Monday, November 26, 2012

The critique and the future of collecting

At the beginning was the idea, concept, a need. Collection followed. First museum-like establishments were but visitable collections. A modern museum institution developed in the last two hundred years is lagrely circumstantial and reflecting its immediate protagonists: that tradition does not oblige us to take the museum institution as the final and only answer to the set of needs that created it. Moreover, those needs are severely changed and extremely complex, implying the drama of the post-historical society. Yet, we are witnessing the unprecedented flourishing of museums and their deepest conceptual crisis, at the same time which is, obviously paradoxical. Why would that be the case? As the needs for protective mechanisms against the degradation of life become more dramatic, more museums are created to serve the purpose. Yet, what the profession(s) creating them can offer is very much inadequate and burdened  with the seemingly unavoidable tradition. The "tough" part of the problem is easily seen in collections as they increasingly demonstrate two major inconveniences: the increasing cost of acquisition, care and maintenance and their physical growth. There are significant developments, dilemma, and rising questions which dramatize the theme beyond strict professional concerns. Many feel that we ought to face ultimate questions.

"Growth is an inherent part of the mission of most museums"(Wilcox, 1995)[1]. It is still unquestioned starting point of the discussion. But, it will be shattered soon. Ten or more years ago the limits of the physical growth of collections were not so obvious to majority of museum professionals. Museology as set of headlights on the profession's vehicle was supposed to help: if we don't have this device we seem to be driving in the dark, seeing ahead only what we bump into.

The first "irregularity" in museum reaction was the establishment of reserve collections. It witnessed the acquisitiveness and the birth of museum communication: not all could be shown any more. But, this led to the series of problems we have to deal with now and in the future. In the dramatically changed world, nothing can be like it was any more: in the first half of the last century when museums started to grow, the world was populated by a billion of people and was guided by very different hopes. If public institution of museum appeared as a response to someone's needs, we know that museum must have changed its entire nature to fit new circumstances.

It seemed that museums could continue as expression of inherent acquisitiveness, but they cannot. It looked like they could limit themselves to the function of credible three-dimensional collective memory, but this becomes inconceivable: we have touched the ceiling of growth, both physically and financially. They do make sense, however, as a picturesque scientific theatre part of the mega-brain that we, as civilization, are trying to make. But their mission, accordingly, is not defined by memory which happens to be only one function of a brain.[2] It is neither defined by science nor by education. The traditional idea of knowledge that museums were supposed to serve does not comprise selectiveness, value judgements, creativity, participation, concern for the individual... Museums have thus forgotten to define themselves in terms of quality[3] i.e. responsibility and wisdom (which themselves include ethics and love as the basis of the museum mission).

Problems and paradoxes

Much of what we have in our museum collections is subjective and haphazardous in nature, or at least, collected by different ambitions and hardly adjustable to contemporary needs. Treasures of art were used to finance wars (Thomson, 199?)[4], quite a few were formed as a war loot, some partly restituted and others irreversibly damaged. The collected material remnants of history in constant making, can rarely claim continuity and coherence any science likes to see in 'its' museum. The rich amateurs from 16 century onwards, up until the present tycoons shape ruthlessly what should otherwise be set of collective values. When not motivated by deep fascination, it is sort of a socialized possessiveness and greed for power. There is no financial or political might able to resist, once consolidated, the temptation of dominating also the spiritual values. But there are also expressions of collective conquest in which scientists and army leaders were and are equally zealous. Museums contain the evidence of our conquests and seem not to expose what we have not yet conquered (Mendis, 1980)[5]. The science has limited collections within the frames of obvious and factual. The systems made possible museum as their PR mechanism: thus the ever "objective" science, itself but a servant, presents a different world's history in every national museum. All cherish the representation of life by the measures of the official excellence and perfection. This may tell a lot about aspirations but little about the richness and variety of life and living itself. First museums have been living witnesses of dying traditional societies, seeing the whole fine structure collapse and degenerate. They appeared on the scene as fetishist souvenir hunters. It is like doing one's best to save the hat of a drowning man. Museum "collectibles" rarely suggested the slowly appearing museum mission of serving the development of the society, let alone the sustainable one. 'Sustainable' is another word for harmonious and continuous, i.e. using the past as a source of survival wisdom. Relatively early in their history, the majority of museums and the appearing professionals served the institution and its owners, museum object being the ultimate value. 'But, objects do not make a "museum", they merely form a collection'(Dana, 1920)[6]. The lack of everyday objects eliminated life from museums and the true sense of museum existence remained quite blurred for many to come.

