The Challenge of Industrial History Museums.
Stephen H. Cutcliffe and Steven Lubar
Because our era is one of transition from industry to service to information, the industrial history museum is of increasing importance. A brief background of 1998 conference and chronicling of the proposed National Museum of Industrial History. Quite good summary of articles below, making my effort superfluous for the purpose of analysis (but still necessary for me to know what I read). What should the postmodern industrial museum do? At a minimum, be clean, comfortable, accessible. Help visitors make sense of the history of industry using many voices; show choices and human agency; trace, if possible, alternative paths. It might also interact with visitors, eliciting their thoughts, and give them an unforgettable, dramatic, (even numinous) visit
The Mission of the Industrial Museum in the PostIndustrial Age
Museums have social movements and history and academic exposition but lack experiences of meaning and value for visitors. Via storytelling, allow for such experiences as celebration, mourning, validation, dialogue and inspiration. Abandon the emphasis on analysis and become a theater of experience.
Face Value: Objects of Industry and the Visitor Experience
Matthew W. Roth
Visitors can perceive materials, texture, process, complexity, agency and scale from products and tools and do not need dialectical critique. Hard enough to condense what did happen; slightly exasperating is the request to show what did not happen. Dioramas in galleries are a good dense blend of infotainment. The possible responses and narratives should not be too prescriptive.
Authenticity of Place and Voice: Examples of Industrial Heritage Preservation
and Interpretation in the U.S. and Europe
Thomas E. Leary and Elizabeth C. Sholes
These authors favor authenticity of content and context over visitor experience because the distinguishing feature of museums is their analytic and didactic expertise. The US has several good sites (mentioned) but the National Park Service has shied away from steel sites. Europe, by contrast, has better-funded sites, especially in mining. Museums must provide "a powerful interpretive package."
Experiences From the Front Line: Presenting a Controversial Exhibition during
the Culture Wars
Liebhold chronicles his work on the El Monte Sweatshop exhibit. How does one tell a politicized and painful story in fair way? He tells a bit how the various participants in the story reacted to the exhibit and also how the public reacted. He emphasizes the audience reaction and participation. He also notes dryly that " in contemporary society it is unlikely that an institution can survive as a paean to the hegemony of the ruling class, retelling the stories of the rich and successful." (In fact, however, I think that many museums have survived quite nicely by allowing the rich and successful to pick the paeans.)
NB Cary Carson, VP of research at Colonial Williamsburg. "What visitors
want is realism, color, action, and real stories." That is the very aesthetic
of a business school.
(No black and white, no fantasy, no abstractions . a terrifying reduction in scope.)
Do Visitors Get It? A Sweatshop Exhibit and Visitor's Comments
Successful museums touch the personality and/or experiences of the visitors. Visitors come equipped to think and apparently want to respond. Furthermore, they are able to respond on many levels, drawing conclusions, making comparisons, relating personal experiences, asking for advice on the socially correct responses, and so offering valuable insights to the exhibitors.
Reaching a Broader Audience
Visitors must have the opportunity to make a personal connection with the objects or stories being presented. Good museums have artifacts, stories, interpretations, exhibition spaces, films, videos, graphics, reading materials - variety. Interaction does not always equal expensive electronics. He offers a set of recommendations for managing exhibits and visitors.
Excursions into the Un-Remembered Past: What People Want from Visits to Historical
Catherine M. Cameron and John B. Gatewood
Did a survey in downtown Bethlehem. What interested me was this: "numen" seekers aren't correlated to age, income, sex, education or residence. They are not too interested in a site's bells and whistles. They appear to be "a particular turn of mind until themselves." Good signage and good tour guides are appreciate by everyone, and heavy industry is generally less popular than the colonial period, which is more remote (and therefore more suitable to fantasy?)
Many Voices, True Stories, and the Experiences We are Creating in Industrial History Museums: Reinterpreting Lowell, Massachusetts.
Goldstein argues for memorable narratives, personal connection and an effort
to share the narrative of the museum with community members and historical experts.