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Virtual Issue: Sonic

In July 2019, Curator: The Museum Journal published a special issue called Sonic. As part of that issue, we explored our archives and uncovered seven papers where sound experience in museums was a central subject of scholarly study. These papers were made open access from July 1st, 2019 – December 31st, 2019.

References

Finkel, Kenneth. “History in sound and light.” Curator: The Museum Journal 47, no. 1 (2004): 119-122. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.2151-6952.2004.tb00370.x

Gold, Peter, “Music under glass: New approaches to the exhibition of sound-producing instruments. Curator: The Museum Journal 14, no. 3 (1971): 159-174. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.2151-6952.1971.tb00431.x

Kerr, Sara. “Sound of South Texas: A Computer-controlled natural-science exhibit. Curator: The Museum Journal 27, no. 1 (1984): 49-57. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.2151-6952.1984.tb01682.x

McVey, M. E., L. Fairchild, L. and S. L. L. Gaunt. A microcomputer DBMS for a Sound-Recording Collection. Curator: The Museum Journal 32, no. 2 (1989): 91-103. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.2151-6952.1989.tb00713.x

Ogden, Jacqueline J., Donald G. Lindburg and Terry L. Maple, “The Effects of Ecologically‐Relevant Sounds on Zoo Visitors” Curator: The Museum Journal 36, no. 2 (1993): 147-156. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.2151-6952.1993.tb00787.x

Exhibition Reviews

Marsh, Caryl, “In praise of sound at the Royal Ontario Museum, Curator: The Museum Journal 47, no. 1 (2010): 51-56. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.2151-6952.1998.tb00813.x

Moore, K. “The Motown Sound: The Music & the Story.” Curator: The Museum Journal 47, no. 2 (1995): 275-280. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.2151-6952.1995.tb01066.x

Music in Museums

James Heaton

James Heaton (jheaton@tronviggroup.com) is the president of Tronvig Group, a brand strategy agency for museums based in Brooklyn, New York.

I saw the first major survey of Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson’s work at an exhibition organized by the Hirshhorn in Washington D.C., at the end of 2016. The talk of the exhibition was Woman in E (2016), featuring a succession of live performers rotating through a perpetual strumming of that single note on an electric guitar (Tronvig Group 2018). You could hear this work throughout the museum so it announced itself and stirred the imagination long before you arrived at the site of the performance.

Ragnar Kjartansson. Woman in E, 2016

Figure 1. Ragnar Kjartansson. Woman in E, 2016. Originally performed at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit. 15 January to 10 April, daily for six to nine hours. © Ragnar Kjartansson; Courtesy of the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York and i8 Gallery, Reykjavik

Almost any audio-based work is going to invade other parts of a museum and therefore interfere with other works of art. The hushed default of the museum experience means that the artworks in room A are not presuming to invade the experience of people in room B. It’s a kind of civilized discretion that respects the silence of the other artworks. People who talk loudly in museums are looked down upon; artwork that talks loudly may be seen in the same way. We generally don’t want one work to overstep its natural sphere and infringe on an experience in another gallery.

Ragnar Kjartansson’s The Visitors

Woman in E certainly infringes, but that was not the artwork that captured me. It was instead a slightly quieter piece, The Visitors (2012). This video installation is partly about music and its seductive power, and it also forces the issue of sound in museums. I saw The Visitors again at the Cincinnati Art Museum this past May. There, it was not sonically overshadowed by Woman in E, as it had been at the Hirshhorn. The music from The Visitors served as a kind of siren song pulling you in from other galleries. Intentionally or not, the work steals part of your consciousness from other artists.

Ragnar Kjartansson. The Visitors, 2012.

Figure 2. Ragnar Kjartansson. The Visitors, 2012. Nine-channel video. Duration: 64 minutes. Commissioned by the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich. © Ragnar Kjartansson; Courtesy of the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York and i8 Gallery, Reykjavik

In both installations, the museum visitor encounters The Visitors by walking into what appears to be the house of a rambling southern estate (although it’s actually a farm in upstate New York). The rooms are populated by an assortment of young musicians and a crowd of hangers-on, who are all singing a song for you. They do this for 64 minutes.

For context, the average time spent in front of a masterwork at the Met was measured in 2001 at roughly 30 seconds (Smith and Smith 2001). It’s possible that this has decreased since 2001 as smartphones have steadily eroded our attention spans. When an artwork is not a destination for a visitor, engagement is more like 3 to 5 seconds. One thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three and they are gone, on to the next work. That’s normal for most people. I am guilty of this too, of course. You have to choose what to eat at a smorgasbord. That said, I spent 64 minutes with Kjartansson’s The Visitors. Twice.

