gillpolack (gillpolack) wrote,

We had a family excursion to the Melbourne Museum today. Not a bad museum. A very pleasant way to spend an afternoon. Not a particularly brilliant museum either. We concentrated on the history and culture side because I dragged the family there after everyone else showed a marked preference for the science side. "If there's time," I reassured my various rellos, "We can come back to this side." And time there was not.

The history is mostly OK, after its kind. Phar Lap has his own shrine, which is not at all improbable, given this is the city that takes a whole day off for a four minute horse race. "Neighbours" also has its shrine, which I thought entirely idiotic until I caught my mother out giving an involved explanation tonight. The fact that my non-Neighbours-watching mother felt the need to explain that every time someone on the set wanted to boil a kettle a gas bottle had to be attached means that the museum has some stuff very right.

And it did. Truly. There was a clever playgound exhibit and lots of stuff that kids couldn't stay away from. All the cool needed to be balanced with a bit more that was visibly intellectual, is all. That and some of the assumptions of the creators of exhibits needed to be examined. Why were all indigenous foods located in the garden while all non-indigenous were linked to material culture, for instance? Why did so many exhibits assume that material culture was rather more important than other culture? And why (on a smaller scale) was the idea of collection approached through listing private collectors of things from gemstones to teapots without any linking explanation of the nature of collection as a hobby and obsession and the various roles that collecting plays in Australia?

One giant panel would have been enough to draw the threads out of that exhibit and give it a bit of structure and initiate the visitor into a little bit of theory. Not everyone would read that panel - people who just want to ooh and ah over the pretty stones and cute snowdomes could still do that. But people who want to learn a bit every time they visit a museum would really benefit from a more rigorous approach to documenting exhibits.

And now I sound like an historian. I guess I am one, today.
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