I was visiting my mother this weekend (am actually typing this using the free wi-fi on the bus!) and we decided to go check out the new expansion of the local historical village, Heritage Park. Although the original park consists of buildings dating from the 1880s to about 1920ish, the directors recently decided to expand the mandate of the park to cover the period 1930-1950, as well. As my mother said, if it's older than her, it's an antique.
But the difference between this expansion and the original park is that the buildings in the expansion are new - not reconstituted antiques from other sites. There is only one museum, which is of automobile history, and the rest of the space is devoted to commercial enterprise: a restaurant, brewery, photo studio, a couple of souvenir shops, and even - wait for it! - an antique store.
I caught myself thinking, "but this isn't authentic!" as we wandered about... If there was ever a clear sign that I am not yet fully brainwashed as a museologist, this was it! It was especially strange to go into the antique store. Now, here in the Canadian West, vintage is anything not sold yesterday, and older than God is 1880, so most of the objects being sold at Heritage Park easily fit into its own collecting mandate. Sure, there are signs everywhere saying how your purchase supports the Historical Village - but the boundary becomes very blurred.
Can you imagine if the V&A started selling antiques in its shop? People find the current gift shop problematic enough - what would happen if the boundaries were blurred even further? Or am I just being a snob, worried that museum objects won't be special enough if they are side by side with marketable objects? Which is the commodity - the artefact or the antique?
The Attic (a name which commemorates our first physical location) is, first and foremost, a site for the research students of the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester: a virtual community which aims to include all students, be they campus-based and full-time, or distance-learning and overseas. But we welcome contributions from students of museum studies - and allied subject areas - from outside the School and from around the world. Here you will find a lot of serious stuff, like exhibition and research seminar reviews, conference alerts and calls for papers, but there's also some 'fluff'; the things that inspire, distract and keep us going. After all, while we may be dead serious academic types, we're human too.