Week 2 Blog Post

In reading Weil, I was interested in the general role of the museum. What purpose does the museum serve? Namely, does the institution provide special services to the visitors or does it focus on the objects while allowing the public to view the process? If the first, the museum would be considered a business, selling a product of cultural capital to the middle class public. The implementation of technology in this case would therefore mean that they are just expanding there means to sell. They cannot give too much information via digital platforms as this would negate the need to visit the museum in person and pay admission. Still, minor platforms can be used as a means of advertising and attracting new customers. While some museums have free admission, all museums rely on donors which make up a large portion of funding. The more well-know a museum is, the likelihood for funding will increase.

In light of the business model, I am hesitant towards accepting museums as saintly institutions. There is just as much politics and controversy behind the intellectual shroud as any other corporation. On the other hand, if the museum focuses on the pieces instead of the public, they limit the ability of the outside world to learn. Culture and art would therefore be limited only to the few who spend their lives researching it. While the objects are far safer in this situation, they are not shared with masses and open for education. In extreme cases, one could eliminate the need for museums in general an replace everything with digital technology. However humanity itself is affected as the need for human creation is eliminated from the process. If people were to solely interact with a screen and digital platforms they would lose the direct contact they would naturally have by interacting with another individual’s work in person. Putting everything in digital form eliminates the drive to create in the first place. If artists know their work will never be put in an institution, they may not bother to make art at all, although some will switch to the digital form.

3 thoughts on “Week 2 Blog Post”

  1. The same points can be made about other institutions, including hospitals or universities. Theres a trend of college campuses becoming “country clubs” in the sense that they focus more resources on providing amenities for students than on providing a quality education (http://articles.latimes.com/2013/apr/21/opinion/la-oe-zimmerman-college-luxuries-20130421). This shift in focus comes about as a result of the ubiquity of institutions of higher learning and the need to stand out to potential students among thousands of options (interestingly, in the way that students are padding their resumes with extracurriculars to stand out to colleges amidst a sea of applicants). It allows colleges to increase their student bodies, but it also changes the role of that kind of institution. I wonder if, in the future, all institutions will be caught up in marketing campaigns to the detriment of their fundamental purposes, or if a coming societal shift will “take back” the institution and return it to its intended roots.

    1. You’re right, Sarah, these two phenomena are really interconnected. Part of the issue, arguably, is that we seem a lot less comfortable with public institutions than we used to.

  2. These are all really good points. Part of the reason our moment is such a challenging time to think about museums is that I’m not sure we’ve decided whether they’re “saintly institutions” (or perhaps just institutions that should be oriented toward the public good) or whether they’re businesses that should be focused on pleasing consumers.

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