Making A Museum Great


April 4, 2011 by David Gillaspie

Inspired By

A long history needs a big space.

A great people deserve a showcase.

Even if you feel some parts aren’t true, be quiet and move along if you know what’s good for you.

China’s National Museum does Chinese history by Chinese historians for the Chinese.  It makes sense to the Chinese, so it serves it’s purpose. 

They’re entitled to their interpretation.  Mao may not walk through that door to critique the narrative strength of the museum through story line, but it feels that way.

He must have been in the room when the top men discussed current events.

Writer:  We’ve got a handle on the distant past, let’s take a look closer up.  How about the Great Leap Forward?

Official:  No.

Writer:  No?

Official:  No Great Leap Forward.  Correct.

Writer:  Yes Great Leap Forward.  It happened.  It’s important.

Official:  Historical importance?  No.  Communist Party importance?  No.  Great Leap?  No.

Writer:  Ten million dead from government policy isn’t important?

Official:  Ten, twenty, thirty, forty million.  Did you notice which party is still in power?  No Great Leap.

Writer:  The Cultural Revolution then?

Official:  No.  No Cultural Revolution.

Writer:  Okay.  I think I get it.  You want a particular kind of history.  I get that.  You called about the size of the Louvre and the British Museum.  What did they say?  You’re bigger?  You’re not.

Official:  The Chairman doesn’t like that sort of talk.

Writer:  That may be, but I don’t know why.  The British Museum holds the goods of the western world.  They’ve got mummies and marble other countries want back.  Do you know where the Elgin Marble is?  Things may change to the point the British Museum returns some of the treasure to it’s homeland, but until then they call it what it is.  Pillage.

Official:  The Chairman needs Elgin Marble.

Writer:  The English looted the world.  They got there first with the most and saved it from destruction.  If Greece held the treasures of ancient empire, Rome got their share.  The British Museum has plenty of Greek and Roman gear now.  England had her time at the top with a vast navy.  If something looked halfway interesting, they packed it up.

Official:  If it is interesting, it is Chinese.

Writer:  Like the Cultural Revolution, then?  That belongs in a museum.

Official:  No.

Writer:  You’ve got to put something in.

Official:  Use a picture.  It’s worth a thousand words.  Here’s the real story, ‘Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, China has entered a new stage of prosperity.’

Writer:  That might be just enough.

Official:  Finally, you come around.   

– Freda Murck, a Beijing-based art historian who has organized exhibitions for museums around the world said that what made a great museum was not its hardware but the quality and daring of its staff.

“What they need are passionate curators to go into those bronzes and textiles and find new interpretations,” Ms. Murck said. “Because a great museum depends on a great curatorial staff.”


By David Gillaspie


One thought on “Making A Museum Great

  1. […] Please nominate other museums for […]

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