Going To A Museum To Gather Information

I saw an article about an interview with Kimberly Drew on Slate that I really liked. Drew had a book come out, This Is What I Know About Art .

What grabbed my attention was Drew defining a museum experience as information gathering in the same sense as entering a library.

Museums fall within the larger field of GLAM—art galleries, libraries, and museums—where you’re not supposed to go there knowing everything. That’s the myth of museums. You don’t have to know every single book when you go into a library. You go to a library to gather information, and we should be looking at museums in the same way. We go into museums or enter museum websites to garner information, and hopefully we leave knowing more than what we came in with. But somewhere along the line, it became like, “I don’t get it,” or, “If I don’t know this, this, or this, then I shouldn’t go.” That’s one of the greater barriers to access

Drew is pretty passionate about museums. In the conversation between her and the interviewer, there is a fair bit of discussion about all the expectations of what an experience is supposed to be that weigh down the experience. They say that not only can’t a museum account for all contexts influencing how people are interacting with art, sometimes the person who normally spends hours in a gallery is coming in to get out of the rain for a half hour or because they feel like getting out during their lunch hour.

This is obviously applicable to all disciplines and their respective audiences. Along those lines, Drew acknowledges sometimes timing is everything. She says despite there being hundreds of visual arts related blogs out there before her’s, when she started her Black Contemporary Art Tumblr page, it aligned with a need from people who were passionate and curious, but didn’t have the resources to learn and were alienated by the way art was presented in museums and galleries.

Based on this, Drew is an advocate for providing different paths which allow people to interact with your organization: website, blog, video content, etc., as an accompaniment for the physical experience you offer.

There is a recording of the full interview from which the article is excerpted if you want to absorb the whole conversation. (There is also a transcript, but it is auto-generated by software and attributes Drew’s words to 4-5 separate speakers which gets confusing.)

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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