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Museum Exhibits Under Threat, As the Way We See Museums Changes

May 07, 2019 2:21 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

Reposted from Stuff

Changing expectations about what we want to see at museums is making it harder for curators to protect exhibits.

Those involved in the sector say museums are expected to provide a "personal experience" and visitors are no longer content to stand and look at exhibits. Interactive displays are becoming the norm, as museums look to engage with visitors.

On Saturday a woman who climbed on top of a rare $700,000 motorcycle exhibit at Te Papa highlighted the challenge facing curators.

That led to another person coming forward after visiting the Ko Rongowhakaata: The Story of Light and Shadow exhibition at Te Papa.

He described a child running amok with no parental supervision and aggressively pulling on a traditional flax piupui (skirt) on display.

  Te Papa spokeswoman Kate Camp said the museum covers three rugby fields and it is not possible to have staff observing everything that goes on.

"With thousands of visitors a day there are always times when people will be in a space without staff right next to them. Most people are really sensible and respectful."

Te Papa is a hands-on, interactive, and kid-friendly museum and the "vast majority" of visitors follow the rules and do not cause problems, she said.

Allowing visitors to touch exhibits is a feature of Te Papa and she would not like to see that change. An exhibition opening shortly, even allows people to touch a genuine moa fossil.

"That's an experience you're not going to get anywhere else in the world."

Museums Aotearoa executive director Phillipa Tocker said getting the balance right between making exhibitions interesting and protecting displays was not easy.

Visitors are now looking for a "personal experience" rather than just looking at static exhibits.

Curators have to not only think about how people can enjoy an exhibit but also how the exhibit can be kept safe.

A recent visit to the Waiouru Army Museum highlighted the challenge for museums, she said.

"There was a sign saying 'our motorcycles don't jump on your children so please don't let your children jump on us'."

In America, museums have uniformed security staff, that was not something she would not like to see here.

New Zealand Rugby Museum curator Stephen Berg said the museum experience is changing.

The museum has a scrum machine, which visitors are encouraged to test their strength against. The bolts holding it to the floor have been damaged twice with some visitors setting out to see how strong the machine is.

People taking selfies and children not being supervised by parents are security issues that have to be dealt with.

"Kids in the interactive area can become a bit boisterous, we do not throw them out, we just say 'you have had enough'."

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