The perverted sense of quality appeared as giantism, a quantitative monster always there when responsibility is scarce. Hudson's law in Museology says: large collections, bad conservation[7]. If true as it seems, this opens up the Pandora's box of consequences. The growth is the universal problem into which museums fit only too well: 'Growth cannot continue indefinitely. The world is, therefore, facing a breakdown of the same type that has occurred frequently in the past. A good example is the failure of the Roman Empire' (Wilson, 1978)[8]. Museums present no empire, and it might not be the total failure that they face. Mildly named it is a deep conceptual crisis endangering their mission in the society. Never having succeeded to form a profession, museum people might be "endangered species" themselves (Sola, 198?)[9]. This obviously give right to some professionals when talking about "dying museums" (Jaoul, 1995)[10]. The proposal is that they die when they stop adding to their collection or when they have no reserve collection policy. But, that's the physical death easily comprehended (although quite late) through new questions of hard practice: the claim is that only 10% of our collections can be preserved (well)[11], although the 60% of budget in most museums is spent on keeping the reserves in good condition (MacDonald, 198?)[12]. Since very recently, nobody ever asked what is "the cost of collecting" (Lord, 198?)[13]. If some museum vehicles are moving at the growth rate of 7%[14], they would double their collections in ten years' time (!): acquire now, think later. But dying of boulimia or anorexia is not the problem of added or lost physical substance. It is the deficiency of mind and its functions. Why should it be different in museums? Museology means transfer of professional experience, self-analysis, self-criticism, devising policies and building the responsible and autonomous profession, with clear mission. Collections are neither curse nor ultimate blessing of museums. What matters is to know the ends the collections and the institutions above them should serve.

Professional insufficieny

Anything said could be easily assigned to professional inaptitude, but it would not be all. The contemporary dilemma between fetishism of originals and the virtual world that proposes only illusion is false inasmuch as it puts aside true questions of quintessence of objects and ideas. Older literature is full of evidence of how "all important" (Heath, 1977)[15] collection is in museums, and how it is "the predominant reason for many a museum's existence" (Alexander, 1979)[16]. Highest officials of the profession  were ready to draw our attention to the fact that "museums have to concentrate upon collections" (and not only to produce knowledge)[17]. Not many were able to discern the true problems. It must be the inescapable divine request of Eunomia, one of the Horae, deity of Order, that museums came down with aritmomania: an addiction to quantitative dimension of the reality, a sick urge to constant counting of everything. Or is it with the Muse Mneme, that the misunderstanding of her gift was cause to Hypermnesia, astonishing memorizing of the most insignificant details around: more and more about less and less. It certainly did not mean the trivial "quotidiana" in spite of the timely, sane voices which urged "conservation of everyday  life artifacts, rather than great monuments of antiquity" (Marsh, 1864)[18]. In the scientific perfection, curators often purged the spirit of passion and personal touch of great collectioners from their collections, by adding, filling the gaps, making the discourse "objective", or even by deaccessioning. Demonstrating such a disregard for the life of collection and the story it tells by its very composition, zeals and mischiefs that formed it, they were ignoring the life itself.

The obsession with the three-dimensional object is an ultimate proof of difficulties in understanding the proper nature of museum action. Museum object, collected, researched, exposed and interpreted is not the final product of its working process. If eternity was possible, it would not be achieved by physical substance of museum objects. Material culture may be instructive, but it still remains the means for understanding of non-material culture. The later, as the aggregate of values, mores, norms etc., of a society is more an ideational structure of culture than its physical appearance; it explains and makes us aware of values and meanings, and thus provides arguments for continuation and survival, when appropriate and possible, where, otherwise, the preservation of physical form would suffice. The capacity of mental/spiritual excel by far the offer through physical.

