Behind the Scenes at the Science Museum (Materializing by Sharon Macdonald

By Sharon Macdonald

What is going on in the back of closed doorways at museums? How are judgements approximately exhibitions made and who, or what, particularly makes them? Why are yes items and kinds of show selected when others are rejected, and what elements impact how museum exhibitions are produced and skilled? This publication solutions those looking questions by means of giving a privileged glance ‘behind the scenes’ on the technology Museum in London. via monitoring the background of a specific exhibition, Macdonald takes the reader into the realm of the museum curator and exhibits in vibrant aspect how exhibitions are created and the way public tradition is produced. She finds why exhibitions don't constantly replicate their makers’ unique intentions and why viewers take domestic specific interpretations. past this ‘local’ context, although, the ebook additionally presents extensive and far-reaching insights into how nationwide and worldwide political shifts impression the production of public wisdom via exhibitions.

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Moreover, as we shall see further below, museums may also have to labour against their own physicality:23 the objects and architecture of museums do not always lend themselves unproblematically to the visions of either science or of the visitors that museum staff wish to materialise. This was perhaps less the case in the nineteenth and earlytwentieth century when new museums, embodying the latest ideas, were constructed, and especially when science and liberal ideals could both be expressed in evolutionary narratives.

This is a chapter about the search for ‘vision’ and the struggle with revision. The processes and debates involved highlight 18 Behind the Scenes at the Science Museum the ways in which possibilities were culturally framed within the Museum: what was sacrosanct, what was repugnant, what felt compelling, what seemed dangerous, what looked irreconcilable. The chapter also shows something of the workings of the Museum: who and what mattered, who and what could make a difference, who and what could make it happen – or not.

With six different members of staff often going off in different directions I had to make decisions, often on the spur of the moment, about whom to accompany. Sometimes this was limited by the fact that they had not asked for prior permission from those they were visiting for me to join them and felt it might be awkward (as to a food company concerned about industrial espionage). Mostly, though, I simply opted for whatever sounded the most interesting. Despite the fact that it was impossible directly to observe everything involved in exhibition-construction, Team members would report on their excursions at regular Team meetings (as well as sometimes discussing them informally in the office) which acted in some ways as an ‘obligatory passage point’,19 in this case, in the movement of results of excursions into the exhibition itself.

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