It is not really fair to compare a painting to a performance piece. But 64 minutes is still a very long time to hold someone’s attention and the particular way in which Kjartansson effectively inserts genre-bending performance art into the traditionally quiet museum environment has a powerful captivating effect. It is striking for its dependence on music and musical performance, for its immersive quality, and for its presumption to pull you from other galleries and take up so much of your precious time.

I was not alone in my lingering. Others stayed as I did, sitting or standing in fascination with this work. Children too.

Ragnar Kjartansson. The Visitors, 2012

Figure 3. Ragnar Kjartansson. The Visitors, 2012. Nine-channel video. Duration: 64 minutes. Commissioned by the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich. © Ragnar Kjartansson; Courtesy of the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York and i8 Gallery, Reykjavik

The Visitors falls into the art-world category of video art, a stepchild of performance art. With some exceptions, I am usually not a fan of video art. The Visitors proves to be a monumental exception.

I am mesmerized by its grandeur, humor, nonchalance, conceit, virtuosity, balls, performance value and intricateness. I marvel at its capacity to enthrall with such seemingly simple means, its ability to create a sense of tension and suspense with so few ideas, few notes and few words. The words of the song repeat hundreds of times and the exact phrase was never actually clear to me until I saw it on a YouTube clip as a title. My misreading of the lyrics did nothing to diminish my engagement.

Tale of two curators

The Hirshhorn’s installation was spread out, making it impossible to see all nine screens at once, so I was forced to walk around as if I was walking from room to room through the mansion where it was filmed. As I walked in front of each room, that room’s vocal or instrumental contribution to the dirge comes to the forefront and is highlighted so you hear their particular voice and instrument in the chorus of all the others. This has an extraordinarily immersive effect. You are in the house. You are walking around in a live performance. As you walk closer, your head gets in the picture.

At the Cincinnati Art Museum, all nine screens were arranged around one room with seats in the middle so that you could, if you chose, plop yourself down and watch the whole thing from one spot (Tronvig Group 2018). This may have been a concession to the available exhibition space, but it did not force you to engage with the work in the same way. That said, I enjoyed it a great deal because I did not feel as strongly compelled to dart here and there to make sure I was not missing some part of the action. Mind you there is not much “action” except the cannon shot in the middle and a few instrument changes on the part of some of the performers. But there was a strong sense of tension and drama in the setting and I found myself working to figure out the configuration of the house. How were the rooms arranged in relation to one another? Could the musicians see each other? What would happen next? How would it end? What are they saying? What does this all mean? It’s enough to keep me watching and listening in a way that’s somewhat baffling because the means are so minimal. There is no plot, not much of a narrative, and little progress in the song, since it is mostly a repetition of the same phrase.

The tension and engagement were there in both installations, but the sense of being in the house and the sense that you are in the middle of a live performance was greater at the Hirshhorn because of the spread of the work. Having all the rooms accessible from a single vantage point lets you off the hook a bit. This ease of consumption is in line with the tendency of most consumer entertainment. I would argue that it reduced the effectiveness of the work somewhat. It made me less likely to walk up close to each performer to hear what his or her contribution was. It made me less anxious that I might be missing some action happening in another room. It is the scarcity of the action that heightens the desire not to miss anything. Small things are momentous. I don’t want to be over in the back when the cannon goes off or the girl in the bed moves around! The buildup of drama from such minimal means is one of the most impressive aspects of the work.

My engagement was strongly catalyzed by the potent combination of visuals, music and sound design.

Why is music so rare in museums?

Is quiet part of the essential value proposition of museums? Is an art museum, for example, meant to provide a kind of dampening field for the other senses so that sight can have free rein? Museums are indeed a very special kind of public space. Their likeness in the public sphere is rare and I agree that this should be cherished. But it should also be examined.

Most art museums are born from collections. Collections are quiet. We are usually asked to enjoy them in quiet. We are required to be sensitive to the subtleties of the messages and the meaning of the art, often with little assistance. This is a pastime for the patient. And yet the reality of most museums, as noted above, is that people don’t spend nearly as much time with the art as we might hope (Rosenbloom 2014).