Contributing to the re-definition of  museums

The meaning of museums is not to study the past but our relation to it (It necessarily means knowledge about past, but also the knowledge of ourselves). Traditional museum slowly became the mediator between users and the past. The new museum should be a relay, an amplifier and decoder; it stimulates, assists, and serves as corrective mechanism. Museum is established when there's a dying heart of an identity. As museum is not a 'generator of culture" it is neither the replacement for the identity lost. It is neither the heart itself, nor the machine to stand in its place, but a pace-maker to help it function.

If we want to divide the museum development in three phases, the first would have collectioning as the central problem and research as the context. The second phase is the invention of labor division and three clear tasks: collectioning, research and presentation. The third phase would have the community the museum is supposed to serve in the focus of these three basic professional tasks. It implies communication, which in itself is possible only as willing exchange of information upon the common goal of quality living i.e. harmonious development. Only exceptionally, museums could exist as "collection-based type" i.e. due to the fact that some museums themselves present part of "collectable" cultural tradition. New museums should be new, and it would be hard to imagine any more strictly specialized museums should come into existence. Any museum object is poly-semic and when classified and interpreted from this discriminative point of view it gives away a misleading information and misses its rich interpretive capacity. Our users should not care for the frustrations of the individual sciences when forced to re-construct the former whole. Users did not invent them and they do not need the isolated, specialist, de-contextualized knowledge they offer. The method should not claim the status of the product.

The museum hypermnesia is fighting the invented enemy: the natural process of forgetting, the natural oblivion as filtered, selected knowledge. Any human being performs this natural process constantly, as perfect recall would transform us all into neurotics. And, curiously, this is exactly to what aim the beautiful new technology is being used. Oblivion is as natural and as important as memory. To forget is to make the hierachization and classification by importance, need and use in regard to future. To filter and extract the wisdom needed to move, develop and continue, the traditional cultures (that we keep the physical remnants of in our dark storages) used ritual, myth and art: the product of abstraction and sublimation was able to transcend the factual structure of the former reality. It would be probably rather naive to compare cultures to coral reef that myriad of generations build up from the bottom of the sea. Their common memory serves the obvious goal: to reach the light and give birth to the exuberant life of the atoll. What we require from this enormous machine with immense reservoirs of knowledge (in museum collections and elsewhere) is the little product of simple, common wisdom. We cannot deduce it any more amidst the roar of the "mega-machine" (Mumford, 1986)[19]and the ghosts that cheat our senses and create our needs. This mythos seems to be alive only in pop music.

Preservation of cultures, of nature or any identity comprised collectioning but never meant collectioning. Nobody can preserve tigers by killing them and putting them stuffed into the glass cases. (More human way is to keep them on life sentence in the ZOO). No traditional culture is preserved that way either. So, preservation can happen only there where the danger of deterioration, degeneration and decadence is taking place. This could be the true version of the field work. this could lead to the true collection which, again, is there where existing things and values face the extinction. If the disease is acculturation or "desertification" of cultures (due to the internationalization), one would imagine that the enemy should be neutralized where it performs its crime. The same with the nature that suffers from still another head of the same insatiable monster of greed. The reality is our primary collection. All else should be different means to deal with the problem of preserving the richness and variety so that we constantly push upwards towards some Light, whatever that might be. One of the means is museum collection: like a gland in the body museum should help the society function and grow harmoniously. Anything that restitutes balance and fights the forces of pauperization of the world is legitimate and good. So, collections have to go back where they come from. This return, whichever way it may be done, is the true sense of collecting. Of course, the profession (still in "status nascendi") will react to the "physical" obstacles first, doing physical moves to ameliorate its state. The problem is, however, quite conceptual in its essence.

