New marketing blog

'Please touch,' T.T. Tsui Gallery, V&A. Photo taken by me!

Dimitry has written to The Attic to let us know about the new museum marketing blog he's just started. His post 'Smoking not allowed!!!' about prohibitions in museums particularly caught my eye (not least because he appears to share my thoughts on in-gallery photography!). If the general public associates museums with banned behaviour, what hope have we got?!

His post reminds me of an observation I once did in the Tsui Gallery at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Several pieces are set up in the gallery as handling objects. Despite large signs saying 'please touch,' many were reluctant to do so, perhaps allowing themselves a hastily withdrawn 'poke.' Most people are remarkably attuned to norms of behaviour and feel unable to transgress them, even when invited to do so!


J said…
And yet the activity rooms in the British Galleries at the V&A are very popular - I think it has to do with a division of space. People there are not confused by props in a room of artifacts.

The Boston Museum of Fine Arts has the "Please Be Seated" program, where the benches in the galleries are made by contemporary craftspeople, in the most extraordinary shapes. It's a way of using and experiencing the art hands-on. But they are benches, and do not confuse people walking through the art galleries. If they were placed in a show about bench design, however...!

There are some people who will touch no matter the prohibitions. I was a gallery guard for a short stint, and I had to stand in a corner and give the evil eye to people at a contemporary quilting show; While some were respectful, others ignored the signs, my glares, and even my polite-but-firm requests to not touch, and reached out anyway. My favorite excuse? "But I'm only touching it with one finger!" Others won't feel comfortable touching, even if you shove the thing into their hands and say "here, hold this." It has to do with the level of their desire for participation. Sometimes, I know I don't want to lay along, or that's not the way I want to engage with the information in a show - much like students, some of whom wouldn't talk in class if you paid them, while others won't be quiet for a moment..
Amy said…
Oh, as a quilt show veteran I concur! But I think that's the nature of quiltmaking and quiltmakers - in that context people are (more generally) used to being allowed to touch, and expect to be able to examine, even fondle the quilts. I agree, it's all about context.
Sarah said…
I think it depends a bit on the sort of museum. For example The Science Museum is full of interactive displays and always has people interacting with them. Then again it's a very different environment to the V&A where a lot of the exhibits are art, which we are always implicitly told not to touch! I find the way people look at different types of museums fascinating in that way, I'm definitely one of the people who would hesitate to touch some exhibits even if I was told I was allowed to.

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