The Heartbreak of Museums

Now that the content edits on my book are done, I have a little breather room to think of other things for a few weeks besides editing - like sewing (fingers crossed!) and catching up on my blog.

I had fully intended to write about a few museums I revisited when our family took a summer trip to my home state of Indiana, but finishing my book took priority and I was also procrastinating.

I'll be honest. I was really discouraged just thinking about writing about the museums mainly because I was severely let down by one museum I've always held very close to my heart. From the time I worked there to the present day, it has, in my opinion, strayed from its once shining path in museum progressiveness and excellence. It's been hard to even think of writing about it. I've debated back and forth over whether I should lay it all out, where they're going wrong, to remind them of what they once stood for. I don't know if that would be beneficial or not. I'm sure I only know part of the story about why they are now the way they are and undoubtedly the main reason is funding.

Funding is almost every museum's main concern. What sickens me is that I feel this museum has gone from being an institution that is passionate about teaching history to one that is about making money and pleasing those who hold the purse strings. It is a very hard thing in the museum world, and it might sound overly dramatic, but I am in effect heartbroken. The sad thing is that I know I'm not the only one. I spoke with some employees I used to work with and this change is something they all know and/or feel and fight against every day. There are some very beautiful and proud parts of this museum that have been laid waste for things that have no meaning or tie to the land itself and it's an absolute tragedy. What's worse is that it doesn't make sense.

It concerns me because I wonder if this is just a type and a shadow of the way all museums might be going with the relentless advance of technology. I sincerely hope not. I hope that many museums realize that they are so much more than gimmicks to attract visitors, that they are institutions that preserve our history and culture and teach what they know to the generations. We still have so much to learn from what museums and their collections are able to teach us.

I don't know if I'll ever be able to share everything. My experience at this museum is still something so tender and close to my heart. I recognize this feeling now of painful loss and disappointment.

It's mourning. Mourning for something that's been lost with little hope of recovery.

My supreme hope is that they find their way again. For the sake of themselves and for the people they teach.

Comments

  1. Wow, you put that into words so well! I am sensing the same thing with museums across the country. Even some of the biggest house/museum names out there are pandering to the public as they put more and more energy into programs that have nothing to do with the site, or worse,degredate the value of these great places. The question is, how do we stop it from happening?

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    1. Hi, Abby! Thanks for commenting. That's a very good question. Museums have very stiff competition and it seems they are transitioning to focusing on money-making. I know ALHFAM (American Living History Farms & Agricultural Museums) has addressed this very issue at their conferences. Museums have to figure out how to maintain their integrity while staying afloat. It's sad that they have to jump through so many hoops to secure grants/funding just to keep their doors open. I wish I had an answer. But I think something we can do is when we visit a site or museum is to tell them what they're doing right, what we enjoyed, and what we didn't. I do think they consider visitors' feedback as they move forward. If enough people speak, it can make a difference.

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