Friday, May 18, 2012

Hayao Miyazaki's Ideas About Museums

Hayao Miyazaki is a film artist who has created some amazing animated films for Studio Ghibli in Japan.  (Some of my favorites include "Spirited Away" and "My Neighbor Totoro".)

To capture some of the spirit and history of the films and the film studio, there is a Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Japan.  I've haven't had the pleasure of visiting the Ghibli Museum in person (yet!) but as I was perusing the Ghibli Museum website, I noticed a link to "A Few Words from Executive Director Hayao Miyazaki"on the home page.

The Link leads to a mini manifesto from Director Miyazaki entitled, "This is the Kind of Museum I Want to Make!"

I think it is wonderful (and gutsy!) for the director of any museum to share the guiding principles behind the creation of their museum in such an up-front way, but I also thought some of the Director Miyazaki's thoughts were worth sharing here:

This is the Kind of Museum I Want to Make!
A museum that is interesting and which relaxes the soul
A museum where much can be discovered
A museum based on a clear and consistent philosophy
A museum where those seeking enjoyment can enjoy, those seeking to ponder can ponder, and those seeking to feel can feel
A museum that makes you feel more enriched when you leave than when you entered!

To make such a museum, the building must be...
Put together as if it were a film
Not arrogant, magnificent, flamboyant, or suffocating
Quality space where people can feel at home, especially when it's not crowded
A building that has a warm feel and touch
A building where the breeze and sunlight can freely flow through

The museum must be run in such a way so that...
Small children are treated as if they were grown-ups
The handicapped are accommodated as much as possible
The staff can be confident and proud of their work
Visitors are not controlled with predetermined courses and fixed directions
It is suffused with ideas and new challenges so that the exhibits do not get dusty or old, and that investments are made to realize that goal

The museum shop will be...
Well-prepared and well-presented for the sake of the visitors and running the museum
Not a bargain shop that attaches importance only to the amount of sales
A shop that continues to strive to be a better shop
Where original items made only for the museum are found

This is what I expect the museum to be, and therefore I will find a way to do it

This is the kind of museum I don't want to make!

A pretentious museum
An arrogant museum
A museum that treats its contents as if they were more important than people
A museum that displays uninteresting works as if they were significant

What do you think of Haya Miyazaki's ideas about museums? (Let us know in the "Comments" section below.)

Personally, his words make me want to visit the Ghibli Museum even more now!

And Director Miyazaki's mini manifesto also begs a question: What sort of message to visitors does your Executive Director post on your Museum's website?

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  1. Hi Paul, Thank you for reminding me of the Ghibli Museum, a wonderful experience! Started posting the photos of my visit to Pinterest,


  2. Hey, good find, Paul! (Big Miyazaki fan here). Didn't know he had a museum. The visuals are so imaginative in his movies -- wonder if this carries over to 3D...


  3. "The building must be put together like a film!" Wow, that's thought-provoking. Is he calling for a defined über-narrative? The importance of story-boarding in development? Refined pacing and appropriate edits from scene to scene?

    However, my favorite is the first directive: "A museum that is interesting and which relaxes the soul." Indeed.

  4. @Mark I'm jealous!

    @Brad You should check out the museum website! It looks like they have some very nice spaces and 3D elements --- including a giant "Cat Bus" from Totoro that kids can climb on!

    @Jason Even though Miyazaki is a director, I really was struck by the "building must be put together like a film" comment, too!

  5. Thanks for linking to Miyazaki's manifesto, Paul. It's quite interesting. Like Jason and yourself, I too was drawn in by the idea of the building being put together like a film. Imagine moving through a museum as if each room was merely an act in a play, or a movie. Such an interesting concept if the emphasis of the museum is indeed the building, and if the entire display can be put together as a congruous story.

    I am also interested by Miyazaki's ideas regarding the sort of museum he does not want to make. "A museum that displays uninteresting works as if they were significant." Ouch! That's a cutting implicit criticism of museums in general. Do you think museums commonly make false significations of things? Do works need to be interesting to be significant? Do they need to appear interesting, or can the associated stories make them so?

    There are some interesting ideas here.

  6. Wow! What a wonderful set of tenants.

    The one that most jumped out for me is "A museum that is interesting and which relaxes the soul." That so captures the what his films do for me.

    I love the idea of the combination of those two things. While great museums provide a wonderful sense of provocation so few feed and nourish in a way that "relaxes the soul."

    Thanks Paul!