Very recent professional testimonies provide us with lot to think about: 'The lifeblood of museums is in their collections (...)The museum, if it is not a collection, is nothing'(Cossons, 1991)[20]. Quite acceptable, indeed, if we re-define what a collection is and consequently what is a museum. The wide but only reasonable denomination of the (true) museum collection is that it is the reality itself, - past, present and future. But, since the map at the scale of one to one is not presentable, we have to reduce it, to concentrate it to make a choice of indispensable while still keeping the credibility. A museum institution is an artificial mechanism of preservation of developmental codes whose existence is endangered by the dramatic entropy. Museum is strategic and tactical reaction to the impoverishment of the totality of the natural and spiritual environment. This is why we shall have to speak about heritage media in order to encompass entire variety of institutional and non-institutional reaction. As for the latter, museum professionals like to forget that the un-structured, un-official and non-institutional museums that any individual and any group or community creates, possess (though sometimes curious) an immense collection. It contains less quality as defined by the standards of science but represents the life itself. What else can be the ideal of museums?

Dislocated reserves

It required no specific museological intuition to know some ten odd years ago that growing reserves will fill up all the available space on the museum premises[21]. Some where already in existence, but little was known about their existence and the future problems. Perfectionism was again ending up in opportunistic quantitativeness instead of quality. This postponed solution is bad and good at the same time. The bad thing is that it does not deal with the essence of the problem: hyper-acquisitiveness as musealization of the world. The good thing about it is higher standard of care, and in some cases, stronger collaboration upon a common case among different museums. Some museums, like those of Oxfordshire will discover that professional ripening, indeed growing up, happens as will and ability of working together (Ferriot, 1995)[22]. Pity if it all stays on the most obvious, as sharing the common reserve. The bright and revolutionary example of Swedish SAMDOK, as cooperation in the very process of collectioning is little exploited and feebly praised. We are looking for signs of unity which announces an accomplished profession able to propose itself as a strong, relevant partner to the System.  The new reserves of Musee National des Techniques in Paris at Saint Denis, or Museum of London's dislocated storage, or Smithsonian Institution's futuristic new reserves in Maryland, - will not solve the problem but give it some more time to grow without the museological drudgery and nuisance.

The accepted alternative

The limits of quantitative logic and further definition of social role of museums have been present long ago in the minds of museum professionals (Dana, 1920)[23]. We are right now in the era of quality, the turning point when heritage concerned institutions have to re-define their mission through this long neglected optic.

There are more and more museums that derive their collections from participation of the community they serve. Many among eco-museums did so, but also museums which do not have such an exact profile. Museum of Romanian Peasant in Bucharest has obtained objects from peasants arranging for them a visit to the museum and certificate that made the cooperation more dignified. Finnish Forest Museum, started "ex nihilo", assembled the entire collection from gifts offering in return a certificate, year free entrance, and the name in the book at the entrance. The reason may look financial in nature and consequence, but is much more than that, as it is explained well in the example of the Workers' Museum in Copenhagen: "Exhibitions were based on the material people had given us, that is to say, on those very objects which they perceived as their history" (Ludvigsen,1995)[24]. There is hardly a chance that museums like these would accumulate in their reserves so much as to expose the usual 10 to 20 percent in their permanent exhibitions. The quality difference lies in the motives for collectioning: for the science (user comprised), or for the user (science comprised). This later approach which ambition is the useful museum, changes the character of the collection (partly) into the interpretive inventory. That is, of course, the Troyan horse which we started to fill long ago with the so called "secondary museum material". With the hyper media inside, it is apt to challenge any museum tradition. But, there are no surprises, it has been already wheeled in long ago: we always lived with alternative but there was time when it could be ignored. The information technology[25] makes possible: (a) the transparency of the museum working process, (b) opening up the entire collection to the users (c) effective networking and, indeed, working together; it enables and favours interdisciplinary and trans-sectorial cooperation as well as such products and is inherently participatory. It is the logic of the information technology that will give the decisive momentum to creation of a heritage care&communication mega-profession, the one that would both theoretically and in practice (from social contract to common information network) present firm partner to the ruling forces of the society.

Creating visitable reserve collections is slipping again into the museum quantitative giantism: the guilt feeling about the community is turned into the further insight of the more specialized knowledge which, presumably, is not indeed what the users need. Most of the museums that did the dislocation of reserves presumed the best would be to open them to public, creating thus the second museum and all the problems that go with it (Deutsches Museum, Musee des Techniques, Museum of London etc.). The curious thing is that functional link between these museums and their outposts is based upon Internet and CD ROM. 

