THE FUTURE OF TEMPORARY EXHIBITIONS

Once a new display opens it starts going out of date. It has been demonstrated that lavish new permanent displays in expensively refurbished buildings do not by themselves engage enough long-term repeat local visitors. It takes multi-millions to refresh a gallery and if you have to do the same thing every 10 years then this model will be unsustainable. We may need to consider semi-permanent or no permanent galleries that can be refreshed in smaller chunks within normal budgets. Permanent displays populated with glass boxes accompanied by passive labels telling museum people´s stories might be an obsolete medium.

The best museums offer a time and a place for many things and many people. They should focus on flexible software programmes, events and ways of working and less on the hardware  permanent displays. Museum content needs to be in a constant state of change and renewal.

Museums could rethink the ways they allocate their space, with less occupied with fixed display and more available for a wider range of activities: for workshops, for short-term pop-up displays, for performances, for discussions, for people and groups to come together.

Exhibitions that explore potentiallysensitive topics and which manage to avoid major media controversies or whichattract few or no complaints are frequently viewed internally assuccessful. However, institutions seeking to engender support for moreprogressive social norms might need to reconsider their approach to controversy. Taking up a position which seeks toreconfigure, or call into question, normative ideas about justice and fairness will inevitably generate conflict and provoke some groups to express their counter opinions. Controversy, although frequently painful, potentially damaging and difficult for institutions to manage, might need to be viewed as a necessary, valuable part of the human rights work that museums can accomplish.

“Museums 2020”, Museums Association, 2012



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