside.

When I went for an interview about doing the work experience there, the fellow interviewing me asked, "What do you think a Museum is for?" I think I answered something to the effect of "Displaying stuff to the public(?)" He said "No! A museum is a place for primary sources of information. Books and so forth are secondary sources of information but museums contain the actual things from which we derive our knowledge..." etc. He finished by saying that my time doing Work Experience would be spent getting in the way of people doing their work. He was a bit brusque.

So, that was straightened out for me. What I found out was that the public displays were only a very small part of all that is contained in the Qld Museum. I saw the basements and attics and research rooms that were filled with all the various specimens, tables with ancient fossils set out, rooms lined high and long with cabinets filled with preserved animals, insects, all manner of creatures, aboriginal artefacts as well as artefacts from the Pacific cultures as well.

It struck me that the public is only allowed to see a token slice of all that is contained there. I did elect to be situated in the Anthropology section, so the evidence of the study of societies and cultures was a real eye opener. The then Head of the Anthropology section was an older portly fellow who would invite me to have morning tea with him and as he drank his tea he would remark that he thought it was very civilised to drink tea in the morning. I think I just nodded and agreed, as all I drank then was water or milk with milo.

I was given several tasks, the first was to treat some old bones that had been lying outside for a long time. I had to sort of clean off non bone layers on the outside then treat them with some sort of preserving fluid much like a lacquer. I suspect that the bones were valueless as I didn't know if I was doing it properly and supervision was almost none. The second and far more engaging work was cataloguing donated items in a great big old ledger that was stored in an old safe somewhere in the heart of the museum's labyrinth. Again it was token work. But some of the items had been donated as far back as 1900 and were still waiting for cataloguing! But I found it intriguing. I would go get drawers and boxes of these objects, pull out the big old ledger and using a fine artists ink pen mark the objects with the appropriate number proceeding the last one written in the ledger. The objects were then officially catalogued and then stored away in an appropriate area, perhaps never to be seen again!

I could go on and on about this time. It was really quite fascinating and the current Qld Museum seems a sterile place to me after being able to navigate the passage ways, corridors and musty rooms of that old museum.
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Old 09-20-2013, 11:47 PM   #4
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[Echoing Mickiana]Hat-tip to Le Saboteur for a great topic.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Le Saboteur
Does every niche activity/hobby/whatever deserve or need its own museum? Is everything dead? Or is everything fascinating?

George Saunders deals with this indirectly in his fiction (and re-enactors for that matter). Check out Pastoralia and CivilWarLand In Bad Decline. Hilarious stuff.

I found this educational and interesting:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mickiana
When I went for an interview about doing the work experience there, the fellow interviewing me asked, "What do you think a Museum is for?" I think I answered something to the effect of "Displaying stuff to the public(?)" He said "No! A museum is a place for primary sources of information. Books and so forth are secondary sources of information but museums contain the actual things from which we derive our knowledge..." etc. [...] So, that was straightened out for me.

I appreciate the distinction the fellow was trying to make but you should have said, "Sorry dude but the real primary sources are out there in the world -- live action -- unfolding in real time."

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mickiana
What I found out was that the public displays were only a very small part of all that is contained in the Qld Museum. I saw the basements and attics and research rooms that were filled with all the various specimens, tables with ancient fossils set out, rooms lined high and long with cabinets filled with preserved animals, insects, all manner of creatures, aboriginal artefacts as well as artefacts from the Pacific cultures as well.

It struck me that the public is only allowed to see a token slice of all that is contained there. I did elect to be situated in the Anthropology section, so the evidence of the study of societies and cultures was a real eye opener

I've got my childhood memories of testing doors and going through basement passages of The Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh and know what you mean about only a fraction of the works of older museums being available to the public. But a lot has changed since I was a kid.

