The Millennial’s Museum — Part Deux (some thoughts)
A while back, I posted a single line thought about the “Millennial’s Museum”. I was hoping that Medium would spread it’s algorithmic goodness and I would see some dialogue around this. I forgot it wasn’t twitter!
The millennial’s museum
For the sake of the article this term remains reasonably positive. I would prefer if the image in your mind is not a cool hipster, but any young person with access to technology and social media. A young person who is unapologetic about sharing personal stories. A young person who accesses and produces culture through internet memes, social media posts and subreddits.
Almost a year ago, I came across the organization Museum Hack, their motto “Museums are f***ing awesome”. They have with great aplomb and success re-imagined the museum tour. Simple fun activities like posing with the artworks on view to more in-depth yet juicy details of artists’ lives are some of the ways in which they engage young audiences that have otherwise no interest in museums. There is no “shushing” in the Museum Hack tour.
This is a rather endearing format of engaging with the museum. And it can’t be more relevant than in the last couple of weeks with the craze for the game Pokémon Go. A number of museums have updated their social media profiles with alerts for Poké stops. Some have even reported increased footfall because of the game.
It is also now common to find many museums on Snapchat!
A while ago, these activities would have shocked any museum, but this playful irreverence manufactured for a new audience has now become the norm.
As a museum professional, I’m always confronted with the thought “Why do I work in a Museum?”. After a few years in the industry the initial charm has worn off and there are a sea of possibilities and questions that keep swimming through my mind. I have already observed that the artefact itself holds no interest to me (as a millennial). With any smart device I have the world at my fingertips. Why should I visit a museum?
The millennial searches for the meaningful. Whether work or play, a millennial deigns to participate in activities that cannot create something special. Museums of the west are desperately reaching out to this audience through open and free image resources, opening up APIs of museum collections and making exhibits more relevant to these audiences. While their success or failure are debatable, I find the modes of presentation are still innately rooted in older museum values. Creating value and meaning has been misrepresented as accepting latest technology and trends.
At the very core of the museum besides the artefacts/exhibits themselves are the museum professionals. Many of them are young millennials. The museum professional is no more the caretaker/gatekeeper/master of ceremonies to knowledge but is now herself a vessel for learning. She is interested in creating and finding meaning in her professional interaction at the museum. From comics to braiding to knitting and of course cooking, the millennial is keen to get down and dirty. It is a common lament of our generation that we are not doing something “hands-on” or “creative”. The millennial is as much a creator in the museum as the creator of the artefacts on display.
The millennials are a generation without mentors, which means the guiding light of the museum and its pillars don’t hold good to the young museum professional and the visitor. The millennial may not look up to the same people or subjects as the museum.
I guess now I will wait for Medium’s algorithmic goodness!