Exhibitions sc exhibitions Magazine
I Was There #MuseumSelfie Day Zahi Hawass Discovering Tutankhamun Wilfried Seipel The Adventure of an Exhibition Breakfast at Sotheby’s The Touring Exhibitons Meeting James Durston Why I Hate Museums
Do You See What I See?
SC Exhibitions Magazine 2014
Welcome! Editorial by Christoph Scholz, Director at SC Exhibitions
A Lively Debate in a Quiet Place? Curators, journalists and critics currently discuss the progress of Museums and exhibitions in times of digitalization, globalization and social media. We have compiled controversial opinions and amusing trends from this ongoing dicussion.
rom Picassos to Sarcophagi, Guided by Phone Apps: Edward Rothstein from F The New York Times criticizes the way Museums make use of smartphone apps.
pen Letter to Traditionalists: Nina Simon, book author and Executive Director of O the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History confronts Mr Rothstein’s and Arianna Huffington’s criticism in an open letter.
Why I Hate Museums: James Durston, Senior Producer at CNN Travel, has written several opinion articles, most of which seem to upset his readership. This one sparked a particularly controversial discussion.
“ I Was There” On the occasion of the #MuseumSelfie day Catrin Lorch, writer for the Süddeutsche Zeitung, casts a light on how we perceive Museums and the arts in the future.
Come Together: Join the community at the Touring Exhibitions Meeting 2014 at the Olympic Park in Munich.
Re-creating a Moment of Wonder: The Adventures of an exhibition from Ancient Egypt to Munich and via half of Europe to Kansas City and Baku.
Zahi Hawass: The Egyptian archaeologist and former Minister of Antiquities enlarges on the discoveries in the Valley of Kings after Howard Carter in his latest book Discovering Tutankhamun.
Let Us Edutain You: SC Exhibitions Director Christoph Scholz on the expertise required by private enterprises when they organize and market touring exhibitions.
e Fascination in History: Guido Knopp, Germany’s best-known historian, author Th and producer of TV documentaries, examines why we are so intrigued by the past.
Art photography: Von Hagens by Sanges. Photography created by Marco Sanges will be exhibited alongside the “Body Worlds” exhibition in Munich.
pening the Lionheart: Paleopathology Superstar Philippe Charlier on the essential O importance of cooperation with historians and curators for his work.
From Titanic to Pompeii: A look at our esteemed partner Premier Exhibitions, Inc. and their current productions around the globe.
Inside and Around SCE: Meet the people that make up the most ambitious producer of and local host for touring exhibitions in Central Europe.
Cover image “Do You See What I See?”– Photo of the Pellertorturm, Nuremberg, taken by photo blogger Sugar Ray Banister. Taken from the photo exhibition “Places of the Renaissance” that accompanies our local presentation of “DaVinci – The Genius” in Nuremberg running 12 April through 10 August 2014. See page 23.
You hold in your hands the very first edition of the annual SC Exhibitions magazine. We would like to present our work to you on these pages. In 2008 we took our first step into the world of exhibitions when “Tutankhamun – His Tomb and His Treasures” celebrated its premiere in Zurich. The exhibition comprises a reproduction of the legendary burial chambers of the Egyptian pharaoh with over 1,000 replicas crafted with the utmost care and true to the originals. An extraordinary project, which was initially met with skepticism from experts and the exhibition industry. However, our venture suceeded. Today, three Tutankhamun exhibitions are on display around the world – it is THE relevant Tutankhamun exhibition, and has long since evolved into a melting pot of Egyptian culture. Our project is accompanied by extensive supporting programmes and book publications. We are proud to say that we are supporting a renovation project this year in the Tutankhamun galleries