Without people, museums become warehouses: Gary Edson
By Nicole Cho, Special to The China Post
August 25, 2011, 4:11 pm TWN
Houses tell a story about their owners while museums tell us about the community. Museums are the center of our cultural and natural heritage, and are the future of our social existence. Every museum contains stories about the people who created them. “Without people, museums become warehouses,” explained Gary Edson of the Museum of Texas Tech University who recently visited Taipei.
Edson is also a professor emeritus at the university's Center for Advanced Study of Museum Science and Heritage Management. He told The China Post that contemporary museums should try to improve the quality of life for the community by being more engaged in activities for the public. Traditional museums, according to Edson, on the contrary, label and exhibit objects without telling the story behind them. With technological advances and easier access to information, the public is challenging contemporary museums by demanding more.
Edson expressed concern about commercialized museums, which focus on profit and popularity. “Value is measured in dollars and cents, and the size of the audience,” he said, adding that every museum should be non-profit ideologically, but admitted that this is not realistic.
In other words, museums should be most concerned about offering value and making visitors happy. Smaller museums should creatively approach their financial problems. Regarding the interaction between the public and museum professionals, museums should be inclusive and respond to the community.
In a speech, titled “The Theory of Value and the Contemporary Museum,” delivered at the National Palace Museum on Tuesday, Aug. 16, he explained the value system that drives the contemporary museum and its influence upon institutional activities, and reviewed the question of “value” from the perspective of the museum visitor as well as the museum professional. -- Kenton X. Chance contributed to this story