Nowadays, museum design has gotten smart. First, work rooms have glass walls and have been converted into (or designed as) performance spaces -- to make learning more 'interactive' and 'interesting' (but note, it seems to me that these fantastic labs are empty and inactive most of the time). Second, I read somewhere that museum fatigue sets in after twenty minutes -- so no matter who you are or how smart or how good the exhibit is -- you get tired of an exhibit after twenty minutes. So now museums are designed to get you to a cafe or gift shop in roughly that amount of time to break things up. The consequence? There is a lot less content in Museums today -- aisle-after-aisle of specimen cases are no more. Heck, what's being built today -- new museums -- are not even museums, strictly speaking.

In the natural sciences realm, compare the Natural History Museum in Manhattan with the California Academy of Science in San Francisco. The former is a classic museum, the later is more of a living science center/botanical garden/aquarium (I'm proud of the living roof).

For me, as far as museums go, I'm more into art than natural or historical museums. I think the nicer or broader question is what's the best way to learn? Generally, I like historical places that have been converted into museums but note there's a lot of variance here. Touring Hemingway's childhood home and school-house turned museum is not on par with sun yat-sen's home turned museum. And does the experience suffer if the site is a repro? Like Ford's Theatre, Williamsburg or (most of the) the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings? As for actual museums, I like it when they themselves are a part of history. I don't care much for Egyptian artifacts (for me, the Met's exhibit in New York seems more like an excuse to have a good room for a party rather than an exhibit) but I know I enjoy looking at Egyptian artifacts more when housed in the battle-scarred Neues Museum in Berlin (even if our good German friends won't return Nefertiti).

I've got loads more to discuss on this topic. It's a good one!
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Old 09-23-2013, 06:10 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Brody
George Saunders deals with this indirectly in his fiction (and re-enactors for that matter). Check out Pastoralia and CivilWarLand In Bad Decline. Hilarious stuff.

I will certainly add them to my ever growing list of things I need to read. Towards that end though, I would recommend Julian Barnes’ England, England.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Brody
Nowadays, museum design has gotten smart. First, work rooms have glass walls and have been converted into (or designed as) performance spaces -- to make learning more 'interactive' and 'interesting' (but note, it seems to me that these fantastic labs are empty and inactive most of the time). Second, I read somewhere that museum fatigue sets in after twenty minutes -- so no matter who you are or how smart or how good the exhibit is -- you get tired of an exhibit after twenty minutes. So now museums are designed to get you to a cafe or gift shop in roughly that amount of time to break things up. The consequence? There is a lot less content in Museums today -- aisle-after-aisle of specimen cases are no more. Heck, what's being built today -- new museums -- are not even museums, strictly speaking.

Museum design has certainly gotten interesting, but I wouldn’t exactly call it ‘smart’. Not unless you’re a fan of the Exit Through the Gift Shop strategy pioneered by the Walt Disney Company. Using our local Academy of Sciences as an example, how much space is lost to that cafeteria; or, that high-end restaurant in the basement? While I am all for a place to sit down and have a bite to eat, that loss of space on the main exhibit floor is something of a crime. Do visitors need fifty different dining options? Change the menu daily if you want. The oft missed earthquake simulator could have gone in either of those spots.

The Exploratorium, however, is the worst culprit of this new high-end dining trend found amongst Bay Area museums.

It’s funny that you mentioned the new lab spaces. In a handful of visits, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything happen in them. Sure, there have been excellent video presentations of the work they could do in them, but little to no actual work. Would the museum’s work be better served by being conducted off-site somewhere?

And museum fatigue after twenty-minutes? Yes, I can definitely see that for the average visitor. Breaking up case after case of artifacts with an interactive display that hopefully puts things into perspective is a definite improvement.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Brody
In the natural sciences realm, compare the Natural History Museum in Manhattan with the California Academy of Science in San Francisco. The former is a classic museum, the later is more of a living science center/botanical garden/aquarium (I'm proud of the living roof).

I’ll assume you mean the American Museum of Natural History? That’s the one in Manhattan. If so, yes, the differences are definitely evident; despite the whiz bang building in Golden Gate Park, I can’t help but find it to be an inferior experience. Too much floor space was lost in combining the facilities. I’m still not sure what to make of it these days. Science Center seems appropriate, but I always walk out feeling like it’s very… uh, zoo-lite.

