Thoughts after a visit to the V&A Museum






26.11.2013

The two extremes of age (young and old) experience museums (and the world) in different ways. The young move actively about galleries, wasting energy and creating heat. They have little (if anything) to carry or look after, except perhaps a toy as a companion. The old take their time to wander through galleries, perhaps with the assistance of a crutch or a wheelchair. They often carry baggage with them and wrap their coats warmly around their bodies as they navigate lofty rooms of objects.

The young do not hesitate to interact with exhibits physically, tracing their fingers over the surface of objects, even if it is forbidden. This reaction to stimulus in the museum is instinctive and they live in the moment, ignorant that they are engaged in the process of learning. The old abide by the protocol of “DO NOT TOUCH” in response to museum signs and previous experiences. They visit museums to acquire knowledge before they die. They also visit museums to validate their existing knowledge and show it off to others. They experience exhibits from a step back, making little bodily movement. Their eyes flit from object to text panel and back again. They take many photos of what they see. This record aids in remembering and recollecting the event at a later date. It creates an artefact that may outlive them.

The old take a rest while younger visitors hurry around hyper interactive spaces, whereas the children take a seat in more static, traditional, object-filled galleries.

The old have time to visit museums and enhance their knowledge, whereas younger people must work and earn a living. It would make more sense if this were vice versa: to acquire knowledge throughout life and produce work later on in light of this knowledge.

The two modes of museum interaction listed above are extremely polar, and very generalised. In reality, we are neither of these categories, instead living in-between youth and old age (some moreso than others). Good museum practice should be conscious of both when curating gallery space. As much can be gained from intense scrutiny as instinctive responses to curiosities found in museums. It is a highly debated subject among museologists and has no definitive answer as of yet.
Mark