The Collection

Book of Maps

Map addicts not-so-anonymous

The Collection

Toga

Naval Battle Art Project with mandatory togas

The Collection

Easy as 1, 2, 3, 4…

Children’s Museum and Libraries Series: Part 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 (not out yet).

The Digital Museum

Somebody’s got a case of the Mondays

twitter-bird-5

Twitter. You might be addicted or simply a casual user. Even those who don’t use it have at least heard of the microblogging platform that has taken the social networking world by storm over the last year.

The idea that Twitter is merely a collection of banal naval-gazing observations in 140 characters or less – “I am sitting on the back porch” – is not unfounded. Plenty of people tweet about the most mundane aspects of their lives. Thankfully, there are those Twitter-folk who realize the true advantage of the medium.

Twitter, along with other social media platforms, is about providing value-added content. When you give people a reason to follow you – whether that is by being funny, linking to interesting articles, engaging in worthwhile conversations, etc. – you soon discover that Twitter is much more than a status update.

This isn’t a post about Twitter and its importance/impact/uselessness (fill-in whatever word you see fit). Rather this is about those museums and their fans that have combined Twitter and value-added content to make Mondays a little more enjoyable. What am I talking about? Why, Museum Fact Mondays (or in Twitter-speak #museumfactmonday) of course.

When you type #museumfactmonday into the search box on Twitter, you will be taken to a page full of fun facts about museums from around the world. Here are just a few examples:

  • MissionSJC #museumfactmonday: During filming here, a young Mary Pickford secretly wed fellow actor Owen Moore in the Mission’s Serra Chapel.
  • MuseumChildhood #museumfactmonday The plot of land the Museum was built on was bought by local gentry (in 1690) so that peasants could graze their cattle!
  • TheWomensMuseum The Women’s Museum building was built in 1910 and was used for livestock auctions, opera performances and the ballet. #museumfactmonday
  • NortonSimon Did you know ‘Madonna and Child with Book’ is the only painting by Raphael on the west coast? http://bit.ly/y5lNK #museumfactmonday
  • anahuacalli Diego Rivera exchanged ideas with the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, in order to design the Anahuacalli Museum. #museumfactmonday
  • museofridakahlo The easel we keep in Frida’s studio was a gift from Nelson Rockefeller. #museumfactmonday
  • Belautel Enjoying #museumfactmonday. Have learned there are over 7 miles at the V&A. Who knew you cld combine fitness & culture!

These facts are certainly not life-altering discoveries, but they are interesting glimpses into museums, which have not always been known as the most approachable of institutions. These tweets give museums an opportunity to share their history, to bare a little bit of their souls to a public that is showing more interest than ever before in being a part of museums.

So, come Monday, pay a visit to Twitter and type #museumfactmonday into the search box or contribute a museum fact of your own. (Note: you do not need an account on Twitter to see these tweets.) The fewer tweets about the mundane and meaningless that we have to read the better. If you are going to be on social media at work, why not learn something, right?

Exhibitions

If You Build It, They Will Climb

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Oh, public art: the beautiful, the strange, the poignant, the misunderstood. Whatever way you view it, great public art tends to leave a rather memorable impression. However, the impression is not always the one the artist/architect intended. The latest example of unintended use comes in the form of Ben van Berkel’s Centennial Pavilion, which was installed in Chicago’s Millennium Park to celebrate the centennial of the Burnham Plan.

As seen in the photo above, the once glossy white structure is now scarred by the marks of visitors of all ages. Not even the signs asking park-goers to refrain from climbing on the structure have deterred people’s urge to scale the Pavilion.

Are visitors to blame for the destruction? Several say no, including Harriet F. Senie of City College in New York. In Blair Kamin’s recent article about the closing of the Pavilion for repairs, Senie is quoted as saying: “Why is this a surprise to anybody? The first thing people do with public art is they climb on it.” Her argument makes quite a bit of sense. Having seen the Centennial Pavilion, it practically begs people to climb up, skate on, and touch its smooth sloping surfaces. It was shortsighted, at the least, not to have foreseen the inevitable damage that would ensue.

Discussing whether or not the architects should have foreseen the damage begs the question: Is destruction of public art by the public’s use of it something we should be trying to prevent? Or, is it something we should be embracing as integral to the public art experience?

What is it about public art that causes people to give in to their compulsion to interact with the works without any guilt? Is it the venue in which public art is housed? People are apparently able to control these urges within the confines of the museum. What is different between the venues? An easy answer is more security, which is exactly what Burnham Centennial organizers are suggesting; placing more guards around the pavilion when it reopens to discourage climbing. But to me, the increased security seems to go directly against the idea of public art.

Museums, it is argued, hold items of cultural, historical, and artistic importance in the public trust. The items technically belong to the public, but there are restrictions about how and when the public may interact with them. These restrictions include visiting hours, standards of conduct, limitations of space, and more. These restrictions exist so that these important items may be preserved so that generations to come may enjoy them as well. The ends and means are in harmony.

This is not the case with public art. Preserving an item for future generations is not a goal of public art. Public art is temporary by its very nature. There is no institution charged with maintaining public art in perpetuity. The public understands the difference, which is clear in their behavior. However, it is apparent that not all public artists understand this, which is evident in Van Berkel’s Centennial Pavilion.

I would love to see the Pavilion left as it is, exposed plywood and all. I would rather have public art that shows the wear and tear of human interaction than a large white climbing structure in a public space with no climbing allowed.

What are your thoughts?

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