Thursday, April 29, 2010

Museum "Face Lifts"

What do you say when you visit an old friend after they've gotten a terrible face lift?  It's a horrible Catch-22, since even if you're honest, there's not much that can be done to remedy the (real or perceived) structural and/or aesthetic issues.  In a strange way, you may find yourself wishing you could see your friend's old face again --- even with the occasional wrinkle or sag.

That's the sort of the predicament I'm in as I've been thinking about some "bigger and better" (ostensibly) museums I've visited in the past few months.  Older museums that have gotten the complete modern museum "face lift treatment" --- lots of money raised and spent, a high-profile architect and "green" building, fancy new exhibits.

And now?

Gigantic buildings that don't seem to "fit" into their surrounding neighborhoods  --- either aesthetically, or practically.  Almost as if they've been dropped into place by some alien spaceship.

And the new exhibits?

Paradoxically, even though the buildings have doubled or tripled in size, there seems to be less inside than in the old buildings, not more.  They've become unintentional "air and space" museums of a sort, because they're filled with more "air" and "space" than exhibits or activities.

And the staff to run the new place?

Many of them have been "furloughed" or "downsized" or just "fired" which makes one wonder about the future of a much larger physical plant.

I can't help it.  I can't help thinking we should turn on the time machine and get some of the old places back ...

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1 comment:

  1. Hi Paul -

    I went to the preview opening of the Oakland Museum of California today. It looks incredible - a facelift that includes more natural materials, more objects on display with lowkey labels, more places to sit, more experiments, and a LOT of new staff members... there is hope!