Filed under: Lindow Man Exhibition, Reviews | Tags: Bog bodies, contested remains, controversial topics, Creating Engaging Displays, human remains, Lindow Man criticism, Lindow Man exhibitions, Lindow Man visitors, manchester museum body lindow, Museum Practice
Several months after the opening, a review of Lindow Man A Bog Body Mystery has appeared in this month’s (July) Museums Journal. Written by Stuart Burch, who is a lecturer in museum studies at Nottingham Trent University, the review is perceptive, thoughtful and fair in its criticism. The reviewer picks up on the fact that human remains are a subject of quite intense debate in museums at the moment and says it is ‘to the Manchester Museum’s enormous credit that it has sought to tackle these issues whilst stressing there are no “right” answers… it is impossible to accuse this exhibition of being simplistic or shallow. It manages to convey intellectualy challenging information and balances often contradictory interpretations’.
Stuart notes that much of the information is tucked away in folders or sound booths and worries that some visitors might leave thinking there was nothing to see. He suggests placing a visitor assistant at the entrance to the exhibition to help visitors. In fact this is one of the things that we looked at recently when we evaluated the exhibition and proposed some improvements. One of them was to make sure our Visitor Services Assistants engaged with visitors more directly about the exhibition, and to explain why it was presented in this way.
Another planned improvement is to re-write and re-position the introduction to the exhibition, again to help visitors orient themselves. The reviewer says this isn’t a perfect exhibition – though he says he thinks it is excellent – but then there is no such thing as a perfect exhibition. All are of their time, representing the pre-occupations of the moment, contingent and not definitive (is that perhaps why some of our visitors have struggled with the exhibition, because they expect museums to tell them objective facts?.
Reading out a selection of comments from the review to colleagues at the diary meeting last Wednesday I felt a real sense of pride that another museum professional had understood what we were about. Read the full interview in the Museums Journal for July (pages 50-51). If you are a member you can access the review electronically at this address – http://www.museumsassociation.org/ma/7758.
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