Thursday, May 28, 2009

Wanted: Museum "Fans"

How would museum staffers do things differently if they were trying to increase the number of museum "fans" instead of "customers" or "guests" or "visitors"?

I mean "fans" like those who attend college football games or people who stay at the Mandarin Oriental Hotels or who line up at midnight to buy Harry Potter books.

It will be a great day when museums become so popular that people are scalping admissions tickets outside instead of shuffling around half-empty exhibit halls.

But until then, how do we create more museum "fans"? Give us your best ideas in the Comments Section below.

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  1. Did you read the essay in Engaging Art about how sports allows people (especially men) to be hugely emotional in a very public setting. Yet when they same emotional response is triggered by, say, a classical music performance or a painting, those emotions are deemed socially unacceptable - we are supposed to keep it all inside (sound like repression??).

    What if museums, arts organizations encouraged people to yell, cheer, boo, high-five, even hug (ok, maybe not slap bums) to celebrate or respond to something moving, both good and bad? Would museums then have more "fans?"

  2. I think the closest one gets to what Susie is suggesting may be children's museums or something unusual like Zuem in San Francisco where children (teens mostly) are encouraged to be expressive and emotional.

    I'm so discourage when I see school groups wisked mutely through exhibit galleries in silent, single file lines. It's no wonder to me that when I meet an adult and tell them where I work that they invaribly say something like, "I haven't been there since I was in school."

  3. Hmm, perhpas cheap beer served at stands throughout the museum, incredibly overpriced t-shirts, cheerleaders, large tv contracts, lots of commercials.

  4. Eugene DillenburgJune 6, 2009 at 7:58 PM

    A fan is someone who makes an emotional investment. They make said investment because it pays dividends: you put a bit of yourself into the phenomenon, and the phenomenon give syou back something more -- pleasure, catharsis, a sense of belonging.

    It needn't be a loud emotion -- reading is a very quiet, solitary pursuit, and yet authors have fans.

    The object of your fanaticism makes you feel good. Specifically, it makes you feel good about yourself -- for having won, for having solved the mystery, for having dug deeply into the created universe and discovered things not apparent to the casual observer.

    As a rule, exhibits don't do emotion. We need to be serious and educational to justify our funding. Which is a shame, because the medium of poorly-suited for didacticism, but wonderfully adept at making the abstract manifestly real.