Museum and Public Responsibilities
Collection management and public consent: the practice, politics and perception of collections disposal and transfer
Michael Terwey, Head of Collections and Exhibitions, National Science and Media Museum, Bradford, UK
Michael talked about the changes in the core collection of his museum in the last decades. Because of cuts in the funding Michael’s museum faced a collection management crisis. The museum collections were about to undergo radical changes. Both collecting and disposing the artefacts in the collections are equally important parts of museum work, Michael pointed out. A museum cannot use all its money to maintain and manage its collections.
The changes in Michael’s museum lifted public discussion about stripping museum assets and sending them to London. The changes were seen as downgrading the museum. Michael underlined the importance of communication and interaction with the public. Being open and honest to the public is the key to a communicative dialogue. Only by openly discussing the economic challenges museums face with collection maintenance, can the public formulate a coherent opinion about museum work and its challenges.
Hidden objects on display
Karen Sivebæk Munk-Nielsen, Head of Holbæk Museum, Museum Vestsjælland, Holbæk, Denmark
“Where do we find the media?” is a key question for many museums. Media coverage is something all museums want, but what if the media coverage goes wrong? What happens when an exhibition that hasn’t even been opened gets a landslide of emotional media coverage? Karen talked about this in her speech.
Karen’s museum had a project to open an exhibition about Denmark’s colonial background. The naming of exhibition objects was part of its engaging program. The visitors were asked to comment on what should be the contemporary name for the so-called negro-dolls. The museum got drawn into a media turmoil about the project. The exhibition had a political discussion weeks before the exhibition was even opened. People and media were all over the subject and wrongly interpreted the situation.
A bloody tradition – whale killing in paintings by Mikines
Solveig Hanusardóttir Olsen, Curator, National Gallery of the Faroe Islands, Torshavn, Faroe Islands
About 800 whales are killed yearly in the Faroe Island. Whaling is considered an important part of local life, but there are also strong opinions against whale killing. Even Pamela Anderson has been actively campaigning against it.
Solveig talked about Sámal Joensen-Mikines’s painting depicting whale killing. Her museum is facing a difficult question on how to protect the painting against vandalism. The reactions aroused by an art piece can even be quite extreme. Therefore, the museum is forced to take the painting down for the tourist season so that no vandalism would occur. What to do with the artwork on whaling, when killing the whales is condemned?
Moderator: Beate Reifenscheid, Chair ICOM Germany