Reflecting on museums, The Memory of Mankind

reflecting on ancient art

Although museum professionals love to complain about all the attention and resources lavished upon athletics, museum and gallery attendance in fact far exceeds that at athletic events. National Public Radio recently featured a wonderful story about “The History of Museums, the Memory of Mankind”. This excellent podcast examines the purposes, problems, and pleasures of what Metropolitan Museum of Art Director Philippe de Montebello eloquently describes as “the memory of mankind.”   In his delightful story, NPR journalist Bob Mondello  examines the evolution of museums from the mouseion (home to the Muses) of classical Greece to today’s architectural showpieces such as Frank Gehry’s blockbuster Bilbao museum, then sketches their challenging future.  As the Museum of Art & Archaeology wrestles with many of the challenges described in the story such as our educational role, our physical space, the impact of new information technologies, and the ethics of collecting, I hope you will share your own reflections on these matters with us. If museums like this one are really “the memory of mankind,” what happens if we lose our memory?

2 Responses to “Reflecting on museums, The Memory of Mankind”

  1. W. Arthur Mehrhoff, Ph.D. says:

    Museum Director of Operations Bruce Cox shared this fascinating story of how Afghanistan’s heritage, currently displayed in London in a priceless collection of Afghan artifacts, was saved because of the bravery and ingenuity of one man who was willing to risk his life to preserve part of the memory of mankind, according to the BBC’s Alastair Lawson.

  2. French philosopher Andre Malraux in his celebrated book Le musée imaginaire expressed the challenging idea that the world of reproductions forms a “museum without walls”. He pointed out that art reproductions have a long and respectable history, and have often achieved the status of artworks themselves like our own Cast Gallery. Malraux wanted to open the doors and walls of highly conservative museums and let the entire world in. Now the Internet is doing just that…
    Scholar Antonio M. Battro writes in his thought-provoking 1999 essay “André Malraux revisited: From the musée imaginaire to the virtual museum” that “some Internet pages of celebrated museums are also becoming works of art in themselves. A new goddess is born in the Museum, the House of the Muses. Her virtual name is Dactylia, she is certainly a most dear and gentle muse.” Do you think there is a place for Dactylia in the memory of mankind and, if so, what is that rightful place?

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