Saturday, February 19, 2011

Fast Museums or Slow Museums?

Do museums really want people to slow down enough to carefully observe and consider the wonders within?  Or are museums really designed (physically and financially) to keep people moving --- to increase "throughput" --- contemplation be damned?

I was thinking about this the other day inside an art museum that seemed to have an especially conspicuous lack of seating (like benches) available in the galleries. It made me wonder if the gallery designers and curators really care about the people viewing the art inside, trudging along on the hard floors, eyes glazing over as they move from one uniformly white-walled gallery to another.  Standing and concentrating for long periods of time is hard work!

But leaving aside obvious amenities like seating, what other messages do museums send that either invite folks to linger and contemplate as a valued guest, or to hurry them along as just another paying customer?  Timed tickets? Security guards? Audio tours? No stroller policies? No picture taking?

There may be lots of "practical" reasons for "moving people along" through the galleries, but museum visitors may perceive such practicalities differently than museum administrators.  And, if you rush them through your museum, they might not be in a big hurry to come back.

What do you think?  Are "slow museums" an unrealistic Victorian notion, or a better idea than the "Throughput Uber Alles" of "fast museums"?  Share your views in the "Comments Section" below.

Don't miss out on any ExhibiTricks posts! It's easy to get updates via email or your favorite news reader. Just click the "Free Updates" link on the right side of the blog. P.S. If you receive ExhibiTricks via email (or Facebook or LinkedIn) you will need to click HERE to go to the main ExhibiTricks page to make comments or view multimedia features (like videos!)