Museums are places that we like to go to learn about our history, our culture and our very existence. Most of the things we learn in school are condensed into this place full of various artefacts and pieces of our identity. Reflecting on this, it’s hard to think about what you’d put in a museum if you ran one, and even harder to think about the responsibility shouldered by the person responsible for this. Not only education, but profit, integrity are also some of the things that the Museum and the people choreographing it must consider, in order for the museum to be successful as well as educational.
People in museums and the museums themselves are easily smitten by the most expensive and oldest artefacts, without considering the value of it. Value in terms of instructive purposes that is. At times, it is the rarest and oldest artefacts that museums comprise of hold very little purpose but put the museums in a lot of debt. Similar to Rockefellers case when bad management and over usage of money caused his museum to go into the black hole of misery and debt, a museum that considers only monetary value over the value of education can never be successful. The fact that the price tags aren’t displayed along with the museum pieces, should make the job the person responsible for the artefacts easier. Artefacts that possess little monetary value compared to the value of its purpose in education and history should be considered greatest. Since museums rely strictly on the number of people that visit it, they should pick artefacts that are related to its exhibits and have a clear message that says “I’m here because I teach you, not because I’m worth a lot of money”.
Something you hear a lot as a child is that if you study and get a good job, you will become rich and successful in life. Likewise, the foundation for a museums success in life is its ability to attract people that want to learn and educate them. Simple artefacts that attract those with a curious mind tend to make more money than highly known artefacts that cost millions, but offer next to no educational value. Schools that come to museums for trips like to go places that they can learn something new while having fun. A museum offering paintings worth millions will attract a few art classes, however, a museum offering simple tools used by primitives will attract everything from history students, to those who are simply interested in ancient things. It is using this fact, that it is clear what kind of artefacts a museum should secure. The more people that come, the more money the museum makes, and hence the more profit they achieve.
After only recently visiting the Black Creek Pioneer Village in Toronto, that it dawned upon me as to how many important historical facts are left out of such places. This may be a different from the setting of a museum, however the both places are meant to educate the public on the past and its cultures. Going into a exhibit showing us the colonialization of Africa is no different than walking into a re-enactment of the place itself. While going through the village, children and adults alike discussed the wonderful life of the old earth. A time when nothing more than food, shelter and a happy family mattered. Living in a town where everyone knew each other and got along happily and walking down the street you’d wave to your friendly next door local butcher or blacksmith. This is exactly what is shown in these re-enactment such as the one known as Colonial Williamsburg. However, one critical point this so called “re-enactment” failed to point out was the obvious that still exists to this day. This “obvious” refers to death, unhappiness, hierarchy and a caste system, not to mention the slavery, the cruelty, the diseases and the ongoing oppression of men and women alike is virtually nonexistent. While it is the job of the exhibits in museums and these re-enactments to educate the public then why are such important things being left out that would make the public say “wow am I glad to be where I am right now” rather than saying “Oh my, how wonderful it would to live in a place like this”.
Museums exist for the distinct purpose, which is to educate the public. Educating the public is such an important task, that everything in the museums must be coordinated in order to be accurate and informative. Exclusions such as those in the Colonial Williamsburg and poor choice of artefacts just cannot happen. The job of the museum and its people is great, however their responsibility for success is even greater and that is exactly why museums need to be careful and smart about the artefacts that it chooses. While a 1000 good things teaches a person, one mistake can change their way of thinking forever.