Taken individually the Living Roof, the Rainforest Dome/Bubble/Globe, and Steinhart Aquarium are all exceptionally well done. Worthwhile upgrades all around, but shoving the Kimball Natural History Hall into the back corner is something of a disservice. I think people only go in there for the penguin exhibit.

Speaking of penguins, a metric tonne of ink has been spilled regarding visitors and their behaviors in zoos. Most of it isn’t positive; i.e., 90-something percent of visitors don’t read the signage; they don’t stay at any exhibit for more than ten seconds; and, they often disappear once the children reach a certain age. With that in mind, in a museum/science center setting, are live animals the best way to teach children about biodiversity?




Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Brody
Touring Hemingway's childhood home and school-house turned museum is not on par with sun yat-sen's home turned museum. And does the experience suffer if the site is a repro? Like Ford's Theatre, Williamsburg or (most of the) the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings?

Anthony Max Tung's Preserving the World’s Great Cities: The Destruction and Renewal of the Historic Metropolis has a great section on this very topic. To summarize: The Western world believes in preserving the original building; the Eastern world believes essentially believes in preserving the spirit of a building and/or place. I forget the exact example, but he mentions how the Japanese basically rebuild one of their major shrines every fifty years or so.
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Old 09-23-2013, 09:16 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Brody
[Echoing Mickiana]Hat-tip to Le Saboteur for a great topic.
+1. Thanks Sab.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mickiana
When I went for an interview about doing the work experience there, the fellow interviewing me asked, "What do you think a Museum is for?" I think I answered something to the effect of "Displaying stuff to the public(?)" He said "No! A museum is a place for primary sources of information. Books and so forth are secondary sources of information but museums contain the actual things from which we derive our knowledge..." etc. He finished by saying that my time doing Work Experience would be spent getting in the way of people doing their work. He was a bit brusque.
I have to say, your interviewer was both telling you a very important truth of museums and playing up his own importance a little.

There are three human instances that together form a larger whole called the "memory organizations", namely libraries, archives and museums. However, none of the three are more important than the other, given how they all store different aspects of the mankind's collective memory. To simplify things, we could say that the libraries are the cultural memory, the archives store the memory of various events (yes, libraries do this too, but the documents made by man are first-hand proof that something has happened) and museums contain our physical memory.

Now, it's true that an experienced eye can tell a lot from a physical piece, things such as what it is, what kind of action it has seen and so forth. But in the end, those are nothing more than very educated guesses. If you want the whole story, you also need an account from someone who's been present in the same situation than the item under examination. And given how that person is likely long gone, your best bet is an archive or a library. Though when you're checking up another person's account of an event happened in long past, you can never be certain of its accuracy - at which case being able to examine the physical trace of said event helps. But there is no instance that more important than the other two. The best results are gained when all three work in conjuction, either confirming theories or pointing out disrepancies.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mickiana
It struck me that the public is only allowed to see a token slice of all that is contained there.
It's indeed curious how probably the most visible part of a museum is one of its lesser functions. I can't tell how much Stoo was joking when he said that a museum is a "public warehouse of stuff", but he wasn't that far off the mark.

A museum's main function is simply to store old things, simply because you never know when they might become relevant again. It doesn't actually matter whether they're all visible to the public or not - what matters is that they're simply there. And since Le Sab wondered what's the point of some museums, there's his answer. In fact, the comparison to memory is quite adequate. Just like our brains can't contain all its contents in the working memory, everything can't be put on display. But in case a memory or other becomes relevant again, we can call it back up at will. Similarly, it's obvious that museums can't store every interesting object from our past, just like our minds can not.

While I just said that a museum's job is to store things, no matter how seemingly irrelevant, we all know that thanks to the space restraints alone, they can't of course store just about everything.

So, when does something truly belong to a museum? I'd say that it does when somebody thinks it does - and they've also got the necessary facilities for it. And this rule could be extended outside the public museums as well. So if your spouse seems reluctant to throw old things away after cleaning up the garage, never laugh or brush him or her off. If he or she thinks it's still relevant - it probably is. Now, it simply becomes a matter of negotiating whether you still have room for it or not.




