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Saturday, 22 March 2014

Rethinking the Role of Museums

We were also lucky to have visiting Director of the Georgian National Museum Professor David Lordkipanidze host a discussion on museums and museum management at the Archaeological Reading Group, held in the Classics Library. Georgia is going back to the future as it were, with it's thinking on what a museum is/can be/aught to be, and looking towards that more 19th century idea that a museum should be the prime place for bringing together science and culture, maintains collections but also keeping these available to and linked to the latest research.

So then that the museum holds exhibitions, maintains collections, provides space for art, theatre and cultural expression, is utilised for public and academic education (and careers) and outside but linked to universities and laboratories as a premiere research institution, this nationally and internationally, and horizontally and vertically creating networks of exchange and ideas! But the seeds have to be planted now, so that our museums can still stay relevant to modern times, and do not become an extinct institution.

He also sees arts/humanities/social sciences and the natural and hard sciences as naturally complementing one another, and perhaps they should overlap and communicate more in their work and institutional settings, especially museums. Archaeology is taught here as an arts subjects however overseas and even interstate within my own country, it can be studied as a science. I have always felt Archaeology straddles the borders between the natural sciences and the purer humanities. After all if archaeologists fail to take into account scientific data then something is seriously lacking in their methods, but likewise scientific data lacking a cultural context (and archaeology is all about context!) of the people who have left the material culture behind that is being studied, then the data itself becomes meaningless figures if not applied in light of that humanities understanding. Eg Understanding and chemically analysing why a pottery vessel is found in a context, when it was deposited, what chemical residue it contained, and if possible, why this was done. I personally agree and fully appreciate a view that can embraces both sciences and the arts, but then perhaps this is more akin to the minds of the ancients, and more easily embraced by those today who study them.

Amazingly thoughtful and inspiring stuff from a little reading group chat!! Time to plant some intellectual seeds.

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