The quiet of museums—standing out as it does from so many other types of public space—is certainly one reason so many people like them. It’s a good reason: We are bombarded with noise in so much of our everyday lives that it’s a relief to luxuriate in a public space optimized for quiet contemplation. But silence also causes art museums to lose people who might be otherwise obtainable as an audience. My 14-year-old son, when I force him to accompany me to a museum, solves his occasional inability to connect with the artwork by wearing headphones and adding a personal soundtrack to his experience.

Royal experiment

I was recently given a taste of an experimental teen-focused program at the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels. The program involved some very thoughtful musical insertions into sections of the museum as a way to bring art alive for teens. It worked pretty well for me, drawing me in to a part of the collection I would certainly have passed by without paying much attention. The music in my case was a love ballad from the same period as some of the works in a gallery with an odd collection of medieval and renaissance hearts (Tronvig Group 2018). The experience was mesmerizing. It activated synapses that would have been dormant in the quiet company of the artworks. I don’t have the sensitivity. Intrigued and held in place, my normal unwillingness to bother was short-circuited by this musical intervention.

Part of this effect can be attributed to the sheer novelty of hearing music in an art museum, but the fact remains that the needle moved for me. It was a stark contrast: In one moment, an utter lack of interest, and in the next moment, I am standing in rapt attention, puzzling over the assorted art hearts on display.

Music works on different parts of the brain, including parts that are unlikely to activate with visual stimuli alone, so there is something to be gained by experiments of this kind. It is, however, an intrusive curatorial addition. It was certainly not conceived by the creators of the heart works.

Fear of failure

It is also important to note that the Royal Museums of Art and History include a Musical Instrument Museum, so the institution has trained musical historians who can help curate such a sonic addition to the gallery. In general, art museums prefer to be quiet not only by tradition but also by discipline. The “music people” of the world are not normally in positions of curatorial authority. This experiment I witnessed (it is not ongoing) was a discipline mashup conceived by the education department, not curatorial. It was not a natural occurrence and it was not allowed to upset the core definition or fundamental power structure of the institution. The temporary admission of musical accompaniment to the institution’s very precious objects did not alter the institution’s focus on collections.

This discipline mashup reflects a fundamental tension surrounding the definition of museums: Are we primarily in the business of collecting and conserving, or are we in the business of engaging, educating and entertaining the public? These different definitions are negotiated and maintained by organizational tradition, values and philosophy, financial allocation and staff organization. Few museums have musicologists on staff and few artists represented in art museums are putting sound or music at the center of their work.

Usually, therefore, a soundtrack to the experience of visual art is an instance of the curator adding an additional set of stimuli and thoughts that influence the viewer’s experience of the work. I know this is something that curators are loath to expose, and the fear of making a mistake in an area outside of one’s academic expertise—the fear of failure—is understandably strong.

But all curators are influencing the viewer’s experience within their realm of expertise—they’re just doing so in a way that usually operates outside of the visitor’s conscious awareness. Professional courtesy keeps curators from overtly telling the viewer what to think and feel. This is out of respect for the work and for the visitor. But neutrality is not a real thing. We can only pretend to be neutral or subtly hide our intent. Every curatorial choice down to the lighting is a dialog with the work. At every step, the curator is contributing his or her ideas. The real question is how much we want to expose the dialog between the curator and the work. When do you choose to speak loudly enough to be consciously noticed by the visitor?

Music is an instance of assertiveness that would expose the curator’s role and do so in a realm that curators may find uncomfortable. So mostly the curators stay back behind the scenes. This leaves artists like Kjartansson to take the stage. More power to him.

Curators and exhibition designers could step forward a bit more. I doubt there is much danger of music becoming the norm in museums, but its capacity to selectively enhance engagement is quite real. It is a standing principle for any organization: If you are not taking risks or doing at least some things that make you feel uncomfortable, you are not living up to your responsibility to lead in a world where there are far too many followers, too many players in the groove of the tried and true. Failure is an option, and a good one if the learning you take away from it makes you better.

References

Smith, J. K.  & L. F. Smith. 2001. “Spending Time on Art,” Empirical Studies of the Arts 19 (2): 229-236. Accessed October 8, 2018. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.2190/5MQM-59JH-X21R-JN5J.

Rosenbloom, S. 2014. “The Art of Slowing Down in a Museum,” New York Times, October 9, 2014. Accessed October 8, 2018. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/12/travel/the-art-of-slowing-down-in-a-museum.html.

Tronvig Group. 2018. “Ragnar Kjartansson – Woman in E, 2016.” YouTube video, 0:47. August 3, 2018. https://youtu.be/em4ymhd9wWE.

