Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Every Day Surprises

At an AAM session last week, newly-minted director Nina Simon talked about wanting to offer free admission--some of the time--to her museum so those who came on that particular day would view it as something special--not an everyday thing, but a real surprise (and by the way, love the idea of seeking sponsorships for one day--what a great birthday gift for the person who has everything!)

And then today I came across this review of an exhibition at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.  Holland Cotter begins his review,
On a recent nothing-special weekday afternoon, I walked into the Asian Art Museum here and found a Balinese gamelan concert in progress: clanging gongs, pulsing drums, jazzy flutes, the whole real heavenly thing, with musicians settled cross-legged on a fabric-draped platform and a rapt crowd of museumgoers, many quite young, on benches, folding chairs and the floor.
Another surprise.  There's something I like about walking into a museum that's familiar to me--it's the idea of an old friend--but I'm also really intrigued by how we can make places that are surprising every day.  Not just surprising in the big permanent exhibit as spectacle way,  but surprising in the little ways that museums can connect with visitors.  One answer of course, is visitor-created content.  But I wonder what other answers there are. 

Could you put different single object in a case in your lobby each week?  Could you have pop-up curators giving impromptu talks?  And of course, here's Improv Everywhere's King Philip autograph signing at the Met.   Could your admissions person hand each visitor a page from a historical diary,  written that week decades ago, to read aloud and share?  Could you offer a free cookie, or at a history museum, a taste of a cooling historic drink (long ago, I remember making switchel for an event)?   How about a free return ticket?  What else could museums do?


Meghan said...

I like this idea a lot, particularly those surprises that you can choose to take part in or ignore (for the museum-goer who might not want to participate in an impromtu theather performance, for example). It seems like there might be some cool way to use flash mobs in this context...

Linda Norris said...

Hi Meghan--Great idea about flash mobs--and I agree, the idea of surprises you could do or ignore. Saw another kind of surprise yesterday on a website--at the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum, free to all named Isabella, and in honor of her beloved Red Sox, $2 off to anyone wearing Red Sox gear!

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