I am in the middle of a tempest of events…real estate transactions, endings and beginnings in the job sector, comprehensive exams for my doctoral program (and a 21 month old to boot!), so making it to MuseumNext in Barcelona was not fathomable this year.  However, thanks to the magic of social media and instant publication, not to mention the scholarly movement in the Museum field toward open access and open content, a compendium of information exists through Twitter, blogs, Vimeo and other primary sources to the research and trends emerging in the field.  And as my comprehensive examination will utilize emerging trends and technologies in education (my personal focus in the museum sphere), catching up on MuseumNext has been paydirt.  Some of the research:

*Alex Hinojo’s research on the use of QR codes and Wikipedia centered around a museum exhibit on the works of artist Joan Miro.   The Joan Miro Foundation in Barcelona, in conjunction with the Tate Modern in London, created Joan Miro:  The Ladder of Escape, an exhibit to focus on Miro’s art and life in the context of his Spanish citizenship.  Unique to this exhibit in the Miro museum was the use of QR codes, which were placed near 17 artifacts throughout the exhibition, and when engaged would take the subject to Wikipedia articles about the artifacts.  This research mirrors similar use of QR coders in education, though earlier uses (such as LACMA’s use of QR in its museums) are Intranet in nature rather than Internet to a peer-edited community such as this.

*Museomix, an initiative to get bright and motivated museum folk together for three days in a think-tank to ponder the future of museums not as the cathedral, but as the bazaar.

*Timebook, which seems to be an effort to create a social media site for deceased artists and artisans.  I cannot get any search terms to work, however; as a caveat, I am using Opera.

Much more will become available once the majority of proceedings from MuseumNext stream online.  But after parsing through tweets and updates and the like, the movement is away from the institution and toward the user.  This is not a business or marketing model; my professor Jack McManus put museums on life support in a recent class, mainly because potential patrons have a myriad of choices for their time and are able to access the content on their terms if they wish by staying at home rather than paying a high price to see the real thing, a thing they might not really care about or would be pretty disappointed by.  Individualization of the museum is a must for the institution to continue and thrive.

And the same could be said for education.  And that’s why there is a fear about the death of both institutions within America, because while we say education has become more about the individual, it is a rote mechanism that drives it rather than an authentic, constructivist interaction.  Providing the requisite response is not interaction; it is the intellectual equivalent of muscle memory.  The same goes for interactive exhibits at museums; pull the lever and see the same thing happen.

In order to make the museum a thriving place, it must not only be a cathedral and a bazaar, but it must be a forum as well.  Patrons must be contributors, and not in a patronizing fashion but in an authentic fashion, either for their enrichment or for the betterment of the community.  How we do that is the next big question.


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