Musuems in Motion

The introduction to Museums in Motion was very informative in learning about how the concept of the museum has transformed throughout history. In particular, I was interested to learn about the museum of Alexandria from the classical world, centuries before the appearance of Wunderkammers, as well as the fact that there are modern day proponents for defining the museum as a “community of scholars.” The general public nowadays seems to associate the museum with artifacts or collections while a shift toward the museum as a community for education and research may feel like a more novel idea, yet a community-oriented museum is actually rooted deeply in history.

An observation I made is that, based on the reading, the idea of the museum seems to have originated uniquely in the European world and was spread to countries like America only under strong influence of European culture. The quote “The modern museum … is a product of Renaissance humanism, eighteenth-century enlightenment and nineteenth-century democracy” further reinforces the idea that the museum is founded on Western values. This makes me wonder if other cultures have created a phenomenon like the museum throughout history. Nowadays there are institutions all over the world that follow this European model of the museum, but if there were no outside influence, would other cultures choose to display their artifacts or create spaces for contemplation and learning in the same way?

Impact of COVID on Museums

Visiting the MOMA in San Francisco a few weeks ago, I noticed that all door handles still had stickers that said “self-sanitizing” on them. While there are definitely still traces of the pandemic lingering in museums, most visitors I saw were not wearing masks, and museums seem to be moving on for the most part. One of the articles I read described how throughout the pandemic, visitors were consistently more comfortable visiting museums than other public spaces like amusement parks. When I saw this statistic, I was not surprised at all, in spite of the ways a museum might not be as safe, including being an indoor space. This might be attributed to the unique reputation that museums have among the public. Museums in Motion mentioned that the original meaning of the Latin word for museum referred to a temple, and although most museums now are secular, a sense of reverence for the museum seems to be preserved. Most people, upon entering museums, seem to adopt an innate sense of respect for one another and for other people’s stories. These bonds that are formed between strangers and between people and objects are powerful and may speak to why museums may have been able to rebound faster during a time when people sought out human connection more than ever. Even when physical museums were closed and many museums presented their projects and collections online, virtual visitor engagement skyrocketed perhaps because people could access a sense of community and empathy through experiencing other people’s stories online.