Reading Comments: What is a Museum?

The notion of the museum can be traced all the way back to the temples of the ancient Greeks, and perhaps also the outdoor landmarks of Roman emperor Hadrian. However the notion of the modern museum is probably much more directly connected to the Italian galleria - a collection of interesting items which the Germans would call Wunderkammer (as we discussed in class). As early as the 17th century, these private collections began to become public displays,

Alexander rationalizes the prevalence of museums, stating that “collecting seems to be instinctive for many human beings”. However the modern museum that Alexander describes has a much more complex motive - with the growing popularity of these public collections, museums became much more prominent cultural spaces for education which both celebrated and educated on technical accomplishments and scientific progress. Museums appear to have correspondingly grown in their social context to be fundamental pieces of the modern world - both as a lens to the past and a way to peer into a potential scientific future.

Museums and COVID-19

How the Pandemic Changed Museums Forever (or Did It?)

Intuitively it seems that the pandemic would have fundamentally tarnished the museums as a means of communicating history and art. So much is just “different” about the experience of exploring a physical space and seeing the works presented just as the director intended. In some other ways, the digital transformation was hugely beneficial. For example, Rika Hira - postdoc at USC - observed that “without the physical limitations of a gallery space” the amount of items which could be displayed doubled, and certain works that were too fragile to be physically presented could be used in the display. In some ways the digital nudge might be incredibly beneficial to the future of museums, and allow them to better blend digital and physical forms of art - thus sidestepping the traditional limitations of the museum medium.

How Will Covid-19 Change the Way Museums Are Built?

This article begins by commenting that in the aftermath of Tuberculosis, the city of New York fundamentally changed how they built everything from houses to hospitals. The logical follow up in the context of Covid 19 is then to ask how the pandemic might affect how we present museums. In the first place, the pandemic has mandated social distancing which I suspect strongly influences what kinds of objects work better in creating a cohesive display. For example, it might be better to present large paintings that can be appreciated at a distance without forcing viewers too close to one another. On the other hand, advances in digital AR technology might fundamentally transform how we approach museums in the first place - maybe museums as buildings will start to become more like digital walking experiences.