Samfunnsaktøren

I november intervjuet jeg Lars Emil Hansen, som er Oslo Museums nye direktør, og Linken Apall-Olsen, som er museets avdelingsleder for by- og teaterhistorie. Temaet for intervjuet var Oslo Museums målsetning om å være en utfordrende samfunnsaktør. Lars Emil Hansen og Linken Apall-Olsen har begge mange spennende tanker om hva et bymuseum skal og bør være. Intervjuet kan leses i desemberutgaven av Museumsnytt.

Hva er en god museumsblogg?

Jeg vil gjerne at denne bloggen skal være en kilde til inspirasjon og kunnskap om museumsarbeid. Et skritt på veien mot det målet er å sette opp en liste over gode blogger og nettsider om temaet. For å finne ut om det er noen viktige museumsblogger jeg har oversett spurte jeg på twitter om tips til gode skandinaviske museumsblogger. Oslo Museum (@OsloMuseum) svarte at de har en nystartet blogg, og spurte: «Får vi spørre hva du vil se mer av? I din samling av blogger, hva skiller de gode/interessante fra de dårlige?»

Det hadde jeg ikke tenkt over, og må innrømme at jeg har plukket ut blogger ut i fra førsteinntrykket. Men, ubevisst har jeg nok en god idé om hva jeg synes er interessant og ikke, og jeg vil prøve å sette ord på det her.

Jeg vil begynne med å skille mellom blogger som handler om museer og det å drive et museum, og blogger som drives av museer og som er en del av museets formidling av sitt område (byhistorie, naturvitenskap, kunst osv.) Jeg har vært mest oppmerksom på blogger som handler om museer, og vil nok hovedsaklig linke til blogger som diskuterer museumsdrift og formidling. Blogger om museumsdrift kan også være skrevet av museet selv, slik tilfellet er med Oslo Museums nye blogg. De ønsker å invitere publikum med inn bak kulissene. Det samme gjør bymuseet i London i sin blogg «The working life of Museum of London». Museene henvender seg på denne måten både til fagfeller og besøkende. Jeg har ikke lest Museum of Londons blogg veldig nøye, men det ser ut som de har satset på en fortellende og informerende stil, med lange innlegg og få kommentarer.

Oslo Museum avslutter sitt første blogginnlegg med disse to avsnittene:

«Vi skal forsøke å komme bak fasadene på museet, være aktuelle, litt morsomme, ganske seriøse og om mulig litt personlige. Kanskje vi klarer å engasjere publikum på veien?

Oslo Museum har satt seg som mål om å bli Norges beste museum på sosiale medier. Bloggen innfrir nok ikke dette målet alene, men kan sammen med de andre sosiale mediene vi bruker, vise nye sider ved museet.»

Spørsmålet om å engasjere publikum er avgjørende for om museets blogg skal bli en suksess, og her kommer vi inn på hva som gjør en museumsblogg, som alle andre blogger, god og inspirerende. En av de beste museumsbloggene jeg kjenner til er skrevet av Nina Simon og heter Museum 2.0. Den handler, vel å merke, om hvordan filosofien som ligger i web 2.0 kan tas i bruk i museumsdesign, og har kanskje derfor en fordel når det gjelder å lykkes i bloggmediet. Men det som gjør bloggen så god er at den er diskuterende, ikke informativ. Nesten alle innleggene diskuterer en problemstilling knyttet til museumsformidling, og Simon oppfordrer eksplisitt til kommentarer fra leserne. Samtidig knytter hun problemstillingene til helt konkrete, virkelige eksempler. På den måten blir det sammenheng mellom det fysiske museumsrommet og den virtuelle bloggen. Nå skal det sies at Simon er spesialist på hvordan man inndrar og aktiverer publikum i museumsutstillinger, og da er det kanskje ikke så rart at hun også er god til å aktivere bloggleserne sine.

Jeg tror at om Oslo Museum klarer å skrive en blogg som er diskuterende, aktuell og utadrettet så vil de helt klart holde på min interesse. Med utadrettet mener jeg at bloggen skaper en kontekst rundt innleggene sine ved å referere til, og linke videre til, relevante saker som er diskutert andre steder, til avisartikler, til andre museer osv. Ved å gjøre dette kan de skape seg en plass i den offentlige debatten, eller i museumsmiljøet, og ikke lage et lukket rom som bare handler om Oslo Museum.

