Friday, 20 November 2009

What is a museum?

During our recent visit to Brighton, we went to the Brighton Pavilion. I've not been there for about 15 years, but little changes except the fact that, like so many museums these days, taking photos is forbidden. I've never really understood why, especially when both the museum and its collections are in public ownership.

I actually wanted to write something about the conservation work that was going on, and eventually one of the conservators - so helpful and ready to explain what they were doing and what the future plans were - managed to get permission to send me some great pictures, but these weren't of the room I was interested in.

We took ourselves off to Eastbourne to a museum I've always wanted to see: The Museum of Shops.

This is such an eclectic mix af all that is old and nostalgic that one can immerse oneself in that comfortable feeling that everything was better heretofore.

Because of the huge quantity of items in the collection, it has been impossible to have any form of interpretation (you understand I'm throwing roses at it here) so one isn't confused with uncomfortable truths - poverty, sickness, war and death.

This is not a museum designed to educate - it just gathers objects together, puts them in loose groups, but to what purpose? I suppose people come away from the Museum of Shops with a warm feeling, having been reacquainted with the familiar objects of their childhood, but what have they learned?

"This is not a museum designed to educate" - I think this means it's not a museum at all. It doesn't serve any of the real purposes of museums, especially conservation and interpretation.
Sad really.

So we went down to the pier for a good cup of tea... that's nostalgia.

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