On the contrary, the genuine innovation was loan services which, presumably, date back to the beginning of the century only to develop in the 60s and 70s. This happened mainly in the art museums in North America where the tax benefits in purchasing the works of art for non profit organizations obliged its public use. There was the specific American responsibility towards the taxpayers which also inspired putting the art on public disposal. But European examples were as early as in 50's, as in the case of National Museum and Gallery of Wales. Art rental was the typical example of a structured try to make art accessible to as many people as possible. In Canada, Gallery of Art in Ontario had this service since 1965. "Art Bank Canada", in existence since 1972. worked well in distributing contemporary Canadian art to any interested party. Their reserve was a virtual museum and in early 80's 60% of the collection was always on loan, an example that bears symbolic as well as practical implications for the world of museums.

The participation in conservation is also possible as the example of British National Library shows: some ten years ago, it launched a campaign offering the books in the need of conservation for adoption. The contribution over 200 Lbs entitled the benefactor to putting the name in the book to mark the credit.

The alternative practices favour any identification of users with the museum medium: the sense of involvement, of museum as shared possession, the pride of partaking in establishing and running an institution, - that is the fertile ground for a useful museum. Thus only, the museum can become part of living, like football match or pop concert. But the subtle art of assuring the reasonable professional standard while giving over and stepping down is the matter of the campaign for quality we have to launch finally.

The future as it is and as it might happen

Having "the privilege of speaking the language of the époque" (Pirlot, 1972)[26], namely the language of image, museums are entitled to profit immensely from the upsurge of hyper-media. Properly used, it will provide for the three areas of museum concern: extensive collecting (by adding pictorial information in unprecedented affluence), interpretation (by providing contextual integrated information, participation (by leaving open channels of exchange with whoever wishes to join in). The usual collection may appropriate the compatible shape to these new possibilities: the collections should become smaller and cheaper. The three-dimensional, original object thus becomes a sort of golden reserve guarantee for the value of the communicational currency issued by museum. But, the currency can be issued elsewhere and be valid: we know that a museum can exist without an obvious collection under its vaults. In the case of The Museum of Jewish Diaspora in Tel Aviv, the collection is scattered all over the world and will, happily enough, stay there without discrediting the museum. The museum exposes practically no original objects at all, but the information is original and genuine, composed to tell the story which is both attractive and convincing. So, what matters indeed, is that museum preserves the values it was created for. It can do it by hoarding the mass of physical remnants of some past or by assuring that credible messages are created. When appropriated by the majority, and integrated into their changed behaviour, they assure the continuation and survival of the identity museum has to protect. This is the only true cause of collecting. This all may mean that the Malraux' vision of imaginary museum becomes possible as hyper-museum, cyber-museum or virtual museum. The powerful vision of this honorary museologist was based on the fascination generated by printed reproduction and its distribution.   

Conceptualization of collections

The traditional collection claims to be the identity itself: it stands for it and in its place. It is composed of "originals" whereas the original is only the complex whole the individual objects made part of. What we deal with are the bits and pieces of some former, lost reality. Realizing that, we shall regard all possible scattered elements of the former reality, in whatever shape they might be, as further advancement towards the lost entity. Thus, the care we assign to a collection stored in a museum, will gradually spread to cover things even non-existent in the physical sense,  or things which are not and will not be in the possession of the museum. Leopold Senghor said that with any old man who dies in Africa, an entire library passes away. This could be easily adapted to refer to a museum lost. Any person is a rich museum of memories and filtered experiences assembled as consequence of one's life and one's needs. Besides, all the people literally though unconsciously set up a sort of museum of their own. The museum idea living in any individual, as a responsible and delicate relationship with his/hers environment, is the ideal projection of museum mission. The hyper-media make it possible.

Museums and kindred institutions are created to care for the heritage. The primary aim is not the survival of collections but the survival of identity upon which the collection has been created. If this is so, than it must be that more heritage is still outside museums than within them. Therefore,  museum collection should, ideally, encompass everything concerning the given identity. Of course this was and remains physically impossible. What about hyper-media? Museologically treated, this vast configuration of objects and evidence of any sort would help to build a virtual reserve collection of immense size.   

