Museums are a huge part of the realm of public history and they are a great teaching tool for education about the past. A lot of behind the scenes work goes into a display or exhibit at a museum. One has to think about every little thing, from who will be viewing it, what the display is trying to teach, how they will be teaching that, what order the different displays should be in, and and whether it should be interactive or not as well as much more. This week we looked at a bunch of different museums, especially Ellis Island. We also looked at how interactions are evolving and starting to use new technologies such as podcasts and cellphone tours, as well as how museums are utilizing the technology age with social medias such as Facebook, and Twitter, to get the word out to the public about upcoming exhibits.
Museums were created to teach people about how life was like in the past. As we read last week with Colonial Williamsburg and Greenfield Village it wasn’t always a perfect representation. Today, museums try to be a bit more accurate. Curators, historians, artists, researchers, designers, whole teams of people are responsible for making sure that exhibits are accurate, interactive, educational, and interesting. We can see how this plays out when looking into Ellis Island. In Mickey Mouse History we learned that the aim of The American Museum of Immigration was to provide a lasting memory of the process and experience of immigration and how its history was largely overshadowed by the history of the Statue of Liberty itself and how funding was hard to come by to make the whole island a better, more attractive, educational place. Eventually though, the museum would be up and running and the section A Walk Through Ellis describes the typical experience of a patron beautifully. Much of the experience, especially the beginning, is meant to make a person feel like they are an immigrant stepping on the shores of America for the first time.
More and more museums nowadays are merging the past with the present by using technology to help aid in the interactions and the tour processes. Mr. Larry Cebula talks about his experience while at the Seattle Art Museum a few years ago here. He was able to use his cell phone and call certain numbers to hear information about a particular item in the exhibit. I tried calling a few of the numbers listed and unfortunately I couldn’t seem to get them to work, I may have been doing it wrong so feel free to give it a try yourself! Other museums are using similar techniques but with podcasts instead of phone calls, check out an article about that here. This is more of just an upgrade to the audio tours of earlier years, but still we are seeing museums evolve to fit in with the ever-changing technology of the present, trying to remain as relevant as possible.
Other forms of technology, such as social media, and the internet in general, are helping museums, especially small, local, or usually unheard of museums. With Facebook, and Twitter, and the opportunity to create customized websites describing the museum and their attractions these places can now be visited more easily, and if not in person, virtually! Simply Google “museums on Twitter” or “museums on Facebook” and some good results should turn up to browse through. Other museums even have blogs such as the Burke Museum. On the blog they are able to share some of their interesting exhibits, like their current one on a T. Rex jaw with teeth still intact! It is exciting in this day and age that if we are unable to make a long distance trip to see a museum or historic site that we can look it up online. Sure, nothing is as great as seeing it in person, but a virtual tour is probably a close second.