This is a more introspective post than I’d originally intended or even imagined. I guess even an orangutan gets stumped sometimes.
You see, the New York Times had an interesting article about the changing landscape of museums and libraries evolving into more interactive spaces. With this being the buzzwords of the day, it was strange (albeit refreshing) to take a different stance on the matter. In it, Judith Dobrzynski raises a voice of concern that with the preoccupation of “hands on,” “participation,” and “experiences” that these venues are losing not only their uniqueness, but a certain quality of reflection once though inherent with them.
Now this is very interesting thought to me, because I value going to an art museum to soak up the beauty (even the majesty) of works that have outlived ages. It is like reaching back into history itself and seeing a piece of, if not your soul, then someone else’s. It is a very reverent, almost sacred experience at times to me. Likewise I have loved the hushed atmosphere of wandering through a museum and quietly reading each of the plaques in turn, taking that information to become a part of myself. And libraries… there is a beauty in silence sometimes, especially in such a loud world, it can become one of the most precious of commodities that I yearn for earnestly.
Yet in the very same breath, there is no denying the appeal of learning and interacting in a nitty-gritty, get down in the dirt and your hands dirty kind of way. And with so many options available, one almost has to wonder – what choice do these places have? People want it, so it seems to be “adapt or die” mentality. The article even mentions the Las Vegas Art Museum, though, while not officially closed, is shut down with a very limited collection offered in a different venue out on a rotating basis. Why go to a museum when you have the strip in flashing neon lights everywhere? Can these places really bow to the desires (even needs) of a seemingly dwindling demographic that cherishes reflection over boisterous interaction? Is it possible to marry these two ideas together somehow?
I am hardcore in love with the idea of tactile, sensory learning and becoming enmeshed in the world through interactive exploration, so it is strange for me to feel reservations at the potential loss of something I myself treasure. It really does make me wonder if they can somehow exist harmoniously. Can there be the renowned lecturer alongside the grassroots conversation forums? Can there be quiet in tandem with screaming children in an interactive art exhibit? I have to believe there is a balance that can be struck so that the best of both worlds can be achieved. Because I don’t believe these places are losing their identity, but rather adapting to it. But those qualities are special and shouldn’t be thrown aside because there is something new and shiny in front of us right now. It is a perplexing problem, but one that deserves careful consideration and reflection. So, to the library, then? Oh, wait…