I have just finished reading Robert Janes' new anthology Museums without Borders: Selected writings of Robert R. Janes. It is a presentation of key works accumulated over the course of his near 40 year career. While reading it I was flung around from feeling "yussss lets do this thing. Ethically responsible museums - ASSSSEMMMMBLLLLE!" to "holy shit this is an impossible job." It is an exhaustive and at times an exhausting tome. Sometimes I felt a but like a scolded school kid.
Janes expects a lot of museums but perhaps most critically he expects them to be critical; to be provocative; to be conscious and accountable; to be idealistic; to be mindful of themselves and their communities and to always, always ask - why?
So in the spirit of being an annoying toddler who must constantly ask "but whyyyy?" I am presenting you with some questions/musings bases on Janes' provocations:
1. Are you encouraged to work latterly, challenge authority and traditional internal power structures? Do you think traditional museum power structures are brittle, too top-down and stifle creativity? In this regard, is there a "tyranny of tradition"? Are we hamstrung by status quo?
2. Are you encouraged to think about your organisation as part of a wider social eco-system? Are you encouraged to be socially responsibleand responsive? Or are we too insular?
3. Are you encouraged to think of your organisation as not just a repository but an active member of the community, even a problem solver? Not just in theory but in practice?
4. Does the traditional focus on collections need to shift somewhat? I think this is already happening, with most organisations realising that the power in their collections are most fully harnessed in context of people, communities and relationships but one provocation he puts forward is in regard to collection care - ie are the international standards we have set ourselves attainable, warranted or even desired?
5. Do we actually engage with the contemporary? Like, really? If not, how can we possibly claim to be organisations that think about the future?
So put that in your pipe and please let me know your thoughts coz problems shared are problems solved etc.
Here's Frank Ocean to send you into your weekend because - for God's sake has he released his new album yet???