By the way, I also live in a city that seems to have a knack for setting up bizarre museums dedicated to things a bit further from natural history and other mainstream topics. To list a few, we've got ones dedicated to:

-Working class
-Spycraft
-Ice hockey
-Moomins
-V.I. Lenin

Relevant in the big picture? Well, who am I to judge...
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Old 09-23-2013, 10:12 AM   #7
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The museum I have the fondest memories of is the Natural History Museum in London.

To start with the architecture itself is awe inspiring.





Then there's the animals. As a small child standing inches from stuffed tigers and polar bears was another awe-inspiring experience. There was a life-size model of a blue whale hanging from the ceiling, which no longer seems to be part of the display.

A living culture museum? No, I much prefer a museum without the dress-up re-enactors.

While the conservation of exhibits and empty museums don't go hand-in-hand, I prefer museums to be as quiet and as devoid of human life as possible. Everywhere's crowded today, which is good for business, but I treasure the time walking through the quiet corridors of the Natural History Museum, never wanting to leave.

The closest experience to it in recent times has been the hours spent walking through the empty halls of Cyrus Pinkney's Institute for Natural History.

The British Museum was busier, but that was on a school trip.

Can't remember if I ever got to the Imperial War Museum, but I worked in the basement of one its storage locations. A red brick building that reminded me of a Victorian hospital or asylum. There wasn't a lot to see.
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Old 09-23-2013, 07:01 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Finn
-Moomins

A museum on Moomins! I'm there! I was given a box set of Moomin novels about 35 years ago and always loved them. If a museum could recreate that Moomin world....

A lot of the appeal for me, besides those fascinating characters and the wonderful stories, was the snowy and frozen landscapes, which is so foreign to my experiences of growing up in the subtropics where the only ice we see is what we buy.

Moomin Museum = great idea!

NB Big reversion to childhood for me here.
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Old 09-24-2013, 05:24 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Mickiana
A museum on Moomins!
http://muumilaakso.virtualtampere.com/eng/metso/
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Old 09-24-2013, 09:17 PM   #10
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Thanks, Finn. It is a very good interactive. Nearly as good as being there. A lot cheaper for me anyway.
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Old 09-25-2013, 11:20 AM   #11
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While I don't have much to offer this thread, I will say I am enjoying it and it's value here at TheRaven.net.

To that end, much of my time in museums of late are at the Children's Variety. I'm remembering things I've long forgotten, and learning new things too, along with my offspring.
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Old 09-27-2013, 05:23 PM   #12
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Well tomorrow is National Museum day! I will be spending the day going in and out of the Museum of Wine, my favorite interactive museum. (This is also know as my personal wine cellar, at home, and I plan on taking many of the exhibits out.....
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Old 09-27-2013, 06:09 PM   #13
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...You break it you buy it....
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Old 09-27-2013, 06:14 PM   #14
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...You break it you buy it....


I will return every bottle just how I found it ( - 750 ML)
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Old 09-27-2013, 06:37 PM   #15
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Goin' Thomas Crown on us, are you? Taking the best, leaving a forgery behind. I see how you are.
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Old 09-27-2013, 06:41 PM   #16
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Goin' Thomas Crown on us, are you? Taking the best, leaving a forgery behind. I see how you are.


Always open to you sampling the merchandise!
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Old 09-27-2013, 06:43 PM   #17
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You did say, it was an interactive museum. I just might have to schedule a tour.
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Old 09-29-2013, 06:25 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Brody
I appreciate the distinction the fellow was trying to make but you should have said, "Sorry dude but the real primary sources are out there in the world -- live action -- unfolding in real time."

That's why we have David Attenborough!

Another interesting thing I noticed in the Old Museum were the little scientists and researchers scuttling about the shelves and cabinets pulling out their specimens for their study. Many of them looked so typically 'scientist', small, wiry, bearded and bespectacled, that they seemed like specimens themselves. I mean this in a kindly way, though it did strike me almost as a bit comical.
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Old 09-29-2013, 10:18 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Le Saboteur
Not unless you’re a fan of the Exit Through the Gift Shop strategy pioneered by the Walt Disney Company.

