Reading 2 Museums in Motion and COVID

Museums in Motion

One important point that Alexander and Alexander make in their book is the idea that museums initially had different roles as expected by different people. It has encompassed both the collection aspect and the forum- where people and intellectuals come gather. I believe this adds additional context to our discussion about a “new” museum structure that aims for more community involvement. Rather than a brand-new idea, it may be better to phrase this movement of museums towards community centers as simply once again changing its role to fit what is needed by the people. I am also interested in the last main idea brought up by the introduction: does a collection define a museum? As following our class discussion on Wednesday, does the “originality” or “singularity” of a physical object make the museum- or what else would it mean once that becomes digitized? I am currently leaning towards the value of the physicality, although not necessarily originality, of objects in the museum as it serves as a tangible space different from the digital experience.

Covid and Museums

The Smithsonian article on “Will Covid-19 Change the Way Museums are Built?” questions whether Covid-19 as a massive global pandemic, will change the way people interact with their built environment, and more specifically in museums. The article questions whether “6 feet”, open air, and touchless surfaces will become a permanent aspect of the museum experience. It also expands on digital interactions, yet cautions whether digital interactions will be able to replace the museum experience. Regardless, I believe that this article views museums in a very traditional exhibition manner and doesn’t account for the museum movement towards a community center. By designing museums to prevent crowding, they are also designing to move away from a community and people connection.

The UNESCO May 2020 report on Museums in the Face of Covid 19 brought up an essential point about the digitization and increased access in museums throughout the world: essentially, that while most European and American museums were able to digitize their content with the pandemic, that is not true for all countries especially ones like in Africa and Small Island Developing States. This separation in digitization, and more specifically, the energy crisis continues to be a problem in South Africa where I went to recently to teach at. Loadshedding, periods of time on a daily basis where electricity to a specific zone is completely cut, happens throughout South Africa and affects our student’s learning experience. It additionally makes me question the supposed “accessibility” of digital content, where while it is comparatively more accessible then the singular object stored in a museum, it is only in a western perspective. Additionally, exhibits designed to be digital and require electricity, screens, or technology to be installed may be limited only to a Western American and European scope. I believe this report, brought on by COVID-19, is able to highlight a much deeper problem about the electrical and digital resources in museums around the world.