Monday, November 17, 2014

Relevance of Museums Today

Dr Abe V Rotor 
Burning of St Paul building WWII, mural by AVRotor
Seven Sisters, sculpture by Julie Lluch, detail

Life size icons at Museum's entrance greet visitor.

Porcupineendangered indigenous animal

Rare starfish. Spines make a fine wind chime.

Isn’t a museum something concerned with antiques and the things of the past?” A colleague once asked me.

“No, no.” I sounded defensive. Then I began scanning his thoughts. There I saw the image of past civilization and institutions. No wonder he was telling of the Egyptian museum, the Aztecs in the Mexican Museum, the American Indians in the Smithsonian, the Renaissance Gallery, and the dinosaurs in the Chinese Museum in Beijing. All these have long lost their glory and now they are remembered in glass cases and fossils. Then my thoughts turned to SPCQ. Why a museum on its 50th anniversary? My friend flashed a devilish smile.

He played the devil’s advocate; I played the student’s role. He raised the mercury, so with my enthusiasm. I did my assignment. There are museums like the giant Smithsonian Complex and the provincial Manitoba museum in Winnipeg that do not only focus on the past. The space museum projects man’s lofty dreams to conquer space. Hirshorn is a gallery that is both subjective and prospective, veering from the traditional and classic. The Tel-Aviv museum features a documentary of the Iran-Iraq war. The trend of museums today is to link the past and the present, and beat the path for the future. In no other time in history have museums tried to project the fullest breadth of human accomplishments and potentials. They exude a touch of reverence to the Creator, reflecting his faith in the institutions which he built in spite of their imperfections, and man’s glory and admittance of failure – all these point out to one thing: that he is the most special creature that ever lived.

I remember Dr. Dillon Ripley’s words. “ if it is truly active and reflective of its own time, a museum will, like any living thing, change and grow.”

Dynamism lies in keeping abreast with the times - our fast changing modern times, when man in the last two centuries alone, has discovered more things than what all his ancestors probably did.

Humble Beginning of a Museum

In the mind of Dr. Ripley, of course, is one of the magnitude and prestige of the Smithsonian in which he had long been the curator and director. Or those of the internationally known institutions like the Chicago Museum of Natural History, or the Vatican Museum. Then there is Rikj Museum of Holland and the great Louvers of France. Name a country and you will see the finest of her culture in the native land’s museums. But the entire thing has had its early beginning - most probably like how the SPCQ museum got started.

The question is that, “How can a newly born show its worth?” But who does not love a baby? The baby itself is love. He holds the key of idealism in this world of ours. The great promise of God in man is mirrored in his smile and innocence. And he has all the potential that this world would be better to live in with him, as he grows, as he lightens the flame of idealism which in many of us adults had long been extinguished. The SPCQ museum is a baby that rekindles our heart, that tells us that this world will go on despite its imperfection – because we know how to start life again, though the rebirth of faith and hope.

Note: Excerpt from an interview with the author during the inauguration of the SPCQ Museum in 1994

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