Well--I work for a free, state run museum so I take a little offense to this, seeing how 20,000 or so visitors come through our building a month. Not to mention the other 5 museums, and about 20 some odd *free* historical sites. There are alot of items on display and accessible to all sorts of people from the citizens of the state, to tourists--and researchers abroad. We just hit our 100th yr mark, and the state has been doing Wright Bros celebrations all year long as well. I think we actually do a great job in the system, despite funding problems to bring history to the public for free....all they have to do is make the effort to come out....
Originally Posted by Jorge
What is the point? I dunno, I'm not a museum professional (no management degree) But in my "technical" position.... if I did have an answer I would say the point is in preserving whatever the selections are of the museums interest--they *all* have some sort of mission statement that outlines the core of their collecting policies.
I think you're wrong though to call them "greedy children". What would be your plan if you had a growing, active collection of quarter to half million or more items that you were charged to legally protect & care for the rest of their lives & then on for the future? How do you decide which to show within limited resources--exhibit facilities, storage etc? We have everything from teeny tiny fragments from archaeology surveys to entire houses.vehicles, boats etc. textiles, currency, firearms & weaponry, mourning artifacts, technology (have a great collection of early television including a Baird on display now)--medical devices like iron lungs, baby lungs, x-ray machines etc. Uhm, we have the ENTIRE contents of buildings as well like a 20's era pharmacy with over 10,000 pieces. Or David Marshall Williams--aka "Carbine Williams"--workshop with thousand of items, machinery and prototype guns. Including the workshop itself which was moved across several counties and into the building by a crane some 40 yrs ago. textile looms, Then we have NASCAR-- a stock car from Richard Petty, moonshine stills, prohibition artifacts...then, civil war items, several hundred flags, pottery, reiligous objects, Native Amercian pieces. Practially everything that can be associated with some form of the state's history is being collected.
So who decides what is displayed? There's only so much space and regardless of what you think--there is no bottomless pit of money in museums.
One thing that pops to mind--is documentation project of civil war era battle flags. The conservation treatments of these 120 some odd flags, comes to close to half million dollars. The flags need to be conserved prior to being photographed--for the most part they're so fragile they can't even be displayed. They live in storage. Some of the only images of them are slides and negs almost 50 yrs old. This is what a patron would get if they ordered a print-very few would be able to actually arrange a viewing. There are many projects just like this--in a holding pattern for funding. The money is there to stabilize them, but not to the point of displaying them or in some cases even getting them out of storage.
My experience has been that what is displayed is often tied in with exhibitry..Which probably accounts for very little in terms of what places might actually hold. A way to make it accessible is for the records to move online--with some sort of access that way, or to go through publications that can target in more detail a certain area. Then, some items are just boring for lack of better word. How many spoons do you need to show, when a collection has 8000 spoons in it? Believe me--I ask this question when I have to shoot 25 chairs that are all *exactly* the same. I spend days shooting items that are almost *exactly* the same to my layman's eyes--but to a curator or history buff they're one of a kind. I shot nothing but buttons from uniforms for some researcher in England a few years ago--I shot front & backs of buttons for a guide book on collecting. Or how bout this--we're wrapping up a 4 color book on antebellum furniture & cabinet maker shop--shot 4000 or so sheets of film on it. I've had to shoot wardrobes that were completely taken apart & show the joints, saw marks & kerfs etc--then put back together. Had to shoot hand-forged hardware details etc.
You just cannot show everything, but someday you may get around to it through support of an exhibit--maybe not even in your lifetime. It's important to select items for preservation, but you can't save everything and you can't show it either. There's not enough money, space or time.
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