The future collecting will run along the same logic as a good kitchen in a restaurant: a process indispensable and all-important but behind-the-scene, - basis for the social and cultural act of food consuming. Any good restaurant is sort of cybernetic mechanism, the corrective impulses to the kitchen come from the happy waiters and their immediate customers. Both, restaurant and museum offer a kind of catharsis if good enough: one to the palate, tongue and nose, but both (specially the later) to the senses, intellect and emotions. Yet, as victuals do not make good neither the kitchen nor the restaurant, so the objects in the collection do not make a good museum.

Creating the hyper-museum

Hyper-museum vastly multiplies the ways in which information from different fields and records can be combined and manipulated. Information there can be retrieved or visited both as hierarchical and non-hierarchical, sequential and non-sequential, diachronic and synchonic, pre-designed but allowing also free flow and free-form. The interactive media, computer manipulation of the digitalized image and creation of virtual environment, create new possibilities in communication but also in collecting. Holography was finally married to computer and this offers multiple chances. The latest example of using the synthetic image is 'reconstruction' of the cave Cosquer in France[27]. Most of the material from archives and museums can be transformed into numeric memory. The hyper-museum is a flexible stage where virtual reality, human performance and three-dimensional objects form and information space, - a scientific theatre.

This will not happen without new curators, artists and engineers, - all of whom will combine their expertise with common sense and belief in the better world. Naive as it may sound it is a claim for simple wisdom of survival which has to fight against the fatal greed of the "mega machine" (L.Mumford). As kitchen in a good catering, collections will have to be adapted to very specific uses; the best ones will always be able to serve even the individual customer to satisfy his/hers specific requirements. The flexibility of hyper-museum might be the direction.  Its logic, if transferred into the usual museum practice may change the entire working process and finally help in creating the distinctive profession.

Distribution of collections

There is no reason to believe that collectioning will cease or slow down. The pressure of quantitative perfection is still too strong. If it does slow down it may do so in relative terms: most of the western countries witness the birth of two new museum mushrooms a week, a trend not likely to stop soon. So there will be a parallel reaction of finding out alternative storage or getting rid of the excessive mass of objects. Good intellectual engineering would help in later dilemma, but since it would lead to de-accessioning, it is not likely to happen. Instead of opening space for fatal mistakes and corruption, as in the case of some American art museums, the preference will be in "distributing" the collections while still able to control their destiny and keeping them within reach when necessary.

Re-distribution can only become possible provided the concerned profession is united and mature. The possessive particularism has declared complete self-sufficiency of individual institutions and sacredness of integrity of their collections. This is defensive act deriving from feebleness and inaptitude. It is quite possibly tre that most of the museums could reduce their collections to the minimal size without seriously harming their value (Glusberg, 1986)[28]. Re-distrubuting the collections does not necessarily mean loosing them or loosing their trace. The heritage is meaningful only if integrated and treated accordingly. The museum division is unnatural and will be overcome once the related occupation becomes the true profession. Such a profession will be able to redistribute, to quite an extent, what is a result of occurrence and haphazardous development. This will rationalize the acquisition policy and help both sides of the transaction.

There have been and are now museums which keep part of their collections in other institutions. The latest example of the practice one could have learned from Match stick Museum in Jonkoping, Sweden. Much material is placed in local schools and enjoys care the museum cannot afford. It is there also as a token of companionship. Within the variety of public and private institutions, there will always be willing partners to join in the effort to preserve while profiting from prestige and utility the collections provide.

Another way is inherent to the networking, sort of solidarity in which permanent loan or exchange could ameliorate collections of individual institutions while easing the burden of excessive collections. Organization and tracing of such transactions may not necessarily mean economizing in financial terms, but would spare space and bring new quality. This exchange may overcome even the sectorial frontiers: a museum lending part of the collection to an archive and vice versa.

An informatic retrieval and control of dispersed collections could easily calm the fear of losses.

