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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Why Museums Matter

Sorry the posts have fallen behind. Vacation last week, this week I’m at the American Association of Museums Conference with 6000 other museum professionals (some of which mistakenly think they are not maritime!)

The conference theme is “Why Museums Matter”. It’s a somewhat self serving question for those of us who work in them – aside from our innate interest – its how we earn our livings.

As to why museums matter to the rest of the world, so far, aside from Salman Rushdie (more later) I haven’t heard one outside voice on the subject and honestly I’m not sure most people think we do matter. But just because they never visit, and don’t know the impact of museums on their lived doesn’t mean it doesn’t impact and matter to them.

As Salman Rushdie said in the keynote address, museums are a culture’s collective memory. No museum = cultural amnesia. As we all know from personal experience memory is a tricky thing, subject to re-interpretation and distortion. Only be seeing again the actual artifacts of an experience can we be sure the memory is correct. There is no arguing with a photograph of denying the words in a diary entry. And that, to me, is the big reason museums matter.

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