Collective thinking

After two months of discussions and meetings with the professionals, time has come to take the stage and share our thought provoking ideas in a form of presentations. These type of assignments can be helpful for students not only in terms of visual and oral structure of arguments, but also in terms of an opportunity to receive a feedback that can clear a way out of a mess that is quite common when it comes to explaining your points of view.    

For example, in case of Annalise’s presentation on The influence of Space we noted an interesting approach she used to link spacial influence on pedagogical and curatorial intent. By combing two theoretical frameworks on “museum as medium” and “space syntax” she intends to figure out how original architecture may be incorporated or entirely disregarded to create meaning in an exhibition. However, another aspect she’s interested in exploring, which is the influence of space syntax on visitors experiences, requires surveys and a closer research on a slightly different subject. That is why our collective suggestion was to leave this aspect out of investigation and focus only on the relations between the space and display. Indeed, even though Bill Hiller and Kati Tzortzi’s text suggests that space syntax in the museums might influence visitors’ movements and interactions with the objects, it is quite a challenge to apply this theory specifically on the exhibitions we visited without any visitors’ behaviour research.

Space and its involvement in creating a new meaning in an exhibition intrigued some other students as well. For example, Vera decided to analyze Contemporary Art in Sacred Space. Her research questions are: “ When exhibiting in church spaces, how does it change the meaning of the objects and the space? What can be the best practice for an institution to reflect on such questions?”. In order to answer these questions Vera wants to compare Merlyn Monroe’s exhibition in Nieuwe Kerk and Marinus Boezem’s exhibition in Oude Kerk. Michel Foucault’s theory on heterotopia ( that is capable of juxtaposing in a single real space several spaces, several sites that are in themselves incompatible), chosen as a theoretical framework, might shed the light on some aspects we didn’t have enough time to cover during the course. However, what is important to remember in this case, is that there are different types of exhibitions and different types of curatorial approaches. Obviously, contemporary art exhibitions (or in case of Boezem’s exhibition, contemporary installations) are different from historical exhibitions ( as it is in case of Monroe’s exhibition that presented her lifetime through the objects). That’s why our collective suggestion was to keep this distinction in mind and focus more on a descriptive analysis rather than on a comparative one.

One of the main challenges students need to deal with is a profound yet concise research question. Unfortunately, almost all of us encountered this problem as our questions were to broad to work with. For example, Jacob gave an outstanding presentation on The Use of Interactive Media as a Tool for Education Younger Audience. His choice of National Football Museum as a case study allows him to dive deep into the subject as the museum uses lots of interactive media pursuing educational goals. However, his research question which is: “ Consider the point at which interactivity diminishes the narrative or educational capabilities of the museum?” is a little bit vague and broad. Of course, applying theories we’ve learned on a case study is one goal of this course, yet another one is to be critical/ analytical when it comes to such kind of analyses. Therefore, we suggested Jacob to find a specific angle/perspective he can use to analyze interactivity as a tool for education.

Yorgo, whose presentation was on Engagement in Learning, also had problems with a research question. As a case study he chose Museum of Greek Children’s Art where he worked himself and had an actual experience of assisting in organazing workshops. As Yorgo thinks that engagement is different from interactivity in a way that it is embedded in social function of the museum, he wants to focus his research on the benefits of engagement for museum education. Yet, again this question is too broad to work with. Our collective suggestion was to rethink his argument on the opposition between engagement and interactivity and apply critical analysis of this phenomena.

It might seem that interactivity took the spotlight as all of the following presentations reflected on its aspects in one way or another. For example, Iris also wants to focus her research on interactivity as an educational tool. Her case study took her research into a slightly different direction though, as “Archeologiehuis” is a museum within a  park “Archeon”. Therefore, our collective suggestion was to investigate the organizational moment between the museum and the park, since the museum takes the role of educating through interactivity more than the park.

Lastly, Liesbeth, Nina, and Rachel gave a joint presentation on different aspects of Interactivity such as education, senses, and audience engagement. Liesbeth is interested in investigating the dichotomy between interactivity as education and interactivity as entertainment. Nina, however, decided to take a different approach to interactivity by analyzing Audience Engagement with a Multisensory Approach. Finally, Rachel focused her research on interactive tools that museums use in the online space. It was a great move to give a joint presentation as we had an opportunity to look to different approaches one can use to analyze interactivity museums use in their practice.    

By Svetlana

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