Behind the Scenes at the Science Museum by Sharon Macdonald

By Sharon Macdonald

What is going on at the back of closed doorways at museums? How are judgements approximately exhibitions made and who, or what, particularly makes them? Why are definite gadgets and forms of exhibit selected while others are rejected, and what components impression how museum exhibitions are produced and skilled? This ebook solutions those looking questions by way of giving a privileged glance ‘behind the scenes’ on the technology Museum in London. by way of monitoring the heritage of a specific exhibition, Macdonald takes the reader into the area of the museum curator and exhibits in vibrant aspect how exhibitions are created and the way public tradition is produced. She unearths why exhibitions don't continuously mirror their makers’ unique intentions and why viewers take domestic specific interpretations. past this ‘local’ context, despite the fact that, the booklet additionally presents large and far-reaching insights into how nationwide and international political shifts effect the construction of public wisdom via exhibitions

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Moreover, as we shall see further below, museums may also have to labour against their own physicality:23 the objects and architecture of museums do not always lend themselves unproblematically to the visions of either science or of the visitors that museum staff wish to materialise. This was perhaps less the case in the nineteenth and earlytwentieth century when new museums, embodying the latest ideas, were constructed, and especially when science and liberal ideals could both be expressed in evolutionary narratives.

He also laid down new guidelines for the writing of labels which were intended to make them more accessible to non-specialists. In his suggestion that there should be a main part of the text in bold type and a longer sub-text in a different type, what he was pioneering was later to be called ‘multi-level’ text. This, with further subtle but significant refinements, would be claimed as fairly innovative when I carried out my fieldwork. 15 More generally, as subsequent Science Museum director David Follett comments: In placing “the ordinary visitor” first Lyons was much ahead of his time: many years, decades in fact, were to elapse before the museum world Cultural Revolution in South Kensington 29 generally accepted that museums were as much for the “ordinary visitor” as for those already knowledgeable in their fields, and began to apply the modern arts of display with him in mind.

Some of the classic works making this argument are Callon 1986, Callon, Law and Rip 1986 and Latour 1987. John Law’s ethnographic study (1994) of a science organisation is a sustained example of the use of this perspective 20 Behind the Scenes at the Science Museum which also contains reflective criticisms of it (as well as reflections on parallels with management in universities); and Latour’s semi-ethnographic account of the plans for a ‘guided-transportation’ scheme for Paris engagingly follows an ultimately doomed process using actor network ideas (1996).

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