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Zarządzanie Kulturą, tom 6 (2013), nr 2 / Culture Management, vol. 6 (2013), no. 2

Marta Sukiennik (Jagiellonian University) MUSEUMS IN THE TIMES OF “CULTURE OF EXCESS” – MOULDY SANCTUARIES OF THE PAST OR AMUSEMENT PARKS?

Keywords: „new” museums, contemporary recipient, authenticity vs story, visitor-participant, multimedia interactivity, amusement park. Abstract: The text is a description of changes in contemporary museums and attempts to answer the question where to draw the line between the creation of a cultural institution attractive to the present generation and far from Adorno’s vision of the museum as “family sepulchres of works of art” and its trivialisation and reduction to the role of an “amusement park.” The author, describing examples such as “Sukiennice”, “Schindler's Factory” or “Rynek Underground,” draws attention to the modern amenities and original techniques of communication that attract the young public, stimulate imagination and help to understand the history, art or science, but when used in excess or improperly – can produce the opposite effect.

A museum is an institution called into being mostly in order to collect and protect objects having some historical or artistic value. From the recipient’s point of view, the essence of the institution is in fact connected with making exhibits available. As Katarzyna Barańska has written, the origin of museums dates back to the ancient times and the Mouseion at Alexandria and it has created in our culture the model of collecting and making available these objects which were thought to be beautiful, crucial, valuable and of great importance to science and human development [Barańska, 2013, p. 9]. Thus, a museum is a particular way of sharing what is special. The beginning of the 21st century in Poland was the time of the so-called “new museums,” where interactivity and multimedia became inseparable elements. In 2004 the Warsaw Uprising Museum was opened and in 2007 the exhibition in Kraków Schindler’s Factory was created in a similar theatrical style. In 2010 a modern exhibition in the Chopin Museum in Warsaw was opened while in Kraków the modernisation works in the branch of the National Museum in Sukiennice were finished. In both cases, multimedia help to understand art while technological innovations, located in the Rynek (Main Market Square) Underground, are there to help to comprehend history. Simultaneously, recent years have also brought the triumph of the Copernicus Science Centre in Warsaw, which is an example of a modern science museum, the so-called hands-on museum, where everything can be touched and experienced firsthand while the complexities of the laws of physics, technology and even psychology are explained by robots, computers and interactive displays. Of course these are only some of the examples from the still growing list of “the new museums.” All of

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these modern institutions, commonly called “museums”1, are linked – to a greater or lesser extent – by one pattern: the number of authentic exhibits is not as important as the story behind them. Ralph Appelbaum (founder of the famous company R.A Associates designing interpretive museums) has said that “contemporary museums do not exhibit objects but ideas” [“El País”, 2003]. Therefore, he claims that objects should “solely constitute aids in conducting discourse” [Ibid.]. This opinion can provoke controversy if we assume that the uniqueness of the majority of traditionally defined museums is based on the authenticity of the collected material heritage. However, according to Katarzyna Barańska, “the statement that a collection should be treated as a core, a starting point and the aim of every action taken in a museum, opens a broad space for reflection, which should be undertaken in the name of “sensible management” of a museum institution” [Barańska, 2013, p. 67]. Undoubtedly, exhibits deserve particular care and their authenticity is a value in itself but isn't their history a part of valuable heritage equally with their materiality? Collections of objects – no matter how valuable they are because of their authenticity, beauty, uniqueness – cannot exist for themselves and, according to Gerald Matt, being kept in “mouldy sanctuaries of the past” [Matt, 2006, pp. 13-14] are doomed to fall into oblivion. He goes even a step further – just as the title of his book “The Museum - an Enterprise” – and in a sense he de-sacralises the institution; he even writes that “museums are enterprises the essence of which is to provide services in the general interest and even that today they are not only places for the contemplation of works of art, places providing education for a viewer and developing his aesthetic sensitivity. They are also, or above all, the places where one seeks entertainment, relaxation and company” [Ibid., p. 19]. If we assume that – as Plato said – “Art cannot be a servant to the crowd”, Matt's statement is outrageous. That is why Matt is trying to find consensus and is wondering how a dark and dusty museum can be adjusted to the new surroundings without the need of abandoning its main tasks and losing its essence. Aleksander Krawczuk points out that “many people distinguished by a certain sensitivity admit that they feel ‘overburdened’ and overpowered by the richness of museum collections with particularly extensive exhibitions” [Krawczuk, 2005, p. 244]. Thus, the essence lies in the suitable use of the unusual potential found in the pieces gathered in museums so that the “creative energy flowing from the inspiration with muses would be directed in such a way that its stream does not seize and wash away boundless information and messages but it refreshes and inspires” [Ibid.]. The contemporary culture is characterised by e x c e s s . Man produces too much goods and consumes them in mass quantities, so finally this excess causes tiredness with too many sensations and makes one lazy. On the other hand, it forces one to search for more and more new strong experiences as, paradoxically, it is ever more difficult to satisfy i n s a t i a b i l i t y in this excess. Culture also offers more than we are able to “consume.” And in this mass of content, images and products flooding us from all sides, a great number of people – as Stefan Chwin bitterly stated during the debate under the title “What does a state need culture for?” – avoid high culture as they sense that culture “carries the poisoned gift of consideration of difficult matters, which means that it has deeply depressive content.” 1

