Museum objects as travel agents

In Museums on April 20, 2016 at 10:25 am

For me, museum objects are inspirational things. And I like to think that museums can seek to inspire visitors to do all sorts of wonderful things as a result of looking at the things in their collections. They can even inspire us to travel.

It’s the theme of a little film I’ve made, currently screening at The Museum and the Global Contemporary conference at the University of Leicester, which starts today.

There’s little point us seeking to be places of inspiration just for the sake of it. Here’s an example of what I mean …

A few years ago I was working on a museum exhibition about ancient Rome. When we were putting the project together someone in our team said “wouldn’t it be great if visitors to the exhibition were inspired to travel to Italy after leaving the exhibition?”

Of course, we’d no real way of measuring whether visitors did indeed book flights after seeing the exhibition. But it was a great way for us as a project team to think about what we wanted visitors to experience as part of their visit.

In museums we talk a lot about ‘visitor outcomes’ – what we want our visitors to know, understand, experience and feel when they are with us. In this little video I argue that we ought to place just as much emphasis on what they are inspired to do as a result of a visit as we do on communicating facts to them.

Museums can be didactic, sure. But let’s make them intentionally inspirational places too. Let’s get people so excited by museum objects that they are inspired to book flights.


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