Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Participatory History in the Age of Disposable Technology
The Dream of Participatory History in the Age of Disposable Technology
The problem with our museums is that they are rotting faster than the Doctrina Christiana. Not only are they decrepit, they also have weak content. In terms of telling a story, they are unconvincing, unimaginative, uninspiring, and every other word you can suffix to un. Worse, there is a total lack of (demand for) public interaction. The worst of the worst: our National Museum.
If music is as old as history, museums should have followed the path of MTV, or no, iTunes because iTunes trumps any music industry player. The point is, technology should help it and not contribute to its atrophy. In the case of the National Museum, ANY technology would do actually. Not just getting a website or involving itself in social media. Let’s start with simple-r things that would involve its audience more. One of the dire effects of today’s world of disposable invention is our short attention span. We’re always looking for the next bigger, brighter thing that anything less becomes unworthy (i.e. James Cameron’s Avatar). Instead of resisting this, our museums should keep up with the times.
The Lights & Sound Museum and Chinese Museum (Angelo King Museum) in Intramuros do this very well, but they lacks the PR machine that the Ayala Museum has. But please don’t bring your(self and) kids near the diorama portion of the Ayala Museum. I must admit that it’s one of the better mediums for telling Philippine history, but it’s so blatantly biased. It’s really Señor Jorge Antonio Manuel Miguel’s story.
The National Museum gets an F. The National Museum is such a tragedy. Its most permanent exhibition (Spoliarium) is tainted with mortal sin. See, there was an idiot who had the bright idea of slicing Luna’s work into quadrants because it couldn’t fit a freight container that would ship it from Spain to Manila. Whoever he was (and I’m pretty sure it’s a he) should be burned at the stake. Also, with all the surge in all things Gladiators – Russell Crowe, the Australian production of Spartacus (aka Spartacus II since kids these days don’t even know who Kirk Douglas is), I’m surprised no one has lobbied to make the public take an interest in the Spoliarium. I think they should even make souvenirs out of their collections. Maybe even sell them online! The Field Museum in Chicago does it for Sue, the T-Rex. The MET makes an entire business out of it.
What about protections systems? I don’t think there are any security cameras in the NM. I don’t think there are even fake security cameras (there’s some on E-bay) to ward off people. For all I know, somebody could distract the Manong Guard and walk out with something valuable in tow. But that’s another problem. You’ve never heard of art theft in the Philippines because we don’t know the value of our national treasures.
What about conservation technology? Why do I have a feeling we’re still using brushes and saran wrap for our artifacts?
Today is the best time for museums to harness the possibilities to complete a visitor’s experience. Be it telling a story using all the five senses or getting a website to encourage pre-visitation (tickets, line up of exhibitions) and re-visits - Anything to make people go and participate. And a participatory kind of history is an asset for a nation, if not an ideal. Museums, especially the public ones should not shy away from available inventions and use them for their ends.
Of course, this could all be very costly, but a knowledgeable public is one of the best investments we should try to afford. Because in this day and age, we expand or perish. And the business of telling history is clearly dying.