What with emails, SMSes, WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat – the list goes on and on – it seems that there’s nowhere to hide these days, but there’s a definite upside to all this connectedness that seems to have invaded our lives over the past decade, and that’s access to information that would otherwise be out of reach for most people.
Can’t afford a trip to London to see the Victoria and Albert Museums’s collection of Imari porcelain? No problem! The V&A’s entire collection is available for viewing online! Finally saved enough pennies to make the trip to see that Monet you’ve been dreaming about? An interactive map will tell you exactly which room you’ll find your favourite work of art in! The internet and the proliferation of smartphones has also allowed for improved interactions and dialogue between museums and the general public. The Ulwazi Programme, a local user-generated project of the Durban Local History Museums is one such example. This project often records information that was previously undocumented, accessing a public that has been historically excluded from both the physical spaces of museums, as well as the stories that they chose to tell.
In this context, the theme for the 2018 International Museum Day, which takes place on Friday the 18th May, couldn’t be more relevant. ‘Hyperconnected museums: New approaches, new publics’ talks to the changing world of museums, as it interacts with a new generation of museum goers. The idea of an international day to celebrate museums came about in 1977, and last year, the fortieth anniversary, saw more than 36 000 museums hosting events in some 157 countries.
As this network of museums grows, and becomes even more connected, perhaps we’ll see even greater participation in 2018! And if you’re busy reading this article on your smartphone, or you saw a tweet or Facebook post about International Museum Day, take it as a nudge to pay a visit to one of your local museums – even in today’s virtual world, there’s nothing quite like the real thing!
Image of the Durban Natural Science Museum courtesy of www.indurban.co.za