Tuesday, February 12, 2008

My museum rant

I extracted this from an email I wrote to a friend. Since I mention "my museum rant" a couple of times in other blog posts (here, and here) I thought I should reproduce this here. It is not entirely my current opinion, but it certainly was at the time of writing, February 12, 2008.

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... Last week I went to the ROM and am in awe of how badly it is curated. Unbelievable. One of the best museums in the country and they have completely ruined it.

I used to practically live at the ROM when I was a kid, they had so much stuff to see. Curating in those days meant simply putting it all out under glass and letting you wander around staring at it. Now curating means it has to look pretty, kind of like what you say in your ad. So they get rid of the clutter (aka "the stuff") and display a few items very tastefully with little labels thanking the donors. No explanation, no context, but oh so aesthetic.

Went to see their latest Shapeshifters, Time Travellers and Storytellers exhibit:

"Incorporating evocative objects from the Museum's collections, this thought-provoking exhibition presents eight contemporary Aboriginal artists whose works explore the ways in which past and present continue to merge and shape one another."

This consisted of 3 framed pictures of mysterious relevance, a carved tusk, a set of headphones, a large nondescript rock, and a latter day version of "Nanook of the North" playing in a corner, all housed in a huge otherwise empty gallery. Grrrr!

We visited a couple of other galleries as well but they were not much better. We ate a not too bad Curried Carrot Soup in, not the cafeteria, not the Food Court, but the "Food Studio" (basement cafeteria).

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