Reading Response: Museum and Map; the Interpretation of Visual Culture

If Museums back in the 19th century were regarded as educational institutions with a great social role, then today they are considered as more of tourist attraction or money generating tool for the local government. Fast forward to today and take a look at a museum and its audience’s relationship. The museum’s “role of being educational had always been well established as a concept” (Hooper-Greenhill, Eilean. p.1) and because this relationship is changing in times of advanced technology and with changing culture, museum will also need to change its way of doing things.

The concept of education had been changing throughout the centuries, “they’re not limited to formal institutions but taken place throughout life” (Hooper-Greenhill, Eilean. p.2 ).  The old concept of education are limited to specific times and places and with museum, it is limited to a certain location at the interior space. Yet, the museum should have the potential as a lifelong learning tool.

Most people would define visual display as the experience of a museum. Since each individual object in a museum cannot speak a story by itself, “An exhibition is a group of objects combined with words and images – are more complex still” (Hooper Greenhill, Eilean. p.3)  and from Victoria Newhouse’s book  “ placement can change the meaning of the artwork” (Newhouse, Victora. p.10)  All objects have to be placed together in a museum, and depending on the visual arrangement, viewers have a 50/50 chance of perceiving the intended meaning, even after they perceived them, they might not agree with them. With different cultures, come different values, so interpretation does not come with a singular meaning but multiple when viewed by many different audiences.

“Museum have changed radically in style” Hooper Greenhill, Eilean. (p.6) – where formal museum galleries have changed and replaced by informal style where it communicates with visitors in a more lively and more physical interaction. That is because “learners need to interact in meaningful ways with new information before it can become part of their repertoire of knowledge,”( Hooper Greenhill, Eilean. p.7)

Museum are trying to incorporate audience and visitor’s info and research into their process of exhibition, and by looking at the internet like Wikipedia which incorporate user’s knowledge into their database and website. Wikipedia has become more successful in that respect. That is not to say that museums cannot do better. Museums have the advantage of showcasing an actual object, “Although paintings might have to fight for their life, they look better in a home than in a museum because they’re alive, you feel them…” (Newhouse, Victora. p.13) because of this factor, many museums had considered showing certain artwork without any separation between viewers and the object itself these days.

Philip Kwok

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