News day reporter
Udecott has issued a call for proposals to restore and modernize the National Museum and Art Gallery.
What is planned is structural, with a focus on roof repairs, but the museum is overdue to redesign as more than an artifact repository.
Its holdings should be evaluated, their strengths noted and weaknesses targeted for future acquisitions.
The museum’s collections tend to be offered to the public as a mixture of curiosities, archaeological finds alongside modern art and paintings in service of evoking TT’s rich cultural history.
The renovation should be designed to advance the goals of a modern museum building, which go beyond protecting cobwebs on ancient artifacts. That said, preservation is an important aspect of any museum, and best practices should be employed to ensure they are safeguarded for future generations.
But beyond collecting, the institution is supposed to organize and categorize its holdings and display them appropriately in order to educate and entertain its audience, which can range from school children on day trips to scholars seeking better understand aspects of the nation’s history.
To leverage their collection to better understand national history and heritage, museums cannot only rely on exhibition space, which is never enough, and must provide assets for consideration of the audience through new and changing exhibits, multimedia presentations, insightful lectures and, where appropriate, entertainment that repackage what is known from the past to bring it alive for audiences today.
For any plan to renovate the space the National Museum occupies in the Royal Victoria Institute built in 1892, there must also be a balance between preserving the history of the building itself while creating greater flexibility for rotating exhibitions that explore and reassess themes under discussion in society at large.
The proposed revamp of the museum should position it for greater openness to its potential customers, moving from a position of waiting for questions to using its resources to ask them.
In the UK, museums and galleries of historic art have been pressured to consider changing perceptions of those who have been captured and adored in pigment and sculpture, and TT is expected to lead its own reframing of the conversation around our natural and cultural history.
As other institutions spring up around the country to archive specific segments of its heritage, the museum should be positioned as a sounding board and guide to successfully and effectively conserve historical and cultural artifacts, recognizing the enthusiasm of the sectors of the national community to recognize and celebrate their slice of our history in their own way.
Fix the leaks, sure, but once the job is done, a national museum should show leadership in modern curatorial methodology and encourage adventures and discoveries in the country’s multi-layered past.