The word has been put in parentheses on purpose as the author of this text has wondered many times if the only controversy is not just in calling these “new” institutions museums…

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[http://www.instytutobywatelski.pl, accessed on 27.04.2012] From this mass, from this excess, man often chooses what is easy, light and relaxing. People greedily swallow hot and trendy topics, which are easily accessible and do not require excessive concentration or deeper reflection... It is mostly all that is “new”, that “never happened before” that inspires emotions; however, it would be best if it contributed to entertainment, which does not need to be intellectually stimulating. In addition, the contemporary generation is most frequently described as the generation brought up on computer games, substituting interpersonal relations with the Internet and books with Wikipedia. According to many critics, we seem to be a sort of homo ludens at the probably last stage of development (or rather heading for a decline...) as we are only interested in what brings fun and entertainment. We are the generation looking for strong emotions and impulses stimulating all senses... so (if we accept the above assumption) the generation for which a murky, dusty and mouldy museum is the last choice of a place to spend time in. At “Multiteka” in “Nowe Sukiennice” there is a collection of photographs presenting metamorphoses of the oldest Branch of the National Museum, which before becoming a modern gallery was for a long time a sort of a warehouse of collections filling every centimetre of its walls and separated from visitors by thick ropes. And this is the image of a typical museum remaining in the minds of many people, for example young people, who have their say in the promotional clip of “Nowe Sukiennice” entitled Stories behind the paintings [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKgCzGgWKgc, accessed on 27.04.2012]. When asked if museums are interesting, they respond: “No, no, no! We are not interested in this!”, “Some stupid exhibitions...”, “Boring, boring, boring!”. A campaign that once aroused many (often extreme) emotions among the residents of Kraków was supposed to change this unfair opinion embedded in the awareness of the youth. With the opening of renovated Sukiennice, billboards showing portraits of Helena Modrzejewska, Henryk Dembiński and the famous painting “Frenzy” (Szał uniesień) by Władysław Podkowiński appeared on the city streets. Each of the presented figures encouraged contacts with the gallery through one of modern media. Modrzejewska invited us to “find her on Facebook” (where she had her fan page); the woman portrayed in Frenzy asked us to call her (the phone was answered with the recorded voice of the actress Magdalena Cielecka, who talked about the painting and invited the caller to visit the museum in Sukiennice); in return for sending a short text message to General Dembiński one could receive feedback in the form of facts from his private life... The campaign was also associated with the change in the Gallery: a “traditional” visit might have been supplemented with the use of a special application on a mobile phone that read codes placed with some paintings and thanks to the opportunities offered by the augmented reality it was possible to see a 3D model of Sukiennice and eight films about selected works. And so on the telephone display one could, for example, see Podkowiński’s frustration finalised with the destruction of his image or Wernyhora “walking” out of the painting to tell us about his vision... A great advantage of renovated Sukiennice lies in the fact that modern museum media surround the “past” and help us to understand it, but being at the same time very discreetly composed into stylish interiors, without diverting attention from works in any way and without disturbing traditional visitors. As assured by its creators, both the changes and the promotional campaign of “Nowe Sukiennice” were hugely successful as “in the first four months the Gallery was visited by

