The Museum Time-Machine: Putting Cultures on Display

The Museum Time-Machine: Putting Cultures on Display

The Museum Time-Machine: Putting Cultures on Display

The Museum Time-Machine: Putting Cultures on Display

Synopsis

A provocative contribution to the current debate on museums, this collection of essays contains contributions from France, Britain, Australia, the US, and Canada. The Museum Time Machinedeals with public controversies such as those over charges, sponsorship, and political interference, but its primary concern is with broader cultural and social questions.

Excerpt

The museum is said to be undergoing a 'renaissance'. In Britain, new museums are being set up at the rate of one a fortnight. In France, the government museum-building programme initiated with the Pompidou Centre has included the Musée d'Orsay, an imaginative restoration and re-use of one of Paris's grandest railway stations, and the La Villette complex, an 'urban park' enclosing the 'world's largest science museum'. In West Germany, the Frankfurt city council is creating eleven museums along the River Maine by 1990. In Japan and the USA, the museum boom is on an even bigger scale. Attendance is likewise on the increase, symbolized by the queues for 'blockbuster' exhibitions such as the Vienna one at the Pompidou Centre, which was kept open until 2 am because of the demand.

The numbers quoted in the press reports, promotional literature, and speeches reflect the fashion for hyperbole in the guise of science. None the less, they also point to significant developments-the renewed desire on the part of governments, cities, and private individuals to invest in museums; the museum as architectural innovation and hub of urban redevelopment; the rise of the museum director as star. Furthermore, the museum itself has been changing. It has become a place for visiting exhibitions, eating, studying, conserving and restoring artefacts, listening to music, seeing films, holding discussions, and meeting people. In fact, often the museum is no longer a building at all, but a site, as in the case of open-air versions, and is found in the country as well as the town. Nor is the simple institutional definition able to account for references to a 'museum society', which, as the threatened introduction

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