I'm not a betting man but I wouldn't be surprised if Disney boosted the concept from the World's fairs -- they did that with a lot of stuff.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Le Saboteur
I’ll assume you mean the American Museum of Natural History? That’s the one in Manhattan.

Sorry -- lived down the road from it for 9+ years and never picked up the actual name.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Le Saboteur
I think people only go in there for the penguin exhibit.

Guilty.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Le Saboteur
Anthony Max Tung's Preserving the World’s Great Cities: The Destruction and Renewal of the Historic Metropolis has a great section on this very topic. To summarize: The Western world believes in preserving the original building; the Eastern world believes essentially believes in preserving the spirit of a building and/or place. I forget the exact example, but he mentions how the Japanese basically rebuild one of their major shrines every fifty years or so.

Interesting. Will try to check out.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Finn
There are three human instances that together form a larger whole called the "memory organizations", namely libraries, archives and museums. However, none of the three are more important than the other, given how they all store different aspects of the mankind's collective memory. To simplify things, we could say that the libraries are the cultural memory, the archives store the memory of various events (yes, libraries do this too, but the documents made by man are first-hand proof that something has happened) and museums contain our physical memory.

[half-jokingly] So Professor where would you peg that crazy seed vault your good neighbors to the West have constructed?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mickiana
That's why we have David Attenborough!

Another interesting thing I noticed in the Old Museum were the little scientists and researchers scuttling about the shelves and cabinets pulling out their specimens for their study. Many of them looked so typically 'scientist', small, wiry, bearded and bespectacled, that they seemed like specimens themselves. I mean this in a kindly way, though it did strike me almost as a bit comical.

I love the way the scientist type is dealt with in Silence of the Lambs. Very Geek Cool!
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Old 09-30-2013, 11:14 AM   #20
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[half-jokingly] So Professor where would you peg that crazy seed vault your good neighbors to the West have constructed?

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Old 09-30-2013, 03:37 PM   #21
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So Professor where would you peg that crazy seed vault your good neighbors to the West have constructed?
In a technical sense, they're our good neighbors to the North...

I guess the relationship between that and a museum is similar to that of a financial bank and a sperm bank. In other words, they're are all about deposits, and you certainly are going to raise some eyebrows if you ask on the door if they've got any interesting exhibitions on display.
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Old 10-02-2013, 02:49 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Finn
However, none of the three are more important than the other, given how they all store different aspects of the mankind's collective memory.

If these are, as you say, our cultural and historical patrimony should the average yokel be required to pay for admission to learn something about themselves? The sprawling Smithsonian system is, of course, free to any and all who visit thanks to Federal appropriations; the British Museum is free; and, Ataturk, made all historical sites and museums free to the Turks so that they might learn about their history. I'm sure there are several other examples across the globe as well.

Even though the Louvre charges a very nominal admission fee, entry is free for a vast number of people.
  • - visitors under the age of 18
  • - 18-25 year-old residents of the European Economic Area (EU, Iceland, Norway, and Liechtenstein)
  • - teachers of art, art history, and the applied arts
  • - holders of the "Pass Education" (primary and secondary school teachers in French public schools and private schools receiving government subsidies)
  • - artists affiliated to the Maison des Artistes (in France) or the AIAP (Association Internationale des Arts Plastiques)
  • - unemployed individuals and visitors receiving benefits (proof of entitlement must be dated within the last six months)
  • - disabled visitors and their guest or helper

At the other end of the scale, are some of the priciest museums around. For example, the
  • Museum Buehrle in Zurich is $27/person
  • The Exploratorium in San Francisco is $25/person
  • The California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco is $29.99/person
  • The Vatican Museum in Rome is ~$21/per person
  • Royal Ontario Museum in Ontario, Canada is $16/per person + an additional entry fee for special exhibits; i.e., the current exhibit on Mesopotamia raises the entry fee to $27/person*

* - All prices are at current exchange rates as of 1 October 2013.

