When you tell people that you work in museums they always want to share with you their thoughts about museums – almost everyone has experience of museums and has views about what they like and dislike.
As well as all the people I meet who tell me what a great time they’ve had in our museums and galleries, three particular friends, all of whom work in areas very different to museums come to mind when I think about what people want from museums. One friend every time I met him would say to me, teasingly, ‘How’s the museum, still got all that old stuff? Can’t you get any new stuff?’
Another friend said to me, when I was talking about the improvements we’d been making to our museums and galleries, ‘Oh, but I loved the old museum in the town where I grew up. We used to play tig around the mahogany cases with the brass rails and then be chased by the museum attendants. It was great fun. That’s how museums should be.’ Another friend often asks me ‘Have you got any more seats in that art gallery yet. It’s a great gallery but there’s not enough seats.’
Different people want different things from museums and galleries. Sometimes the same people want different things on different days – if I’m visiting with my 10 year old son I might want lots of activities, if I’m showing round visitors to the area I want to highlight items with key significance, sometimes I just want be in the presence of great art.
I’m really keen to know what people want from our museums, galleries and archive. I’d love it if people would share their stories of a great visit to a museum. What made a difference? What changed the way you felt or thought?
In the present economic climate it’s easy to focus on cuts, job losses, pension problems. Museums, galleries and archives are even more important in helping people develop their sense of place, learn more about themselves and sometimes just have a moment of escapism. If you’ve got a museum story to share please respond to the blog.