No Shame: Collections out of the Closet
With the possible exception of their buildings, artefact collections comprise the greatest physical asset that museums possess. It is ironic then, that collections are often perceived as liabilities, requiring expensive storage and stewardship and offering limited potential for addressing the needs of modern museum visitors. In recent years curators and other museum professionals have forcefully argued for a renewed appreciation for the value of artifacts in fulfilling the core function of museums: to encourage a deeper engagement with the past.
Artifacts are a critical source of historical evidence and a compelling interpretive tool. So much of the past is not recorded or reflected in the written record that historians must often turn to objects to explore and understand important aspects of the human experience. Knowing how to examine, read, and interpret material objects is especially important for museum professionals not just because they may have to work with collections but also because artifacts are a powerful means of engaging the public in discussions about the past. For many people objects provide a tangible and deeply personal link to history.
Participants in this forum will present ideas for reconnecting museums with their collections. Leading off the session staff from the Canada Science and Technology Museum will present their findings from a number of recent initiatives, including the award-winning Reading Artifacts Summer Institute, Curator’s Corner and More than an Object. These curator-driven programs have demonstrated that artifacts can appeal to a wide range of audiences and tell many compelling stories.
We anticipate that this session will have a maximum of four presenters from a number of institutions.
Learning Outcome 1:
Museum collections are assets to be embraced, not burdens to be managed.
Learning Outcome 2:
Reading artefacts is a skill that can be taught to many groups, from museum staff to museum visitors.
Learning Outcome 3:
There is no correct reading of an artefact. With guidance, anyone can draw new and interesting stories from objects.
I believe I could make a contribution as well in terms of artifacts and mediated cognition.
Let me know if you need something more substantive at this stage. I might also see if one of the other attendees wants to co-author either in terms of my artifact (i.e. Dana ) or in terms of early medical technology (i.e. Emma).