paired ideas

Sometimes it’s helpful to think in terms of juxtapositions and to play around with thoughts. After a presentation this week, I was asked to share my list of these. Enchanted by the idea that my set of helpful notions might spark someone else’s list, it seemed like a good idea to share them online and invite any blog visitors to share their helpful dichotomies too. So here are a few paired ideas which seem to help me to think:

  • Personal and collective memories of place
  • inclusion/exclusion
  • representation and authority
  • authenticity and reality
  • place and story
  • object and narrative
  • staff and visitor
  • audience and author
  • expertise and experience
  • professional and personal
  • physical and intangible
  • heritage and history
  • plans and practice
  • official and unofficial
  • public and private
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2 thoughts on “paired ideas

  1. I’ve got three favourites in this area:

    people and objects
    There’s an old interpretation motto: ‘people love stories about people’. It’s very true. But when we’re building stories in museums we mostly only have objects. So there’s a challenge there to get visitors looking at objects in a way which brings the lives of people who used, made, owned, loved, worshipped or despised objects. Which leads on to…..

    passive and active interpretation
    Gone are the days when visitors could expect to simply wander into a museum and read the text on the walls. The MTV generation of visitors expect interpretive devices have to grab them and make them engage with content. Even if it’s still objects in glass cases and text printed on panels, it can be proactive. It doesn’t necessarily have to be touch screens and lift up flaps. Content can engage with people, rather than people engaging with content. Which leads on to …..

    the language of people and the language of museums
    There’s a great divide here about whether museums should speak to people as visitors in a museum, or simply as people. We never see food in a supermarket, bus timetables or mobile phone contracts described using Victorian jargon – in fact if it used arhaic language people would never engage. Museums are for people, so we need to follow suit.

    1. Thanks for these Steve, they’re really helpful and I’m sure I’ll keep returning to them. I like how they are all a lot about people and ways to respond to interests they already have. Sometimes it can seem like interpretation is about convincing people in spite of their interests rather than because of them, but your points are much more upbeat…

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