Join the museum. Beat the crowds. See the good stuff. Ignore the hype.
|Photos by Peter Rozovsky|
At art museums, it means special exhibitions devoted to what sells, which means the Impressionists in every possible combination of artists, patrons, subjects, and sub-subjects. And at the Penn Museum, it means calling its exhibition of art from ancient Phrygia (the heart of what is now Turkey), where teams from the museum have excavated for decades, "The Golden Age of King Midas" and promoting it with a headline that caters to an audience whose attention span has been diminished by click bait: "What was behind the legendary story of King Midas and his Golden Touch?"
Add a trend toward multimedia interactivity (which doubtless means lucrative fees to the consultants that recommend the interactive features and the companies that install them), and it can be difficult to find, contemplate, and be held by the objects. You know, the things that one comes to the museum to look at. And I was not surprised to discover that the books section of the museum shop had been moved to s smaller area, its former corner taken over by souvenirs and other non-book merchandise.
I don't condemn American museums for doing that they must do to survive, but I do mourn the necessity for doing it, and I urge visitors not be discouraged by the flashing lights. Buy museum memberships so you can pop in for an hour or two of quick aesthetic enjoyment. Remember that there is very much more to a good museum that its headline exhibitions. Join the museum. Beat the crowds. See the good stuff. Ignore the hype.
© Peter Rozovsky 2016