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.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Behind the Scenes at the Museum

No, not based on the novel of the same name; this is a three-part documentary currently broadcasting on BBC4 about small museums dealing with challenges. So far, we have learned about catfights among the retired men at the Commercial Vehicle Museum, and catfights between the curators and the custodians at the Freud Museum. I can't wait for what catfights will emerge at the National Waterways Museum next week.

All kidding aside, however, this has been an extraordinarily lucid documentary. I do find the filmmaker's frequent editorializing and opinions somewhat annoying, but he has done a great job of demonstrating the very real threats from within and without that museums face for a non-museological audience. Gaining funding, expanding appeal, retaining expertise, maintaining standards - all these are keywords for any museum studies person, but rarely thought of by visitors. I hope this opens up people's eyes.

For those who can't watch on iPlayer, here's a preview of the first episode on YouTube.


Amy said...

There's a spot-on write-up of the last episode in the Guardian today:

I watched the repeat (in the early hours of the morning!). Found it just so frustrating. Good interpretation does not = 'dumbing down'. Visitors value a concrete connection with the people or person at the heart of the narrative (the coat, the umbrella, the medical bag, the caretaker (for God's sake!). All of this is obvious isn't it? I had to wonder about the motives of one particular member of staff - was the Freud Museum there to disseminate information and engage visitors, or was it simply his personal play-ground?

(Gimme a job people, I could do so much good.)

Ceri said...

Its a shame that they cannot showcase a positive example of a museum which is actually working well, engaging with its audiences and enhancing the lives of its local community. There must be one surely???