Museum Studies at Tufts University

Exploring ideas and engaging in conversation

Using Historic Places

I’m sure many of you have heard about the Month at a Museum program that the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago does. Last year was a big success, and they’re going ahead with a second program this year. I don’t know about the rest of you, but this hits all the museum-loving buttons of mine that were first tweaked by From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. The recent Night at the Museum franchise plays those sentiments up even more.

All of that is by way of saying that museum spaces themselves – even absent overt interpretation – can be amazing sources of wonder, and more and more museums are doing interesting things to explore and access that quality. One Tufts student in class once described it as exploring the most amazing grandparents’ attic ever – that quality of discovery, of secrecy, all lends itself to creating special experiences.

Tintagel Castle in Cornwall is sponsoring a similar program: go to their Facebook page, tell them what you and a friend would do with the chance to spend the night in the beautiful, crumbling structure, and if your suggestion gets the most votes – you get to follow through.

Anyone have any other ways in which museums and historic sites are using their physical space to inspire interaction in that way?

1 Comment

  1. Cynthia Robinson

    July 27, 2011 at 3:21 am

    Hi Amanda: i love these examples you’ve found. Two days ago my imagination was fired by doing something special — at least to me — at the Open Air Museum in Arnhem, Netherlands. As far as I know it does not have an overnight program but I was able to experience a moment of stepping into the past when the costumed interpreter invited me to sit down at a table in a 1910 kitchen to sample some warm, dense custard with current jam (I think that’s what it was) that she had just made. Sitting there, in the warm, dim, smokey kitchen my imagination was fed by tasting the past. Because of liability, American museums are never allowed to serve food made in historic environments and more’s the pity.

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