May 26, 2008

After Thoughts

The most affirming part of attending the European Museums Forum was seeing that there are plenty of museums out there not corrupted by English anti-intellectualism or New Labour. You see curators who quote Proust (“the truly imperfect earth is not one which is devoid of masterpieces of art but one which is full of them and does not know how to love them or preserve them”) rather than their performance indicator regime. The comparison was most striking comparison for me was the presentation by Weston Park Museum in Sheffield (http://www.sheffieldgalleries.org.uk/coresite/html/WPM.asp) and Museo degli Sguardi. Rimini's Ethnographic Collections (http://www.riminiturismo.it/CMS2/main.php?elemId=322&classId=33&lang_index=1&seq_index=7).
The former proudly told us how their public had been completely involved in every stage of the design and selection of displays; how they had won the Guardian’s Family Friendly Museum of the Year Award; how the community was at the heart of the museum. It reminded me of my last visit to Manchester Art Gallery which has a similar ethos, when the galleries could only really be described as a massive crèche – during the video installation in the Asia Triennial it was literally impossible to enter the dark space to see the work because it was full of toddlers and crying babies. However, of the 40 odd curators who presented at the Forum (including me) this year, I was most struck by Maurizio Biordi from Rimini. He didn’t speak English so was translated by his assistant. Contrary to the dominant UK model of vacuity, over-loaded social conditioning and curatorial deskilling, he talked about The Museum of Impressions – a museum in a place where people don’t go for cultural tourism, the museum itself is not ideally located in the town, the museum houses an inconceivably curious and out of context collection of relics from various continents assembled by numerous travellers and collectors. I met some really good people, museum directors I am keen to work with, but Maurizio Biordi’s commitment to thinking, to looking at the object was inspiring.

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