A heresy would even have it further along the proposed logic: would it be, indeed, inconceivable to involve also private persons willing to adopt and care for certain number of museum objects. The choices and the risks could be graded successfully. The psychological and ethical value of this would be immense and would, in spite of risks, affiliate people to museum with all the good effects it may bring. No thinking or risk is wrong which aims at giving back to life what we have taken from it. One has to bear in mind that the alternative to this thinking is very uncertain future of museums suffocated by the mass of objects, decay of collections and, at best, their infinite imprisonment in the darkness of storages. Of course, museum profession has to get rid of its perfectionism (which wasn't ever that perfect as claimed), be it conservation or risk. The proclaimed perfectionism is barrier to corruption, but it also keeps away the life logic and lot of common sense waiting for too long in front of the doors of museums and conservation laboratories.

Collections for the evidence in cybernetic heritage action

Many museums will turn into corrective mechanism of the contemporary society[29], as one of the means for fighting the rising entropy. The term of sustained development, already spent by pretenders on all sides, is an old new call for wisdom in producing change and exploiting the resources. The level of aggression is such that we need to employ existing institutions and create others to take over some responsibility for corrective action. We need a reaction aimed at achieving the balance and harmony so much present in any sane, healthy organism. This is a rather naive hope, but there is practically no way for museums and similar institutions to escape from their responsibility. What museums have in their storages is not only a powerful resource of knowledge but, taken as it should be, a filtered, selected human experience which has to reach the quality of wisdom. Any other position will be most difficult to defend. Producers of knowledge today are many and more powerful than museums, but wisdom in a communicational medium like museums is rare and precious. Any sound reasoning would suggest that understanding becomes possible when connected to abstracting and subliming and is slowed or barred by over-accumulation: "To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, remove things every day" (Lao Tse).

In constant research of past experience, museums can furnish perfect examples of material evidence in almost any dilemma that we face today. Museum must be a forum and a tool of democratic dialogue. Museums ought to participate in the everyday battle for sane solutions against the ongoing devastation of the social, cultural, civilizational or natural environment. To do differently and claim a distinctive role in society would be a mere demagogy. The estimate is that a thousand living species disappear every year. If systems like ISIS register these changes and establish data and blood banks to keep trace of the disappearing variety, we need an action to slow down the process. The same process is on in the cultural sphere where the loss of languages, customs, oral traditions, and richness of other differences is catastrophic. In both cases, museums should establish collections that would reflect the drama. In the particular sense of evidence, museum collection must be formed to anticipate the communicational usage which aims at stirring up the minds of many and creating upsurge of public opinion. Unless the taxpayers of tomorrow see such an obvious use of the collecting and actions that follow, they will divert their support to more awarding gain. In the tightening space, - financial, informatic, social, - the traditional museum arguments lose ground. 

Pulsation of the heritage sector

There are three basic functions of museum: Collectioning, Research, Communication. These three parts are subject to the consequences of excessive growth. Once important enough, they have a natural tendency to separate and form an independent existence. This was quite obvious some ten years ago. But even before the tendency was there: dislocated storages, exhibition centres and different institutes and centres that take over the research. Increase of stored objects and decrease of those exposed in galleries created the frustrative giantism and ataxia: it is centrifugal tendency that is permanently there and will produce further separated institutions. But there is also the centripetal tendency which is trying to keep the liaison among the parts, sort of virtual museum, or hyper-museum if it attains the effectiveness. This force is based upon the same logic which kept museums together before, helped nowadays by the mighty integrative nature of informatics. This informatic gravity will help to create the future, - heritage care profession. Both tendencies are simultaneous as centralization is good if it is matched by de-centralization and vice-versa.

Recycling of objects  - one among the possibilities

There is this minor, rarely mentioned possibility as well as practice[30], which is related to collectioning through preservation, care and informatic processing. There is a slight chance any institution could fight the aggressive commodization and consumerism. We dispose off with objects (and ideas, by the way) that are not given a chance, that were not fully used, exploited to their implied maximum. Museums of the future should offer active help in repairing objects for the prolonged use. Not any, but those which count and make sense as material substance of continuation. Helping to save objects in use is the wonderful paradigm of basic frustration that created, first collections and then museums. The workshop, as one form of it, is true occasion of "I do and (then) I understand", a perfect meeting point of the expert and laymen, a departure point of a venture which produces an interested, reliable visitor, not an obedient cultural snob.