Tronvig Group. 2018. “Ragnar Kjartansson – The Visitors, 2012.” YouTube video, 0:35. August 3, 2018. https://youtu.be/wwoAc67hq00.

Tronvig Group. 2018. “Music at Royal Museums of Art and History, Brussels.” YouTube video, 0:06. July 31, 2018. https://youtu.be/IXvO3MQinwE.

Breaking the (Museum of) Sound Barrier: An interview with John Kannenberg

Katherine Richmond

Katherine Richmond, krichmond@museumoflondon.org.uk, is Registrar at the Museum of London, 150 London Wall, London, EC2Y 5HN

Abstract

In this age of digital news and social media, our lives have become portable. The Museum of Portable Sound is a reflection on this, being both a sign of the times in its boundary-breaking approach, yet also a catalogue of the way in which sound has been used, experienced and perceived over time since we first were able to record it. This mobile museum was established in November 2015 in London, UK and allows visitors to arrange their experience on a one-to-one basis with the curator, or in small groups at a location and time of their choice. Though portable, the museum has galleries, temporary exhibitions and education programmes. With the museum set to receive its 1,000th visitor any day, I spoke with Director and Chief Curator, John Kannenberg about the development of the museum he has built, how it fosters human connections, and its place within the lexicon of museology and sound art.

Where did the idea start to create a Museum of Portable Sound?

JK: I was an artist working with sounds; I was collecting field recordings of the sounds of museums at the time, but I had been making field recordings of all kinds for over a decade at that point. When I began my PhD course at the University of Arts London, I began thinking it might be a good opportunity to figure out how to make a proper sound museum [inspired by JK’s struggle to find a suitable internship during his MA programme]. I began down an entirely different path, writing up a detailed outline for a physical museum I envisioned being the size of the British Museum. I came to the realisation that this crazy concept of mine really boiled down to that one thing: the museological display of sounds as objects, in an analogous manner to the physical objects in vitrines. I needed to figure out how to display sounds in a way that could convey this idea.

What does a visit consist of?

JK: Potential visitors contact me via the museum’s website arranging a visit. Admission is free. When we meet up, I give the visitor my phone, a map of the museum (which they can keep), and a printed Gallery Guide which contains all the “tombstone” labels for the objects, and all of the things that would usually be displayed on the walls of a proper museum. I show them how to match up the sounds on the phone with the information in the Gallery Guide, and then they’re free to explore the museum however they wish.

There are currently 200 sounds, organised into 23 themed galleries, and it’s about 5 hours of listening material, so the museum is large enough to get lost in. Since I don’t put limits on how long a person can stay, often the visits last several hours.

After they finish listening, we then almost always have a long conversation – about their experience of my museum, their experiences at other museums, sounds they remember that they now realise have been important to them – and it turns into a fantastic opportunity for meaning-making via my collection.

A lot of people have said that once they’ve listened to a couple of objects and start deciding “where to go”. They wander off, get lost, some people have said that they lose the feeling of being in one place and time.

Where does the inspiration come from for your content?

JK: Over the years there’ve been certain types of things I’ve always been drawn to record: bells, traffic light signals, plumbing and heating systems, birds, the sounds of visual art being made, public transit, waterfalls…also anything broken or malfunctioning. I have a gallery of glitches in the museum that includes the sound of a broken MacBook on display in the Apple store on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, and it’s one of the museum’s most popular sounds. When I first started collecting sounds, I was trying to isolate the sounds of things from the sounds of people – I was trying to get these utopian sounds of things without all these bothersome people noises like talking or coughing or their shoes squeaking on the floor. Now I love getting that stuff. So I’m no longer interested in sounds in and of themselves – I’m interested in sounds at work inside their cultural contexts.

In the sound art world ‘Sound artefact’ has a completely different meaning. Is there a tension created by putting sound in a museum?

JK: Yes, it is very strange that they chose the label ‘artefact’ for this. I find it counterintuitive to call something unwanted an artefact, but this word so often has crossed meanings in the context of museums, archaeology and the sound art world. Sound art theorists had come to frown upon the idea of sound as an object, so when I would talk to them about sound objects they would tell me to forget about it. However, when I would mention it to museum theorists, they thought it was intriguing. The worst response I’ve received about my museum was from a sound artist, but it turned out that he had a general disgust for museums in general because he found their didacticism too oppressive.

