Now, eventually you do plan to have dinosaurs on your–on your dinosaur tour, right?

Check out Katy Lasdow’s write-up of her visit to the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum. After forking over twenty-five bucks, sitting through a mock town meeting, pretending to dump tea chests from the deck of a replicated ship, and watching two holographic women talk about the coming war, she got to see a grand total of one original artifact.

“When does a museum stop being a museum,” Lasdow rightly asks, “and become something else?”

My former boss used to say, “A museum is a communication device.” I agree. A museum should do more than collect and display artifacts; it should use the tools at its disposal to contextualize those artifacts. The days when an exhibit consisted of a conglomeration of artifacts, labels, and pictures are over. But the use of artifacts and other objects to communicate and instruct is still the distinguishing feature of museums. That’s what separates the museum exhibit from other means of communication and instruction.

There’s no magic ratio of artifacts to gizmos that works for each and every exhibit, but when there’s only one artifact in the whole building, one wonders why they decided to call it a museum in the first place, whatever the quality of the information being conveyed or the nobility of the planners’ intentions.

To read a couple of my older posts along these same lines. click here and here.

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2 Comments

Filed under Museums and Historic Sites

2 responses to “Now, eventually you do plan to have dinosaurs on your–on your dinosaur tour, right?

  1. I’ve been meaning to see this for years. Right in my neck of the woods, but it was closed up for renovations for a very long time. The “artifact” as I understand it, used to be the replica ship. That was the main attraction. Sounds like it might be stretching it a bit, but if they are expanding their interpretation to a larger context, that’s probably not a bad thing.
    Patrick

    • Michael Lynch

      They’ve got one of the original chests from the Tea Party, but apparently that’s the only historical artifact in the whole museum.

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