Convener: Sarah Punshon
Participants: Ellis Kerkhoven, James Hadley, Joanne Hartley, Nathan Curry, Tiphaine, Mary Swan, Dodger Phillips, Roses Urquhurt, Sarah Corbett, Isabel Carr, Malwina Chabocka, Gary Horsman, and others…
Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:
Quite a lot of specific projects mentioned / described:
Sarah Punshon’s Natural History Museum projects (forthcoming); Ellis Kerkhoven’s possible British Museum musical for children; Tangled Feet’s Croyden Clock Tower project (14-16 March); Sarah Corbett’s experiences working as an Explainer at the NHM and current experiences at Museum of London; Emily Chapstick’s workshops at various museums; Proteus Theatre’s current project at a living history museum; and many more.
Big questions & issues:
Museums often want to cordon off a corner, or put a show in an auditorium – controlled, much more manageable. But why turn a bit of a museum into a theatre? How might we make work in the gallery spaces? How to deal with huge practical issues?
Interaction / overlap between Interpreters/Explainers and actors – what does each do best? NB Money: museums often don’t have much. Linked issue: volunteers often do a lot of interpretation.
International Museum Theatre Alliance – should we all join that and make it better?
Individual passions – engaging people with small stories, specificity. Sharing a passion, live, in person, is incredibly engaging.
The Object is central. Can we turn the objects into celebrities by putting them into a show? Objects have been touched by the living – who, why? When we touch them now, what do we do with them? Investigate!
Museums finding it hard to trust / understand artistic / theatrical approaches. An artistic project unlikely to connect with everyone – museums v worried – want everything to be accessible to everyone.
The power of the curator: expert knowledge is what’s valued – temples of expertise. Is it only valuable if it gets across “facts”? Many (most?) visitors want factual content too.
Ownership. Is a visitor’s interpretation as valid as the expert’s? If a kid in Investigate at the NHM examines a bone and decides it’s from an elephant, and actually it’s from a fish, is that valid? Do we need to ‘correct’ them?
What about fakes? The Museum of Jurassic Technology – a fake museum, curated by a man taking it completely seriously. Or Movieplex by Nutkhut – a fake museum about a man who never existed.
An experience like “The Unbelievable Truth” – a red herring in each gallery room – find the “fact” that’s actually wrong.
Capturing the imagination: unexpected enhancements of emotional reactions. Cabinets of wonders. Power of the imagination: Night at the Museum surely influential in so many London museums now having sleepovers and lates. Ditto Doctor Who – capture imagination and we want to find out facts.
What do visitors come to the museum feeling passionate about already? Example of elderly museum visitors to a 1950s reconstruction, putting a gramophone record on and dancing. How to encourage more of this? How to document this?
Invisible theatre: performers as visitors, commenting loudly on all objects, playing with ignorance – gathering a following.
What about visitors as performers? Moving through spaces – eg Mike Nelson show at Tate, moving through “taxi waiting rooms” – apparently getting lost and ending up “backstage”. Going to secret, backstage places would be really exciting in a museum!
Choices: most museums are too big to see all of – how can visitors choose an exciting route through a museum? Adventures, discovery, track down an object that’s been part of a performance?
Bringing things to a museum – perhaps swapping it for something already there. Geocache-ing.