The two essential pillars of museums are: the collection and the society that benefits from it.
— Carmen Valdés (2007).
Museums play a crucial role in society by educating the society over thier heritage, creating unity in a social, politcal and local level. The different functions of museums’ centers on making the museum collection understandable and meaningful to the visitors. And the medium to transfer this knowledge is through communication.
Dialogues is crucial in Museums. And only with effective communication the real dialogues happen; a dialogue not only between the museum guide and the visitor, but by the staff and public, or the visitors amongst themselves and most importantly between the visitors and the artifacts, also known as ‘silent dialogue’. This dialogue keeps the visitors interested, active, and self reflect on what is presented. It is also the measure the museum can understand the impact of the exhibitions.
Effective communication is done by addressing the elements involved in the communicative action: Elements that create
- “Who” gives the message?
- “What” is the content of the message?
- “How” is the message conveyed?
- “To Whom” is the message addressed?
- “Why” is the message given?
The museum, specifically the museum staff, need to understand that they are the ones conveying the message about the collection. Not the collection itself.
What can the museum represent? Not only in terms of exhibitions and items shown to the public, but also the conferences, papers, or research regarding the said exhibition. Stimulating both the expert and the amateur visitor.
How will the message be conveyed to the visitor? Through which sort of communication? The message can be conveyed not only visualy but also through the sound or smell or through subtle context such as spatial awarness or the light intensity. As the visitor expects to gain knowledge within an enjoyable context.
To whom does the museum communicate? Museum audience is naturally very diverse; different strategies need to be placed to be able to speak to the visitors from diverse social and cultural backgrounds.
Why does the museum need to use the most effective strategies to convey the message?
- To Stimulate new ideas and promote people ciritical thinking
- To make people aware of the cultural heritage and importance of institutions like museums
- To give the community a sense of culuturan ownership
- To increase peoples self awareness
- To gradually increase the museums social impact
- To be finally enriched by skills and suggestions of the public
Addressing and understanding these elements helps in creating the dialogues that deepens the understanding of the exhibition or the museums goal, and increases the participation and feedback from the visitors and society that will enhance the museum’s collection development and effectiveness and in turn create more dialogues for future generations.
This is a personal summary from a chapter in the “Museums and Society” course by EDUU and University of Bologna (www.eduu.unibo.it).
Other Sources: Benito, D. (2012). Museums Communication: What do they really offer? The power of preserving intangibles. Universidad de Navarra. Source.