It is often one thing to impress the fellow professionals and quite another to impress that far more important jury, - the customer. One starts to wonder, though, how long will it take before our customers start telling us about how really bad (or maybe just useless) we are. Or will they just walk away? 

[1] Wilcox, U.Vincent. 1995. Detached storage: the Smithsonian Institution's museum support centre, Museum International, 188 (vol.47, No. 4), p. 22
[2] "A great memory does not make  a mind, any more than a dictionary is a piece of literature", Cardinal John Henry Newman
[3] [ola, Tomislav. Beyond the sharing of knowledge; an introduction to quality in museums. A paper presented at the Annual Conference of the Museum Association of Canada: Sharing the knowledge, 1995.
[4] Thomson, John(ed). 199?. Manual of Curatorship. A guide to museum practice,    Butterworths.
[5] Mendis, Eustache. Museums and the bew technology. Proceedings of Annual Conference of Museums Association of Australia, Sydney, Oct. 1980.
[6] Dana, John Cotton. A Plan for a New Museum. The Elm Tree Press, Woodstock, Vermont, 1920.
[7] Kenneth Hudson often said that when lecturing to international audiences; of course neither him nor me could take any "laws" seriously, but this theses seems the nearest to one.
[8]  Wilson, J.Tuzo, in: Whitman, John. More Buttons Buzzers and Bells. Museum News, Washington, Sept/Oct 1978. p. 47
[9]  Sola, Tomislav. ..................... in: Museums 2000, Museums Association, UK, 198?
[10] Jaoul, Martine. 1995. Why reserve collections? Museum International, 188, vol.47, No.4
[11]  words of the president of the Conservation Committee at the occassion of the !5. General Conference of ICOM, The Hague, Netherlands, 1989.
[12] MacDonald, George F. L' avenir des musees dans le village global. 198? Museum, No 155, p.214
[13] Lord, Barry; Dexter, Gail; Nicks, John. 1989. The Cost of Collecting; Collection Management in UK Museums
[14] idem
[15] Heath, Alison M. 1977. The training of Education Officers; in: Museum education training. A conference of the Museum Education Association of Australia, Sidney, Australia, pp. 5 - 9
[16] Alexander, Edward P. 1979. Museums in Motion. An introduction to history and functions of museums. AASHL, Nashwille. p.119
[17] Lewis, Geoffrey, from his lecture at the Commonwealth Institute, International seminar "Museums in Education", 1982.
[18] Marsh, Georg Perkins. Man and Nature, 1864
[19] Mumford, Lewis. 1986. Mit o ma{ini. Zagreb
[20] Cossons, Neil., 1991. The Museums Profession. edited by Gaynor Kavanagh, Leicester University Press. p. 24
[21] Sola, Tomislav, lecture "Museum centres - corner stones of ... Rikstutstalningar, Stockholm
   The initiative for "central storage" for the museums of Zagreb, first proposed in 1982.
   "Slovenianum" the project of a new, central slovenian museum institution, .... Ljubljana........
[22] Ferriot, Dominique. 1995. Museum Reserve Collections. Museum International, 188 vol.47. No 4/728/35
[23] Dana, John Cotton. 1920. A plan for a New Museum, Elm Tree Press, Vermont
[24] Ludvigsen, Peter. 1995. A Workers' Museum in Copenhagen. Museum International, 188, vol 47, No 4, p.41
[25] Sola, Tomislav. 1995. How Museology perceives information technology. Commet Conference, Swansea/Barcelona, 1995.
[26] Pirlot, Constantine (ed.). 1972. Musee, Film, Television. ICOM, Paris. p.13
[27] The project was presented at the manifestation Imagina 1996.
[28] Glusberg, Jorge. Hladni i vru}i muzej, Zagreb, 1986. p.36
[29] Sola, Tomislav. The prologue to the cybernetic museum, a paper presented at the conference: Museums and the sustainable development 199?.....
[30] Sola, Tomislav. Slovenianum, Ljubljana; a project for an alternative national museum;

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