Quote:
Originally Posted by The New York Times
Do sizable admission prices, even suggested ones, discourage lower-income visitorship? (Of course.) Should museums that receive taxpayer money charge for admission? (A lot of people say no, even though many museums receive relatively little in the way of public subsidies.) Do museums have a kind of moral obligation, like libraries, to be free? (Museum directors are divided on the subject. Some, like Philippe de Montebello, the former director of the Met, point out that almost all cultural goods come with a price. “Philosophically, what is it about a work of art that makes it mandatory that it should be available for nothing?” he has asked.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paddy Johnson
I’ve never thought the public should be charged to see their own belongings, but as long as that’s happening, I don’t think museum ticket prices should fall outside the price of a midrange restaurant. In other words, if visiting the museum is a treat it should still be one many people can afford. This is definitely pushing the limit of “midrange”


Full article: The Metropolitan Museum Fee Debate

What does your admission fee cover? Are you paying for the janitorial staff? The minimum wage concessions workers or the cafe staff? The slightly above minimum wage proctors and security guards? Or are you paying for some director's wildly over inflated salary? As we learned here in the Bay Area, when the Exploritorium fired 18% of its workforce, the museum's director takes home ~$400-thousand/year. The heads of the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum, and others had a base pay of $400-thousand or above. Michael Govan, head of the Los Angeles County Museum, has taken home a cool million bucks since '06. Admission price there is $15/person.

Are museums a treat or a necessity? Since the majority of museums enjoy not-for-profit status (at least in the United States) should museum heads be enjoying lavish salaries?
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Old 10-02-2013, 03:59 AM   #23
Mickiana
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$400 000?!!! They must be the hardest working people out there! Honestly, if I had known where that High School Work Experience might have led....
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Old 10-02-2013, 08:24 AM   #24
Finn
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Originally Posted by Le Saboteur
If these are, as you say, our cultural and historical patrimony should the average yokel be required to pay for admission to learn something about themselves? The sprawling Smithsonian system is, of course, free to any and all who visit thanks to Federal appropriations; the British Museum is free; and, Ataturk, made all historical sites and museums free to the Turks so that they might learn about their history. I'm sure there are several other examples across the globe as well.
I'd say that a fee is justified, if a) it is required to run the museum and b) all the scientific information the museum provides is made freely available and without charge. Here in Finland, the museums run by national authority exert nominal fees for most of the time, but to ensure that every citizen would have a chance no matter the economic situation, access is free every Friday starting two hours before closure time. You can also contact their personnel at any time if you have questions about the field, and those are answered free of charge.

However, like Mickiana told us, the exhibition floor is actually only a fraction of what is going on in your average museum - and for one to act as a presentation of our collective memory, it's not even essential. The memory part is well fullfilled when an institution preserves those objects, setting them on display is actually optional.

Yes, an exhibit is a highly effective way to make the yokel "learn something about himself", but for as long as the same information contained within is freely available somewhere else, said service is far from mandatory. Let's say I wanted to become one of world's foremost experts on French art. By dedicating a couple of years of my life for that goal, I'd say I had a fair chance to achieve it - and using public sources only. Now, a trip to the Louvre would be a nice addition to said curriculum, but by no means required.

I'm more than willing to sing praises to those who provide public access without charge, no question. No one should be denied access to first-hand sources especially if it concerns ones cultural heritage, but I can understand a nominal fee demanded on access, as long as there are alternate avenues provided for those who can't afford it.


The fees should, of course, be mostly used to cover the costs of running the place. If a share of them goes into supporting a museum exec's lavish lifestyle, I'd say they could perhaps be placed under additional scrutiny and perhaps be made a subject of re-evaluation.
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Old 10-02-2013, 02:26 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by Mickiana
$400 000?!!! They must be the hardest working people out there! Honestly, if I had known where that High School Work Experience might have led....


Next thing you know they will be paying people hundreds of thousands, no Millions of dollars to play sports! What is this world coming to...
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