The purpose of life is “nothing more than to rediscover… those one or two images in the presence of which… [one’s] heart first opened.” —Albert Camus
Sometimes it’s difficult to recognize unique qualities of your culture until you are exposed to another one that approaches life a little differently. It’s sometimes strange to recognize your own culture from its past, when its origins are staring back at you. Even if we are reluctant to own much of what has been built during a time pre-dating our existence, upon examination we can come to understand how it has seeped into our lives. Cultural history is a warning, a celebration, a parallel. I see history’s complexity, its triumphs and dark shadows, as a metaphor for the human mind.
This post is extra special because I’ve decided to call upon a valuable resource for insight on the presentation of history in art mediums. I alluded before to the experience that can occur when connecting with another’s artwork, and the internal processes of creation. This time, I will begin to scratch the surface on the impact of creativity on our external world, how we are informed of our species’ roots and customs through the engagement with its products. Who tells these stories? How are they told? How are they received?
When considering the purpose of museums, many of us might have a particular school field trip in mind or envision the scenarios with high members of society making comments to impress their peers with their intellect. We’ll hear from Madison Marone, who studies at University of Glascow in Scotland the topics of film curation, art history, and museum studies. Her thoughts will be woven throughout. Something I’ve learned from Madison is that museums carefully consider their atmosphere as “institutions dedicated to preservation and display of material culture.” The atmospheres are about “facilitating connections” and ensuring it’s an “inviting, cohesive, and comfortable” place for people to be open to their own experience. Like a theater, a national park, or a library, museums provide an immersive experience which encourages “self-directed learning” and finding what interests you. I like this idea because to a certain extent you have control over what you want to make of the experience. You’re essentially responsible for your own fun. I’ve seen people drawing some of the sculptures and artifacts in museums, deep engagement there! Madison also mentions how museums can be utilized for alternative ways of learning; you’re not limited to reading and visually observing. There are opportunities for listening, and as Robin Williams points out in Good Will Hunting, experiencing “what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel.”
I suppose it is simple enough to determine how a purpose of curation or particular order of arranging work and materials is due to a storytelling component. Order matters, Madison says, because of the “choices made about the way exhibits are put together may change the story or pull something else out” [some otherwise unnoticed element]. Though in some cases artists and subjects are representing a certain group of people and perspective, more diversity in the museum workplace is able to re-frame the portrayal of the story. The creativity doesn’t end with the piece but continues through its placement and the potential spectrum of emotions one may feel when engaging with it.
The purpose here is not to sell anyone on museums, but perhaps evoke curiosity in more ways we carry and connect with our cultures. Madison likes to learn about inspiration behind a creation, and says “art has the ability to illuminate [a time] period” and may become “more significant in context.” It has the ability to “draw out an empathetic experience” because of the provided “glimpse allow you to see into a way someone see the world/their mind, of the abstract way of communicating.” There’s meaning making, asking questions and prompted dialogue about “how you fit into the greater whole.” Certainly we begin to feel “the weight of the entire culture we grew up in” and acknowledge the “influences of ideology we aren’t aware of.” Perhaps the greatest takeaway is to embrace the places we have to connect with others across time and culture and with ourselves. Can we create more of that space, more moments of what it feels to be purely human?
Madison asks, “What does it mean when something is put on display?” If you like this page, please share it!