Lindow Manchester


Collective Conversation Comparing Lindow Man Exhibitions
October 24, 2008, 9:07
Filed under: Lindow Man criticism
Collective Conversation about the Lindow Man exhibitions

Collective Conversation about the Lindow Man exhibitions

It’s amazing to think that is already over 20 years since Lindow Man first came to the Manchester Museum on loan from the British Museum. The temporary exhibitions of 1987 and 1991 were very popular and influenced a generation of Museum visitors in Manchester and the North West. Yesterday I took part in a Collective Conversation comparing the current Lindow Man exhibition with earlier exhibitions. Helen Rees Leahy, Director of the Centre of Museology at the University of Manchester, kindly took part and commented on changes in curatorial practice; and Manchester Museum colleagues Sue Bulleid and Tom Goss contributed their memories of the earlier exhibitions. I brought along some black and white photographs as prompts. Tom and Sue talked about their impressions of the  earlier Lindow Man exhibitions: the darkness, the use of palisades and other props to give a sense of an Iron Age setting and the emotional impact of seeing Lindow Man’s body. We talked about the differences between the approaches taken to interpretation, from giving a sense of Lindow Man’s life and times in the 1980s and 1990s, to the current exhibition, looking at the body from different perspectives. Commenting on the exhibition, particularly the way in which the Museum had stood back from its traditional authoritative role as sole interpreter of the exhibits, Helen Leahy welcomed the inclusion of different voices and the innovative design but wondered whether this created a mismatch between what was offered and visitor expectations. By setting aside a single authoritative narrative voice, the exhibition had become a  disorienting experience for visitors. The difficulty with  debating responses to the exhibition is knowing precisely whose comments and criticism are  paramount. So far we have little formal data  from the Museum’s core audience of families and children. Observations over the summer suggest they have enjoyed the numerous different ways  of engaging with the subject and younger people may be more attuned to a cultural environment in which plurality, relativity and poly-vocality are taken for granted. Older visitors may miss the re-assurance of definitive, confident interpretation. The Collective Conversation will be edited shortly and hopefuly it won’t be too long before it is posted on U-tube or made accessible via the Manchester Museum website.

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