Author Topic: "How I Learned to Stop Hating and Love Museums - Nick Gray's TED Talk  (Read 4030 times)

Offline Mike

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Though not exactly the same type of museum, I thought I would pass this along mostly because it is somewhat pertinent to the folks here.

My own personal experiences with the various museum boats I’ve visited are distinctly unique. I have had the pleasure of sitting with Nancy and Charles for a good part of the afternoon to the Bowfin a while back, and my son was in awe of Charles’ collection of items not on display. A crazy road trip to Manitowoc for a visit to the Cod brought me face to face with Karen as she hurriedly was on her way to work on a new exhibit, and the previous years’ trip to Muskegon for the sole purpose of hearing her engines rumble taught me the lovely rain-on-a-tin roof sound of the oil settling back into the sumps of Silversides’ engines after they were shut down. However, meeting Paul on the Cod brings to mind the point made in the video about the life which can be brought to a tour by the right person. While this isn’t meant to disparage the previous experiences and the wonderful people charged with the care and preservation of their respective boats, and since I have not had the pleasure of meeting folks like Tom and Leslie at the Drum or Rich at the Pampanito (though I have been to both), Paul stands out in relation to the video because of the interest he effortlessly generates with his audience though his take on “guides, games, and gossip”.

“…Storytelling is more important than art history. Today’s audiences have to be entertained before they can be educated.”

Sadly, this is true for naval history as well. I learned that lesson from the “it’s on the way” tour of the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton with my lovely and talented wife. As you may remember, she is a Russian pianist with an interest in military history which could only be best described as “polite through proximity”. By the time she reached hour number three, her mood was reaching critical mass and the subsequent trip to the Silversides was in jeopardy of being boycotted or filled with ominous silence. However, the bits of history my son and I shared with her as we walked through the sub were tales of the courage and hardships the men on board over seventy years prior were what made it, in her words, “impressive, humbling, and fascinating.”

While Nick Gray makes several interesting points about “gallery fatigue” and other side effects the general public might experience at these more “static” museums, the approach he advocates with the rapid approach to the displays is something I consider somewhat debatable for the boats on display. Location, for some museum boats, separates the “visitors of convenience” from the “visitors for purpose” a lot better than others… after all, while I would love to visit the Batfish or the Ling, I can count on a very long and deliberate trip… more than likely sans spouse. However, even in the cases of the “ideally located” boats with a symbiotic relationship with other points of interest in the area, the question could be asked “how many people in the area haven’t been to see our boat?” and “why not?”…

Perhaps another way of looking at the relation is that your boats are a form of art, and the emotions, ideas, and purpose of these behemoth consumers of time, resources, and effort is essentially another form of art in purpose, function, and action.
That went way too long, but I was sort of inspired. Hopefully, you made it to the end and managed to watch the video…
"When you're holding people's attention, I feel you must give them high-quality ingredients. They deserve nothing but your best. And if they need information, get it, cross-check it, and try to be right. Do not waste their time; do not enjoy the ego trip of being onstage."

Henry Rollins