Qualified, basic and technical media

p { margin-bottom: 0.21cm; }In the last post I described how a painting was used in two different ways in exhibitions at the City Museum of Oslo. In this post I will introduce one aspect of a media model developed by Lars Elleström, as a tool to describe the use of the painting. One of the things I find most useful with Elleström’s model is the way he has split up the term medium into three categories, qualified media, basic media and technical media. Instead of trying to find one clear definition of what a medium is, he has acknowledged that we use the term medium for a group of things that we might need to differ between when theorizing it.
When we talk about media, we often talk about specific media genres, like newspaper, TV-show, movie, radio program etc. Sometimes we also include artistic media like painting, sculpture or art photography. This is what Lars Elleström calls qualified media. That means there is a conventional understanding of how the medium is used and what it looks like, and how it has developed through history. Elleström use this term to avoid confusion with what he calls the basic media, which is written text, still image, moving image, three dimensional form etc. Qualified media always consist of basic media, but basic media do not necessary need to be qualified media. Both qualified and basic media need a technical medium to be ‘realized’ or ‘displayed’. A newspaper needs paper, a TV-show needs a TV, a novel needs a book, and a dance needs a body.
So, let’s try to use these terms on our example, the painting. The original painting is a qualified medium, a painting, realized through the technical medium paint on a canvas, built up by the basic medium still image. This is not so interesting on its own, but what happens when the painting is turned into a digital copy, enlarged and printed on a wall? Now the qualified medium is not so easy to name, but maybe it is mostly understood as a wallpaper. This wallpaper is realized through the technical medium print on wallpaper. The qualified medium wallpaper represent the technical medium paint on canvas which mediates the qualified medium painting. Elleström explains that technical media mediates basic and qualified media, while basic and qualified media can represent anything, including technical media or other qualified media. The qualified medium painting represent a suburban exterior, while the qualified medium wallpaper represent both the qualified medium painting and the suburban exterior.
To just use the terms do of course not reveal anything new about this example, but I think it is interesting to be able to describe precisely what role the qualified medium painting do have in the wallpaper version. Another interesting question is which aspects of the qualified medium painting and the technical medium paint on canvas is the technical medium print on wallpaper able to realize? And what does it mean for our experience of the wallpaper that we understand that what is represented is the qualified medium painting? How to use Elleström’s model on exhibitions is something I will discuss in my thesis, so this is just the first steps to try how it can work. The terminological division between qualified, basic and technological media is only a small part of the model and I will try to use other parts of it in other posts.

Media genres in the exhibition

p { margin-bottoIn the end of January, during my small tour in Norway, I visited the Museum of Oslo. The Museum of Oslo consists of three museums, Oslo City Museum, Oslo Theatre Museum and Intercultural Museum. At the City Museum I saw an interesting example of the role media genres play in exhibition design and how different media genres do affect how we understand a content. The example is a picture of a suburb exterior from Oslo, which is to be found in two different versions at the City Museum. The first one is the original painting by Arne Stenseng with the title Lambertseter 1957. This painting is hanging in the first room of the main exhibition which deals with the history of Oslo. This first room gives you a summary of the history of Oslo, and the painting is there to represent the building of new, and better, housing for workers outside Oslo, close to the nature. The other version of this picture is to be found in the temporary exhibition about the suburbs, or satellite cities, around the central parts of Oslo.
As a part of this exhibition there are three small rooms decorated as suburb apartments from respectively the 1950s, the 1970s and one from around year 2000. The second version of the picture is used as an element in the 50s apartment. When you enter the 50s apartment you have a living room interior in front of you on the left side of the room. You see a couch, a table, a chair, a shelf with knick-knacks and some pictures on the wall, all typical for the 50s. On the right side of the room, the illusion of a real apartment is interrupted by a wall with four showcases. Under the showcases there is white text written on the grey wall. On the left side of the wall you find the second version of Stenseng’s painting. The painting is copied and blowed up so it covers the whole wall from top to bottom.
Why is this example interesting?
When I first saw the enlarged poster version of the picture, I didn’t know it was originally a painting, i.e., a work of art. The picture caught my attention because the rest of the exhibition relies heavily on enlarged black and white photographs. This means both the picture’s colors and the fact that it is painted, made it contrasts with the rest of the exhibitions illustrative elements. My first questions were therefore related to how drawings or paintings work differently in an exhibition than photographs. When photographs are used in an cultural history exhibition, it is with an unsaid promise that the photograph is showing how something was. It is giving you a peek into the past, and, to some extent, an objective peek. The objective character of the photograph is a debated subject and I will not go into that here, but I believe that for the general visitor, a photograph is mostly understood as direct impression of reality. Paintings’ and drawings’ relation to reality are different, because they are, in a stronger sense than photography, made by someone. We more easily doubt a painting’s trueness than a photograph’s. Therefore I wondered, what kind of role had the picture of the suburb exterior, why not use a photograph? Was it just a decorative element in the 50s apartment? When I then afterwards noticed the original painting in the main exhibitions first room, I became even more interested. Do the visitors’ understanding of the picture change when the picture’s medium changes? And how do we understand works of art in a cultural history museum?
Some thoughts from the curator
I was so lucky that I got the opportunity to talk with Linken Apall-Olsen, the head of Department for Exhibitions and Public Services at the City Museum, about these questions. She tells me that the version of the painting in the suburb exhibition make conversations among the visitors. Maybe, she wonders, it is because people look for a message in the picture. It is different from the photographs because it is carefully thought through by the artist, and not just a snap-shot like a lot of the photographs. The colors also gives it an own aesthetics, which is not only different from black and white photographs, but also from color photographs. Linken says she uses the picture a lot in her guided tours of the exhibition. The painting communicates some of the 50s optimism, and she points to the swallows flying high above the buildings, which refers to the proverb that says if the swallows fly high it will be nice weather. This makes the picture more than an aesthetic element, it also provides information strongly connected to the exhibitions message about how suburbs were understood and why they were build in the 50s. I ask if she talks differently about the original painting and the copy when guiding visitors. She answer that she usually mentions the painter’s name, when talking about the original painting, something she almost never do in the suburb exhibition. Here it is the different stories in the picture, like the swallows, that is important. These small stories are, literal, enlarged in the copy, and therefore get more attention.
Nest step: theory
I will follow up on media genres in exhibitions and this specific example in my next blog post. There I will introduce a media model developed by Lars Elleström, which I mean can be useful for theorizing media use in exhibitions. The purpose of Elleström’s model is to improve our understanding of the differences and the similarities between different media. I find this model very interesting for the understanding of the intermedial aspect of museums exhibitions, and it gives some terminological tools that might help us describe different media in the exhibition more precisely.