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A museum of pre-revolutionary everyday military life is soon to open inside one of the former gunpowder warehouses at Brest Fortress

Reinvention via interaction

Hundreds of websites entertained us recently with the story of an elderly lady from Germany who mistook an object on display at Nuremberg’s Neues Museum for a usual crossword puzzle. Reading a sign which stated ‘Insert Words’, next to the work, worth $116,000, and thinking it an instruction, she filled the blanks with a pen. Luckily, the museum’s insurance policy covered the damage.

The hapless event may be viewed as the result of two current trends: the smaller number of attendants at such museums and galleries, and the fashion for ‘interaction’ encouraging visitors to touch exhibits. It’s not uncommon for galleries to host concerts and to arrange quests amidst valuable paintings, in an attempt to ‘change the perception of a museum as a boring place, with the help of the latest interactive technologies’.

It seems that the public now demands a very different museum experience: one more ‘hands on’.

A museum of pre-revolutionary everyday military life is soon to open inside one of the former gunpowder warehouses at Brest Fortress, allowing visitors to touch rare items and to try on old military uniforms within an ‘authentic’ 19th century barrack.

Quantum, a popular science museum with a planetarium, a ‘no-gravity’ room, sociable robots and an organ made of pipes is expected to open in Minsk by autumn. Meanwhile, a site for an Ordinary Person Museum is being considered; setting up this one may be a fantastic adventure in itself, since its core exhibits will comprise the stories of visitors.

Global media are intriguing audiences with news of pop-up museums, promising unforgettable impressions. In the US, the Noah’s Ark Museum opened recently, allowing viewing of pre-historical animals rescued by Noah during the flood, and a taste of cuisine from Noah’s time. The Blues Museum, recently launched on the bank of the River Mississippi, invites visitors to compose music on site. Incredibly, Russian sculptor Tsereteli promises to deliver master classes to any willing visitor at his future museum: how tempting is that!

Museums are not ‘cemeteries of art’ (citing French poet Alphonse de Lamartine, born in the 18th century). We are no longer visitors, but guests who are heartily welcomed; ‘Do Not Touch’ signs are becoming a thing of the past, but not for true rarities.

At the previous National Museum Forum, it was reported that, within two years, various interactive ideas would double the popularity of our museums. Very soon, the 3rd Belarusian Museum Biennale will open in Mogilev, its motto being ‘Breaking Stereotypes, Dismissing Conservatism’. One of the forum guests is Antonio Paolucci, director of the Vatican Museums, where an exhibition of unique Belarusian icons from the National Art Museum has just finished. A return exhibition is soon planned, although this might have seemed incredible for both Minsk and the Vatican until quite recently.

Another stereotype has been removed. Museums are coming closer to people and to each other, reinventing themselves and forging new bridges.

By Irina Zavadskaya
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