The article Honest Museum Audio Tour from The New Yorker is a quick read and quite funny. Having worked in museums my entire adult life and visited countless others, I related to much of the commentary in the author’s made-up audio tour: “Note this intricately carved chair, which was made in 1573. The first person to have sat in it is long dead. Now no one is allowed to sit in it.” Yep, I’ve thought that. I’ve also seen the Mona Lisa and the experience was disappointing. In my case also smelly what with it being summer and the plumbing overflowing in the nearby bathroom and the hoards of sweaty people with their arms raised to capture images on their phones to prove they were there.
Levity aside, the article got me thinking about museums I’ve worked in and visited lately and how I might construct an Honest Museum Audio Tour for each:
“This is a tractor rusting on a lawn. There’s no way a farmer would allow such a valuable and expensive piece of machinery to deteriorate like that but we don’t have the money to run and maintain it. Hey look, there’s a cute calf, why not go feed it.“
“Here is an interpreter making a fabulous smelling meal. They’ll tell you all about it but you can’t eat any of it.“
“This is a quilt. Here’s an extensive history of it’s ownership with lots of dates that will make you want to curl up and take a nap under it.“
Of course, those of us who work in museums know that there are all sorts of reasons why things are the way they are BUT it might do us some good to occasionally create our own Honest Museum Audio Tours. After we’re done laughing we might just realize where we need to make some changes.