Is there a downside to making more museums and cultural institutions more interactive? What is your view of the limitations of maker culture? Is there a risked loss of identity and value for libraries or other institutions?
The disadvantage of making museums and cultural institutions more interactive is if, in the process, the institution neglects to fill the needs of their whole community. In Nina Simon’s “The Participatory Museum”, she touches on this with stages of social participation. In her model, a museum does not need to alienate any of their patrons in this process “…participation is just one design technique among many, one with a particular ability to enhance the social experience of the institution. Implementing participatory techniques requires some changes to institutional perspectives on authority and audience roles, but these changes may be as small or large as a particular organization’s commitment. (Simon, ch 1) A cultural institution should have something to offer everyone. Museums must take on the commitment of ensuring that all levels of participation are given consideration. Visitors should be able to choose their own level of participation.
Makerspaces are an enticing way to draw in visitors who might not have otherwise stepped into the museum’s doors. Upon entering their doors, it is up to the institution to commit to keeping these potential lifelong patrons. When I take my kids to a museum, we go straight to the makerspaces and participatory exhibits, because they love it. If I am without my kids, I generally don’t want to have a participatory experience. I have always loved the comfort a quiet museum can bring. If I see something participatory, I tend to walk the other way.
We don’t want to lose what is appealing to the institution’s individuality. Different cultural institutions offer different experiences. In Judith H. Dobrzynski’s High Culture goes hands on “… in the process of adapting, our cultural treasuries are multitasking too much, becoming more alike, and shedding the very characteristics that made them so special…” This is a limitation of the maker culture. Not every space is a maker space, or a participatory experience.
When my kids go to a non-participatory museum environment, they might not have as much interactive fun. The science centers we attend mainly focus on young kids. As they grow out of them, I hope they will gain an appreciation for all museums. A museum should make a commitment to all museum patrons. The downside of making museums and cultural institutions more interactive is if, in the process, the institution neglects to fit the needs of their whole community. I want to choose my own level of participation.
Dobrzynski, J.H. (2013, August 10). High culture goes hands on. The New York Times: Sunday Review. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/11/opinion/sunday/high-culture-goes-hands-on.html
Simon, N. (2010). The Participatory Museum. Santa Cruz, CA: Museum 2.0.