What is the importance of the way you facilitate the visits (i.e. in person)?

JK: At first I wasn’t sure how much value my presence added to the experience for the visitors, but it quickly became apparent that for many of them, having me there to talk to about the experience was really helpful. I think that’s partially because the content of the museum seems to stimulate memories and ideas in the visitors, and for the most part they seem eager to talk about them. I think being able to have a dialogue about the act of listening, and to talk about listening with someone who wants to listen to what they have to say, plays a large part in the overall experience. A lot of sound art tends to emphasise solitary acts of listening – the Zen-like field recordist demonstrating some deeply mystical connection to the sounds of the universe, that sort of thing. But this project has really brought home for me the knowledge that everyone who is capable of hearing is listening in their own way, and we all can learn things about listening by just listening to each other. It’s been really eye- and ear-opening.

Do you think there are any limitations in the scope of who can access the museum in its current form, or does the format allow you to be more inclusive?

JK: There is a certain reliance on booking via the internet which could be a potential limitation as the internet is not as universal as people like to think it is. I have also conducted visits with people spontaneously though, on the street or at social gatherings. A lot of the success of the project has been through word of mouth, so there’s a possibility of opening this up more. I fully recognise that some people may be alienated by the potentially elitist barrier of having to meet with a person in order to visit. Sound and music generally have traditionally always had gatekeepers (think of the record store attendant) and a sense of connoisseurship that can foster an attitude of exclusivity. I want to find more ways to open up the museum in the future, but was heartened recently when a visitor with experience in advocating for people with disabilities fed back that the museum worked well as an IOS-based structure rather than have a bespoke app, as everything visual is described by audio.

In terms of decolonising museums and bringing to light underrepresented narratives, do you think this is a factor that needs to be engaged with in your museum?

JK: I have been thinking about this a lot. I am essentially a white guy with my own viewpoint and although I think a lot about other perspectives, whatever I’m recording is coming via my perspective. I have tried to be as inclusive as I can within the content, but I have struggled with the decision to include some recordings that share an insight into other cultures, as I feel it would be preferable to have other contributors who can deal with this in a more authentic way.

What does the future hold for the Museum of Portable Sound?

JK: Currently I’m speaking with some other artists in different countries about trying to open up local franchises of the Museum of Portable Sound, like the Guggenheim and the Louvre. That would then open up the possibility of touring my objects to other cities, and bring the collections that would be created by the other artists to my own branch of the museum. I’ve also been learning about more and more portable museums around the world, so I’ve been working on starting an International Association of Portable Museums, which would hopefully spawn a conference and a network of other like-minded institutions. We’ve also got a publishing branch, Museum of Portable Sound Press, and so far I’ve released the MOPS Gallery Guide through it, but I would love to be able to publish other people’s work that relates to the museum’s concept. I’d love to put together a collection of writing about sounds as objects of human culture.

If you could acquire one item into the collection right now, be it a physical thing or a sound exhibit, what would it be and why?

JK: We do have a Physical Objects Collection, and the one thing I want more than anything else for it right now is a Nagra IV-S reel-to-reel tape recorder, because it was the first tape recorder that made field recording possible on a large scale. It’s the classic model that was used to gather sounds by researchers in the World Soundscape Project, and the golden age of film sound designers like Walter Murch and Ben Burtt. In terms of recordings, an authentic recording of a guy (because it’s almost always a guy) in an art museum, standing in front of either a Jackson Pollock or a Cy Twombly, and saying unironically ‘My kid could do that.’

To find out more or to visit the Museum of Portable Sound: www.museumofportablesound.com

Curator sparks international dialogue on ivory in museums

Curator has published a special issue that tackles ivory in museums from a variety of perspectives. The push for total bans on movement of ivory in many countries, and many states in the USA, creates a “non-target” impact on historic ivory objects that are valued for artistic, cultural or scientific reasons. Because of its unique physical properties that have still not been fully reproduced by any human-made material, ivory has been used in vast array of functional items including musical and scientific instruments. Before the widespread use of plastic, a myriad of everyday objects used ivory, including billiard balls. We believe that preserving elephants can be achieved at the same time as protecting and treasuring historic ivory objects that are central to the record of our material culture (note our emphasis on historic). These aims, both fundamental, need not be mutually exclusive. But trade bans have created a debate that brings the two objectives into conflict.

We’re always looking to hear from more voices across the museum field. Have you navigated complex issues with ivory collections, the ban, and communicating with the public about ivory?

