Behind the Scenes at the 21st Century Museum (MOOC) week 3

This week’s topic:  the audiences’ emotional response to exhibits

Example, Rankin -Alive: In the Face of Death.

  • The exhibition, Alive: In the Face of Death, featured more than 70 images, and photographer Rankin set out to explore and challenge our perceptions of death through photography of terminally ill people, survivors and those working in the death industry.
  • Audience engagement was encouraged by the audience being invited to respond to the exhibition by writing sticky notes

Example 2:  emotional museums
This exercise asked us to focus on what we felt rather than what we thought and used two examples of Museums challenging conventional wisdoms (Istanbul Museum giving a biased history and Liverpool giving a particular version of the history of slavery.

The point was made that audiences have an emotional response that acts prior to and almost overrides any intellectual response and so makes an important connection to the exhibit that should not be ignored. 

The focus on the rest of the discussion is how to make emotional connection to be at the heart of the visitor experience and their role in society – to help people think about ways of seeing and understanding

Objects give is an unmediated connection with the past but there are ethical considerations in how to show things.

It is the firm belief of both the School of Museum Studies and National Museums Liverpool that museums have a role to play in telling difficult stories and highlighting both historic and contemporary issues.


Today’s session  was all about emotional engagement and raised the following issues for me:

There is no one objective viewpoint or history – we all experience and understand through psychological and cultural prisms and so we should embrace that fact and make it explicit in our exhibits. 

There are often unintended consequences of exhibiting that can result from a diversity of audience – this sort of diversity can be seen in the comments made by people reading this short MOOC

The subject of emotional responses made me think of Barthes Punctum and Stadium

All this made me think about audience engagement with my exhibition …. (not ideas yet…)


About Pete

South Londoner struggling with life, art and photography.
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1 Response to Behind the Scenes at the 21st Century Museum (MOOC) week 3

  1. Pingback: Supporting materials for the exhibition | anomiepete

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