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100,000 people” [Ibid.]. However, can the success of a cultural institution be actually measured with numbers? It is a relatively easy task to “attract” people to a certain place, especially if we compare this to sustaining their authentic interest. It is even more difficult to make this interest last longer and be of more than a single-basis nature so that visitors would return eagerly, so that the site would remain in their memory for more than two minutes of an attractive clip displayed on their phones. For this reason, other attractions offered by the museum apart from the even most “modern” presentation of exhibits are extremely important. The National Museum in Kraków (and here I mean all of its branches) has an extremely extensive educational offer for both adults as well as children and teenagers: lectures, courses and classes for the whole family, museum lessons adapted to the age of children, workshop classes for the blind and the deaf. One can say that the museum is even familiar with the “market of experiences” 2 as it is also involved in the organisation of original birthday parties... Young people are a very demanding audience and they will not be satisfied with ordinary lessons which are offered by schools in abundance. Therefore, the Museum organised, for example, the SztukMistrzowie z Krakowa (Magician-Art Masters from Kraków) campaign. This original educational project obviously began on Facebook where information on a mysterious investigation and interesting facts from the Young Poland era3 were published from the beginning of March 2012. On 21 March, more than a hundred students from nine secondary schools of Małopolska region took part in an interesting location-based game. Participants acted as figures from the epoch and fathomed dark secrets of the era of the turn of centuries. The location-based game is an excellent example of how much can be learned through entertainment and what to do to make history or art become very interesting topics, even for our generation which is often criticised as ignorant... The Historical Museum of the City of Kraków also has a very extensive and diversified collection, which can be admired in its fourteen Branches. But recently the attention of visitors seems not to be focused on exhibitis; even the Museum promotes its numerous Branches with a clip entitled “One museum – a thousand stories”. [http://www.mhk.pl/, accessed on 27.04.2012] Lately, the “Schindler’s Factory”, where one can see an original exhibition “Kraków under Nazi Occupation 1939-1945”, has been one of the most frequently visited Branches of the Historical Museum (especially by foreign visitors). The theatrical and film narration is composed of documentaries and photos, accounts of history witnesses and multimedia presentations as well as many objects of daily life, official and personal documents (authentic or not...) that altogether create the chronologically arranged vision of the city’s history. The “Schindler’s Factory” consists of 45 exhibition rooms; it is one of the examples of the theatralisation of a museum in which a visitor becomes a participant or witness of events in a sense, rather than a mere “watcher of exhibits.” Scenes from the daily private life of residents shown with the use of media that go beyond the framework of a traditional 2

Experience Economy is the market for products which are experiences adapted to the client, rather than ordinary goods or services; companies organise memorable events and experiences for their clients, and the very memory is a part of the product [Kostera, 2012, p. 362] 3 Young Poland was a modernist period in Polish visual arts, literature and music, covering roughly the years between 1890 and 1918.

