Thoughts on: Museum Frictions Introduction

I wanted to share some of my reading on museum theory; maybe I can add something to the analysis or get some suggestions for my writings.

Museum Frictions: Public Cultures/Global Transformations

Summary and some questions posed towards pages 1-13 article.


“We accept that recent decades have seen increasing speed, growing intensity, and multiplication of directions of extranational flows, processes, and relationships that are called ‘global.’ But we also want to acknowledge that greater integration of the globe, either in cultural or economic terms, is not the necessary endpoint of globalization, which can produce uncoupling and isolation — the loss of opportunity — as much as it can produce new relationships and opportunities.” (pg 5)
Globalizations is not an inherent good. Globalization is driven by Western colonization and faces very little as means of analysis from the mainstream public.
  • What/where/when is global?
  • Who/what/where is excluded?
  • Who benefits from their exclusion?

Blockbuster Exhibition

The blockbuster exhibition is an exhibition designed to please the public, usually with broad ideas and already popular objects. A focus on universalist or humanist connections means that the public can relate to the objects and their famous owners without deep learning or internal searching. The blockbuster exhibition usual enjoys a international tour.
“But international blockbuster tours rarely, if ever, reach so-called less developed countries, which from the organizers’ viewpoint lack both the funds that such exhibitions require and a sufficiently elaborate infrastructure to support them.” (pg 12)
  • Who are the organizers? What is the ‘elaborate infrastructure?’
  • How do the organizers and museums benefit from keeping these tours from reaching less developed countries?
  • Who built the infrastructure? When? How?
  • Are less developed countries actually incapable of funding these exhibitions?
  • Do developed countries have a responsibility to have the exhibitions tour all of the world?
  • What are these funds? How much are these funds? Who supplies the funds?
  • Why don’t organizers think funds would be supplied to less developed countries?

Reinstallation of permanent collection

The reinstallation of the permanent collection parallel the blockbuster. Museums seek to gain and audience by drawing attention to their rarely seen items; biennial exhibitions also return focus to certain aspects of a museum’s collection.

Exhibitions as legitimacy

Both of the “blockbuster” and “reinstallation” exhibitions are signs of the resurgence of museums as arbiters of legitimacy.
Communities seeking to establish their cultural identity turn to museums for both a venue to share their arguments and a venue that lends them safety and legitimacy. Plural societies have few venues for citizens to gather information about cultural identity without the obvious stamping of bias. As museums’ bias is often overlooked and their stand as unbiased collections of objects and knowledge, the public turns to museums to gain information and approach the public sphere for these issues.

Public controversy

“The growing integration of new media into museum and heritage practice has resulted in a certain democratization of access, with collections and exhibitions available in virtual form in homes, school and elsewhere, and it has provided the basis for cooperative ventures among institutions. Yet it simultaneously creates new barriers defined by digital divides both within and among countries.” (pg 13)

The two main ideas:

  1. The internet and new media increases audience which automatically increased public controversy
  2. The internet and new media created barriers between those who could access the tech and who couldn’t which created controversy.
But a few questions:
  • “Yet it simultaneously”- What is ‘it’? Who responsible for ‘it’? Is ‘it’ simultaneous?
  • Is there more controversy or is the controversy more public?
  • Is the audience reached by the internet and new media different than that of old technology?
    • If not, what is it about the method of the technology that creates controversy?
    • If so, who is being excluded? Why?
  • Does the audience reached by new media have different goals or expectations of museums than those who had access before?
  • Is the cooperation beneficial? To whom? Is the cooperation open or a cabal?
To help you consider the effects of technology on traditional heritage, try this article:

A good reading on whether technology inherently changes what’s being transmitted, especially with digital technology.

How can this be applied to museum spaces and publications?

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