of the famous Egyptian Museum at Tahrir Square in Cairo, which will be presented to international media on 15 November 2014 – the Museum’s 112th anniversary. As local promoter in Germany and Austria, we set up distinct highlights: We kick off a new annual series “Exhibition Summer at the Olympic Park” in Munich this April with the probably most successful exhibition in the world: Gunther von Hagens’ “Body Worlds”. We are supporting the Touring Exhibitions Meeting as the main sponsor and organizer. The event takes the form of an industry conference for producers and promoters of touring exhibitions from the public and private sectors. At our second meeting in Berlin last year, we welcomed 140 delegates from 31 countries. Together with our partners and sponsors, we would like to invite you to our next meeting from 12–14 September in Munich’s Olympic Park. We are driven by the idea of enabling a broad audience to enjoy education and knowledge in the form of experiences and encounters. In the dual role of producer and local host for international exhibitions, we have a broad spectrum of means for realizing this goal. To tell you about our work we are publishing our annual SC Exhibitions magazine. You find our first edition
on the occasion of the Annual Meeting of the AAM in Seattle, the Annual Conference of ECSITE in The Hague, and the Touring Exhibitions Meeting (TEM) in Munich. We convinced several authors and companions to provide you with interesting and varied reading. Edward Rothstein, cultural critic-at-large for The New York Times, describes his experiences with Museum apps on page 10, and the Executive Director of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History, Nina Simon, responds to his criticism on page 12. Guido Knopp, Germany’s most famous historian, examines why we are so fascinated by history on page 23. Finally, CNN journalist and TEM 2014 Keynote Speaker James Durston even explains why he hates Museums on page 30. Who is behind SC Exhibitions? We are a division of the German culture and events promoter Semmel Concerts. We have been involved in live entertainment for over 20 years. Semmel Concerts is an affiliate of CTS Eventim AG, Europe’s leading ticketing and live entertainment corporation. We are one of the leading promoters and producers in Germany and we grow internationally. “Semmel” is the name of company founder and managing director Dieter Semmelmann. And “Concerts”? For some time now, “Concerts” means more to us than promoting concerts: today this means cultural experiences and get-togethers, including concerts, shows, ballet, lectures, media production, book publishing, merchandising, venue operation – and exhibitions indeed. Are you interested in our Tutankhamun exhibition? Do you want to bring your exhibition to the German-speaking territories? Do you have an idea for an exhibition we might produce? Then we look forward to talking with you. Please feel free to approach us at one of the conferences or write to us at director@sc-exhibitions. com.
Photo: Laurence Underhill
Welcoming international journalists in Cairo Christoph Scholz Director SC Exhibitions email@example.com
Visit us for more information, opinions, photos and videos on
www.sc-exhibitions.com and feel free to contact us there.
2 | SC Exhibitions Magazine 2014
SC Exhibitions Magazine 2014 | 3
Trend Museums around the globe attract increasing numbers of visitors who long to see, to experience and to expand their knowledge. And social media has become a full-scale broadcasting channel for the Museums and their visitors: they publish what they have seen, what they have learned – and what they looked like in the process. This concerns Catrin Lorch of the Süddeutsche Zeitung:
More and more people have taken to posing in Museums – in front of the Mona Lisa or modern sculptures. They post their photos on the Internet. How is this changing our perception of art?
she discusses the Twitter-initiated phenomenon #MuseumSelfie day.