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museum exhibition are not less impressive than the most literally and cruelly depicted atrocities of war. For example, while walking through the streets full of Nazi propaganda, posters and flags, a visitor can feel how much the population of Kraków must have felt imprisoned in their own city. Passing through a tight labyrinth of the ghetto with a Jewish flat located there (in which, apart from furniture, there are also sculptures-silhouettes of its residents) one can feel how many people had to live confined to such a small space. And that they had to live in constant fear – in the place that is arranged as a staircase in one of the buildings of occupied Kraków you can hear footsteps, doors closed hastily, and whispers, all strongly reflecting the sense of constant uncertainty and terror. Thus, sound turned out to be a simple medium, which is not sophisticated in use from the technical perspective but in the opinion of the author of this text can express more than violence shown with images. Anyway, as a discrete medium, even if it is not as attractive as modern screens and holograms, sound seems to have an extremely strong power. During the temporary exhibition “Turner – Painter of the Elements” in the Main Building of the National Museum of Kraków, when one went through one room to the other, one could encounter a dark corridor where one could hear only the rush of rough sea waves and the whistle of a mad wind. Senses stimulated by Turner’s expressive art became even sharper in this corridor. It is a perfect proof that extremely spectacular and complicated technical means are not necessary for strengthening the message of art or telling suggestive stories. Sometimes too many spectacular means may even be disturbing. Sound, which is deftly used in the “Schindler’s Factory”, is definitely excessive in another branch of the Historical Museum of the City of Kraków: the Rynek (Market Square) Underground. As the creators of the exhibition wrote, when “visiting the “Following the Traces of European Identity” exhibition, one can feel the atmosphere of a medieval market as while visiting you are accompanied by, for example, sounds of trade transaction buzz” [information from the exhibition's leaflet] – and the idea is obviously splendid in its essence. However, in practice we are not only attacked by the sounds of the market, screams, bugle-call, clatter of horseshoes but these are mixed with the voice of lector reading information, music accompanying “180-degree screens” and dialogues of crowds of visitors, mostly school trips, that is people at the very “loud” age (perhaps the reception of the exhibition is totally different when it is visited by fewer people at a time, but does this happen at all?). It is beyond any doubt that the whole team working on the restoration of the atmosphere of a medieval market did a spectacular job. However, it is an example of the transformation of a fascinating place into an amusement park in which the excess of stimuli (both sound and visual) attacks one from all sides and is simply tiresome. The place may fulfil its educational function and be adapted to the needs of contemporary youths according to the principle that entertainment can also teach. It is also possible that the author of this text simply belongs to a different generation as her imagination was best impressed by the space free of spectacular multimedia: the part of the Rich Stalls (Kramy Bogate) where a temporary exhibition “Market Square – History Revealed” presenting classical photographs of the performed archaeological works and the discovered remains of buildings from bird’s-eye view can be found. It was only there, in the area where one does not hear the noises of „interactivity and multimedia”, that this “fascinating richness of the traces of centuries long history” [Ibid.] of the Market Square in Kraków appealed to the author of this article so that she could fully appreciate the enormous work done by a group of specialists, especially archaeologists.

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Thus, sometimes a simple message speaks to us much more strongly than sophisticated media. Yet one cannot deny that multimedia and interactive facilities enable the explanation (translation) of many contexts, which would frequently be impossible to demonstrate only by placing a given exhibit in an armoured showcase surrounded by a thick rope. Even the most valuable and impressive exhibits do not always “speak for themselves” and need support. The word “translator” used in this context by Gerald Matt [Matt, 2006, p. 141] seems a very good expression for the role of a contemporary museum's creator. But as the translator has always faced the dilemma of having either a faithful or a beautiful translation, the museum staff must consider searching from a golden mean between the magic of authenticity and the attractiveness of modernity... Space arranged in such a way that it encourages one to stop and think about the presented issues (for example, the room where one can see interesting documentaries) is a very important advantage of the Rynek Underground Museum. Children can immerse in history in a special playroom which has its own small theatre. Thanks to the “MuseumMania” project (an extensive offer of lectures, location-based games, interactive walks, workshops and meetings in all branches of the Historical Museum), the Rynek Underground cannot be classified as an “amusement park,” which have a quite pejorative meaning with reference to a museum. To sum up, great potential undoubtedly lies in the richness and diversity of museum collections. It cannot be denied, either, that there is also potential in newer and newer technical capacities. “Augmented reality” which interprets art, “Quick-Response” codes as sources of information, holograms telling stories, interactive displays expanding knowledge through entertainment, multimedia applications, iPhones instead of guides, spectacular “virtual museums” that make it possible to fathom even the tiniest details of art works, social networks enabling “direct” contact of a museum with the recipient... All these are some of the items on the unending list of technical novelties considered so far by the “blasé generation of excess” as fossilised and totally uninteresting. Modern museums engage all senses of the recipient, affecting emotions and encouraging interaction, so they may stimulate thinking and deeper reflection. Technical novelties and contact with popular media will attract young people but one cannot forget that this is not enough for success. One can speak of success if the stereotype of a museum embedded in the minds of a contemporary generation is changed. Directing the recipient in a wise way, adjusting the visit to the visitor’s needs, age and intellect in a skilful way will mean success. Obviously much depends not only on museum employees or guides but also parents, teachers, school curricula... The spread of interesting ideas of popularising the heritage is definitely the side of globalisation that is advantageous for the culture. One can mention here, for example, the “Night of Museums”. Even though it is sad that so many visitors remember about museums only once a year (and stand in long queues to see an exhibition which is usually open on a few hundred other days in the year), the interest shown by recipients and great preparation of the institutions may prove that it is a very positive trend. Another great example, rather intended for non-mass recipients, is the “Slow Art Day”, an interesting idea of a day on which an institution is to be particularly intent on slow contemplation of individual art pieces instead of fast “consumption” of the greatest possible number of exhibits. Also, attractive idea is that of Nina Simon’s “participatory museum” according to which the involvement of visitors at many levels is a key element of the museum’s activity. There are continually taken steps aimed at changing the museum reality. In the times when the National Museum in

