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The Great Museum Debate

10 September 2008 by Angela

Woman standing with microphone making a speech

Dea Birkett argues her case

It was artefacts at dawn last night as The Great Museum Debate kicked off at the Maritime Museum.

Our distinguished panel made a case for the museum of their dreams and had some pretty unusual ideas.

Being a huge football fan I was pretty taken with teen author Bali Rai’s fantasy of a museum where you can create your own interactive sporting moment. He wanted to set Steven Gerrard’s famous goal against Olympiakos to Jimmy Cliff’s ‘You Can Get It If You Really Want’ and bask in the glory of Liverpool’s victorious 2005 Champions League campaign. This was part of Bali’s wish for a museum that was a living, breathing thing.

Janet Dugdale our Director of Urban History argued for a crystal-like museum made entirely from glass with no barriers to interaction and enjoyment. By touching objects, that were perfectly preserved to last for ever, visitors to her museum would be ‘transported through history to meet the person connected to the object’.   

Nick Poole from the Collections Trust wanted his museum to be a shop ‘which transacts in experiences and knowledge’, doing away with the need for public funding for museums while historian Andrew Wheatcroft wanted an interactive museum featuring 3D virtual guides to show visitors around that left people hungry for more.

Dea Birkett from Kids in Museums suggested doing away with the word museum altogether to make them more attractive and wanted to create a space that stimulated all five senses.

Ideas from the audience included a huge museum dedicated to musicals, a philosophers museum of morals, values and magic and a virtual reality travel museum allowing visitors to step into different countries and experience different cultures – definitely a good one for those scared of flying.   

Personally, I think I’d opt for a museum of taste. Visitors would be treated to a whistlestop tour of different countries and ages by eating the delicacies associated with them. I might skip the East End gallery though – jellied eels really aren’t for me.

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