Oct 1, 2009

Media and Museums

Just wanted to share an interesting column by Jeff Yang about identity and interactive engagement issues at the newly opened Museum of Chinese in America in New York. He touches upon a lot of the things we've been talking about in class and in our blogs, and ties the debate about how museums engage participants to similar debates in media.

The Living Museum

If you don't have the time to read the whole article, here are some quotes that I found especially pertinent:

- "Nevertheless, there are those who find that resonance elusive. In an otherwise positive review, New York Times museum critic Edward Rothstein outlined his concerns that MoCA, like other community-based institutions, offered up a "celebration of hyphenated existence" that alienates outsiders by using the first-person plural, rather than the good old-fashioned third-person -- a literal "us" versus "them" argument."

- "Though masked in a concern about scholarship, Rothstein's argument is really part of a larger attack against what the establishment sees as a frightening rise of pluralism, a new democracy that challenges their sole-gatekeeper role in the depiction of past and present.

To have many voices in a discussion means that the dominant one is in danger of being drowned out; the obsession with the "objective" narrative voice in fields like museumology and journalism is less about quality and accuracy than it is about power."

- "Chew notes that this emphasis on collaboration -- every Wing Luke exhibition is created in open partnership with community advisory boards, who bring both resources and opinions to the table -- runs parallel to the transformative revolution taking place in journalism as well.

"You could call it the 'wikifying' of curation," he says. "It doesn't mean that we shouldn't be demanding and rigorous; we have to dig deep to get insights, we have to strive for accuracy. But museums as institutions are moving toward embracing the 'we' -- it's inevitable, in museum work as it is in media."

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