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Kraków organises a competition “Neo at Museo” to encourage young artists to have a “dialogue with the past” through the adaptation of the Polish 20th-century paintings, the criticism of Theodor Adorno, who thought that “museum and mausoleum are connected by more than phonetic association of their names” and who called museums “family sepulchres of works of art,” seems no longer valid. Last but not least, as Barry Lord said, “museums are not for exhibits but for people” [Matt, 2006, p. 157]. Obviously this does not mean that one denies the due respect for valuable exhibits but that the museum must be “friendly” to everyone; “friendly” even in the sense which seems most trivial to a sophisticated recipient. The café in the terrace of the renovated Sukiennice is not necessarily the sign of all-embracing consumerism – this place (really stunning, by the way) gives a moment of respite to a tired mind suddenly forced to extreme intellectual effort... Putting the irony aside, the infrastructure of the institution is really important. It is significant to create the space in such a way that it will encourage one to stay there for more than a dozen or so minutes. For example, in the space of Katarzyna Kozyra’s exhibition in the National Museum in Kraków, there was a lot of space (with tables, chairs and armchairs as well as numerous press and film materials) to sit down and reflect deeply on whether one is a delighted fan or rather a fierce opponent of the artist. Another example is The Copernicus Science Centre in Warsaw, as it is an institution that cares for its visitors from the moment they come in: in the lines that have no end at weekends, impatient children are accompanied by properly prepared animators who show and explain various uncomplicated but interesting “scientific tricks” and thus effectively prevent boredom. And one more point. Modern Museum Creator, I would like to extend a kind request to you: change your bad opinion of us, young people, and do not assume that nothing else but only interactive screens and multimedia applications can inspire our emotions. Even if we are actually more willing to learn by playing, the museum can still maintain high level and need not reduce itself to a common denominator of human mass... It is good when it is not Adorno’s mausoleum or “mouldy sanctuary of the past,” but we do not require it to become a sort of a funfair or amusement park as we already have too many of them in the era of omnipresent Disneylandisation. Of course, modern media give enjoyment to our senses, intrigue us and help us understand many issues but their excess should not obscure what is most crucial. In the world of excess, where nothing is as it seems and technical novelties (together with our boredom...) slowly reach the level where nothing can amaze us any more, perhaps, instead of strong impressions created in an artificial way, we will simply start seeking what is just t r u e . Literature Barańska K., 2013, Muzeum w sieci znaczeń, Kraków. Kostera M., 2012, Zarządzanie na rynku doznań, [w:] M. Kostera (red.), Nowe kierunki w organizacji i zarządzaniu, Warszawa. Krawczuk A., 2005, Świątynia Muz, [w:] Ł. Gaweł, E. Orzechowski (red.), Zarządzanie w kulturze, t. VI, Kraków. Matt G., 2006, Muzeum jako przedsiębiorstwo, Warszawa. Serra C., Los nuevos museos no exponen objetos, sino ideas, “El País”, 16.05.2003. http://www.instytutobywatelski.pl/2392/komentarze/czy-kultura-jest-nam-do-zycia-konieczniepotrzebna [dostęp: 27.04.2012].

