I think being cool is part of a museum’s responsibility.
When I say that, I don’t mean that being “cool” is part of a museum’s responsibility. I’m not advocating pandering to the young, and I’m especially not advocating pandering to a vision of what the young are that is formed without actually knowing any of them. (In my day job, I’ve come across people who genuinely argued that it was process of downloading that attracted kids to technology, rather than the using it for anything, a position that remains mind-boggling to me.)
I’m also not exactly demanding stylishness, although that’s a bit closer. An exhibit/article/whatever where thought has been given to presentation has a better chance of sparking the imagination than something with the same content presented badly.
It’s that spark that I truly think is the museum’s responsibility. A museum should inspire people to think and do, and to think and do better.
Different people will be inspired by different things, and that’s fine; a painting that moves some people is not a failure simply because of the people it didn’t.
The idea of inspiring people feels wonderful, but there’s a pragmatic reason for it too. Most people don’t forget their inspirations, and they are a lot more likely to support a place with their attendance and membership if every time they go they come out uplifted in some way. Crass as it is to describe it this way, inspiration is something valuable that museums can provide, and can provide in a unique way. A sort of a product, and one that can be sold because it is very good, rather than because it has a catchy jingle or cute mascot.
In part, the Link Dumps on this blog are an effort to reorient my own thinking, and to actively seek out and take joy in amazing things. I appreciate the need for the mundane and the practical, and I understand that sometimes you have to deal with the petty, but I don’t want to devote excess time or effort to them. Hopefully hunting the remarkable is a skill, and with practice it will become easier to find the amazing and inspiring in more and more things.
I hope that’s cool.