In this post I'd like to consider what makes a museum memorable. Think about it... what is it that makes you come away from a museum in awe? What makes you enthused about what you are seeing? What works for you?
Here are some key factors for me:
Showcasing something of Interest: I am certain that our individual interests play a huge role in determining whether we care for a museum, or whether it makes us yawn. (And museums do make me yawn... and when I yawn, tears come from my eyes. People must think I am very touched by what I am seeing, or very sad!)
At White Sands, Mr. Dreamy enjoyed seeing different sorts of missiles and armament, while I enjoyed reading a first person account of a woman whose family ranched the lands taken over by the missile range.
How wonderful that this museum had enough variety to appeal to two people with very different interests.
Presentation: Museums have lots of stories to tell. The way that the information is shared is another key to making a museum memorable, at least for me. I enjoyed the information in the Military Intelligence Museum at Fort Huachuca, AZ, but I came away bleary-eyed from reading.
Sometimes, less is more. One or two pieces, with interesting descriptions might have far more impact than a case full of artifacts. And, personally, I prefer to learn about something using different modalities. I appreciated the New Mexico Museum of Space History for that reason.
Displays were varied. Some required reading, others had visual displays. Some could be touched. This rocket display allowed visitors to hear the countdown and roar of different sorts of rocket engines.
Emotional Connection: Another facet of a memorable museum, for me, is a visceral connection. Museums that suck me into a foregone time reel me in like a fish on a line. We were met at the gates of Fort Clinch State Park in Florida by a 19th century soldier who stayed in character throughout a brief tour of the park.
We could hear the sound of a fife wafting on the breeze. I was admonished for not having a bonnet covering my hair. I felt as if I would turn around to see soldiers occupying the fort. I felt as if I had been pulled into that life, long ago.
There is a Chinese proverb that states:
My favorite museums live by this creed. They encourage involvement... they have visitors 'do' something. Even the simple act of turning a page activates my brain - well, yeah, I am a simple sort of person ;-)
What about you? What makes your favorite museum memorable? What have I missed in trying to elucidate the key aspects of fabulous museums?