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Zarządzanie Kulturą, tom 6 (2013), nr 2 / Culture Management, vol. 6 (2013), no. 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKgCzGgWKgc [dostęp: 27.04.2012]. http://www.mhk.pl/ [dostęp: 27.04.2012].

Marta Sukiennik – graduated from International Cultural Studies (Institute of Regional Studies) and Culture Management (Institute of Culture), both Jagiellonian Univerity. She spent 3 years in Spain, as a scholar of Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha. Currently, Ph.D. student at the Faculty of Management and Social Communication, Jagiellonian University. She is concerned with the anticonsumerism attitudes, the Slow movement as a new trend in management, the role of cultural institution in the times of “culture of excess”, cultural tourism in experience economy and corporate social responsibility. She combines her passion for scientific research with her professional career which allows her to observe trends and attitudes in practical terms.

Muzeum w czasach „kultury przesytu”: zmurszałe sanktuarium przeszłości czy park atrakcji? Słowa kluczowe: „nowe” muzea, współczesny odbiorca, autentyzm vs opowieść, widz-uczestnik, multimedialność, interaktywność, park atrakcji. Streszczenie: Tekst jest opisem zmian wprowadzanych we współczesnym muzealnictwie i próbą odpowiedzi na pytanie, gdzie znajduje się granica pomiędzy tworzeniem instytucji kultury atrakcyjnej dla współczesnego pokolenia i dalekiej od adornowskiej wizji rodzinnego grobowca dzieł sztuki, a zbanalizowaniem jej i sprowadzeniem do roli „parku rozrywki”. Autorka przedstawia m.in. Nowe Sukiennice (jak nazywana jest od czasu modernizacji w 2010 r. Galeria Sztuki Polskiej XIX wieku Muzeum Narodowego w Krakowie), Fabrykę Schindlera (oddział Muzeum Historycznego Miasta Krakowa, prezentujący wystawę „Kraków – czas okupacji 1939–1945”), czy Podziemia Rynku (również Oddział Muzeum Historycznego, prezentujący wystawę „Śladem europejskiej tożsamości Krakowa”). Zwraca uwagę na udogodnienia nowoczesności i oryginalne techniki komunikacji, które przyciągają młodego odbiorcę, pobudzają wyobraźnię i pomagają zrozumieć sztukę, historię czy naukę, jednak nieumiejętnie lub w nadmiarze wykorzystywane – mogą przynieść odwrotny efekt. Marta Sukiennik – magister kulturoznawstwa międzynarodowego w Instytucie Studiów Regionalnych UJ oraz zarządzania kulturą w Instytucie Kultury UJ. Stypendystka Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, spędziła w Hiszpanii trzy lata. Obecnie, doktorantka Wydziału Zarządzania i Komunikacji Społecznej Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego. W obrębie jej zainteresowań badawczych znajdują się przede wszystkim antykonsumpcjonistyczne postawy, ruch Slow w perspektywie nowych trendów w zarządzaniu, rola instytucji kultury w czasach przesytu, turystyka kulturowa na rynku doznań oraz odpowiedzialność społeczna biznesu. Pasję badawczą łączy z pracą zawodową, która pozwala jej na obserwacje trendów i postaw w wymiarze praktycznym.

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Museums in the times of “Culture of excess” – mouldy sanctuaries of the past or amusement parks?  

Zarządzanie Kulturą, tom 6 (2013), nr 2 / Culture Management, vol. 6 (2013), no. 2: Marta Sukiennik (Jagiellonian University), Museums in th...

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