Where are the objects? Why is this a museum? What allows us to claim special educational status for these charming play spaces?: Turning to Curator for answers

Rebecca Shulman Herz

Rebecca Shulman Herz is Director at Peoria PlayHouse Children’s Museum and a member of Curator: The Museum Journal’s editorial board. She is also the author of the blog Museum Questions.

In 2015, I became the director of a children’s museum that was slated to open later that year. The museum is lovely – six exhibits in an open, bright, welcoming space. These exhibits, while designed specifically for our community and space, are typical of those found in children’s museums: a water table; a farm area with a market where children can pretend to buy and sell vegetables and a farmhouse kitchen in which to prepare them; a climbing area; a carpentry-based maker space; a ball area; a theater area; trains and science interactives.

This museum, the Peoria PlayHouse Children’s Museum, shares many of the characteristics of children’s museums that Marjorie Schwartzer describes in her review of Mary Maher’s Collective Vision: Starting and Sustaining a Children’s Museum (1998): interaction, entrepreneurship, a commitment to social justice, and the belief that a children’s museum can pay its own way. The PlayHouse is highly interactive, full of opportunities for hands-on experiences. It was built through the entrepreneurship of the Junior League of Peoria. The museum’s founders were committed to creating a museum that served low-income families as well as their own children; they believed (and continue to believe) in the power of a children’s museum to address inequality in early childhood education and cultural access. And they expected the museum to be sustained largely through earned income from admissions and membership.

I love this vibrant, welcoming museum space, and watching the delighted children and parents who visit. But as a museum educator who has spent two decades thinking about object-based education, I found the shift to children’s museums challenging. Where are the objects? Why is this a museum? What allows us to claim special educational status for these charming play spaces? To find answers, I turned to the literature. This virtual issue contains the results of my search: nine articles, selected from the Curator archives, on the topic of children’s museums.Your Read More Link Text

Welcome to the Discussion

As the new Editor of Curator, I’m thrilled to launch the new CuratorJournal.org website alongside Issue 59.3, which is now available online. Here in the Discussion section of the website, you’ll find conversations among our Editorial Board and other readers about articles we’ve recently published in Curator. We consider museum scholarship to be a community enterprise, and I hope our journal can serve as a platform for dialogue among our authors, members of our editorial board, and anyone interested in exploring new topics with us. On behalf of the Curator team, welcome. – John Fraser

Redefining Access: Embracing multimodality, memorability and shared experience in Museums

The authors, Alison F. Eardley, Clara Mineiro, Joselia Neves and Peter Ride, discuss the principles of “access for all” in museums, both physical and intellectual access. They explore this question of multisensory processing in neurologically typical individuals, and case studies of two Portuguese museums that experimented with implementation of an “access for all” approach to the presentation of their permanent collections. The study was designed with three phases: addressing architectural barriers to access, preparation of accessible information about space and objects, and testing of alternative formats to convey this information to learn how to meet diverse needs in different ways. Set in the context of research on multisensory learning, this article discusses why an access for all principle is a majority issue as well as a moral and legal concept. It discusses two case studies where an “access for all” museological approach has been applied to access to the collections, with differing success. The discussion focuses on how an “access for all” approach could enhance learning, long-term memorability and the ‘cultural value’ of a museum experience for all visitors.

Museums: Fostering a Culture of ‘Flourishing’

Douglas Worts: This forum presents a personal view from a museum professional of the museum field’s stake in the sustainability movement. The author takes the opportunity of a discussion within a national museum association about the possible implementation of environmental sustainability standards and argues instead for systematically engaging the entire museum field in re-thinking and restructuring the foundations of culture in our society. The author concludes that sustainability will require rebuilding the foundation blocks of our social and economic structures, both locally and globally, and that museums have the potential to play important roles in facilitating these processes. However, as is the case with all change, new skills will have to be acquired, values will have to be reassessed and priorities will have to be reset. These are the challenges of the 21st century.

“Think With Me:” David Carr’s Enduring Invitation

Beverly Sheppard, Marsha Semmel, and Carol Bossert

David Wildon Carr (1945–2016) was recognized in the international cultural community as a scholar and instigator whose critical thinking challenged museum practitioners to reflect on the purpose and responsibility of their work. In his recent papers and lectures, he argued that those discussing museum experiences are late to enter into a dialogue already in progress—a dialogue which carefully considers the whole person in a community, and wherein thinking with a museum is an enterprise embedded in the learner’s experience.
Your Read More Link Text