Bringing a Museum to Life

Author: Christopher Woodland

As a museum visitor I am often wowed by how museums manage to bring artefacts to life that weren’t made just to be on display. As a museum manager I am often perplexed as to how to bring this about. People of the past made or used these objects, but in our effort to preserve them for future audiences, they can sometimes become static ‘artefacts’ that we are reluctant to have touched, turned, or operated.

Spot a telescope and I want to look through it, see a boat and I want to sail it. Often I will stand in front of museum objects on my tip-toes or squatting down, trying to get a sense of what these objects were like for the people who experienced them as they were intended. To do this I am using my imagination to create a story of my own.

People like stories and museum visitors are no exception; most probably, like me, they are more easily seduced by a good story. It’s our responsibility to weave a tale that balances facts with stories that capture our visitor’s imaginations. A good way to bring this about is to originate some scenarios where the objects may have been used.

When we notice ways that we can bring objects to life we should take the opportunity with gusto. This is what we have done by inviting the international touring group ‘Living History’ to help us delight our visitors by asking them to view some of the items in our collection in a different way. Find out more about this event.

Events are great ways to raise funds and to open a museum up to new audiences. Being respectful to the objects and bringing in a little imagination to spark our thoughts can only add to what we are looking after. A little more controversial is the visit we are getting from a paranormal group later this year; but then again, who doesn’t like a good ghost story?

The Scottish Maritime Museum is open daily 10am -5pm in Irvine and Monday - Saturday 10am – 4pm in Dumbarton. Group booking are welcome and check our website for tickets and further information. All stories are included in admission charges!