“Can you do better?” asks the BBC’s website, showing a photograph of the Mona Lisa. A third of the photo, however, is taken up by a blonde man in a checked sweatshirt who stands squarely in the foreground, smiling genially. It is #MuseumSelfie day on Twitter, the microblogging service. The phenomenon is not new, to the extent that there is already a day for it. More and more people are standing in front of art in Museums, stretching their arms out as far as they can, and taking a picture of themselves with their smartphones. The art in the background is usually not only in plain view, but is also often humorously incorporated into the photo. Who exactly it was that declared last Wednesday to be #MuseumSelfie day could not be established, but Twitter was soon awash with snapshots of stuffed animals in front of columned entrances. People captured their reflections in the glass of display cases or, like one girl at the Art Institute of Chicago, made a piece of golden art float like a crown over her hair. Another positioned a shimmering gold Brancusi head over her shoulders. Selfies with paintings in the background were particularly profuse. A few stood in front of landscapes but most people competed directly with other portraits, leaving the old faces looking even more pallid in their lace collars. Art history and art criticism have extended the range of their critical eye to include contemporary visual media for a long time now – but rarely have they come across worlds as irreconcilable as those on display in the many photos. On the other hand, whoever encounters school classes in Museum halls today knows that wherever iPhones and Samsungs are forbidden, children would rather chain themselves to the gates with their phone chargers. If you expect galleries to be constructed in a user-friendly way, you should be wondering what exactly the case for suppressing communication in Museums is – where in a few years data glasses will no doubt document everything anyway. And it would probably now appear absurd to a whole generation to uncouple itself, ironically in its leisure time, from the data stream that it uses all day. Why in Museums of all places, where there is supposedly so much to see and discuss that can be uploaded to the information superhighway? In any case, it has been a long time since the 4 | SC Exhibitions Magazine 2014
by Catrin Lorch Photo: Yulia Mayorova / Shutterstock
“I Was There”
first image that one encountered at a Museum was the crossed out camera icon. Most German institutions allow photography in their collections; it only remains prohibited in special exhibitions, which mainly display pieces on loan – or where the artists are obstructive. While David Hockney insisted that even journalists sign complicated contracts a few years ago at the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, the younger generation is more inviting. The British artist Phil Collins, who recently built caravans fitted with screens there, wants as many visitors as possible to photograph and film them. Restrictions are imposed only
where the art is at risk – at the Museum Brandhorst in Munich there has been a ban on photography ever since someone knocked over Katharina Fritsch’s display stand full of Madonnas while taking a picture. The Frankfurt Städel Museum, on the other hand, maintains an avant-garde stance. Just hours before the start of #MuseumSelfie day, Director Max Hollein expounded on future prospects on a panel at Munich’s Digital-Life-Design Conference entitled “From Museum to Playstations”. There will be free wireless LAN access for all visitors at Hollein’s institution from the middle
of the year. “In the future, it will be possible for visitors to share their impressions, experiences or favourite works in the Museum itself via social networks,” he stated in the announcement. In addition, the Museum will open an Instagram account “so that the graphic medium becomes even more involved in communication with visitors”. The Kunsthalle Schirn, also directed by Hollein, scored a success last autumn by enabling visitors to the exhibition “Street Art Brazil” to post pictures via a hashtag and become part of a real-time photo wall in the foyer. It maintains its own channel on YouTube and smartphones and tablets are
welcome in the Städel Museum; only flash bulbs and tripods are not allowed past the door. Old photographic technology with artificial light and spindly equipment is dangerous for canvases and sculptures.
What are the photos about? “In pre-digital times, the artwork was the subject. Now it’s the visitors,” says a critic The model for the new openness in Germany for all things technological could have been a campaign by the New York Metropolitan Museum, which some years ago overwrote advertisements with the slogan “It’s Time We Met” and showed pictures of visitors who had photographed themselves in the Met. This could be interpreted as a direct invitation to upload your own lifestream to the parallel world of the Internet surrounded by Raphaels and Picassos just as casually as when wandering through a pedestrian zone in which some marketing promotion is taking place. American Museums don’t just have fewer reservations – for a while now, they have been counting on Museums becoming destinations where the emphasis is less on education and more about the treasure trove of paintings. The Metropolitan Museum now receives 6.5 million visitors a year and is thus the most important tourist destination in New York, a fact which the marketing strategists at European Museums will not have overlooked. Does Museum education benefit from this or just PR? The psychologist Linda Henkel, from Connecticut, has recently shown that students in Museums remember the pictures that they are not allowed to photograph better. For Eric Gibson, a writer for The New Criterion, it is not only individuals’ memory that is endangered, but Museums that open themselves up to selfies are damaged as a whole. People who send out self-portraits from the exhibition hall are no longer concerned about the art, he writes in a piece entitled “The Overexposed Museum”. “In pre-digital times, the work of art was the subject. Now it’s the visitors; the work of art is secondary.” The statement of such a souvenir photo is no longer “I have seen”, rather it is the
purely touristic “I was there”. And sure enough, especially around prominent paintings such as the Mona Lisa in the Louvre in Paris, there are those who jostle in the waiting line only to spin around at the moment in which they are closest to the Gioconda and point the camera at themselves. Jan van Eyck, Raphael, Michelangelo and Dürer are merely arbitrary attractions to this audience, no different from the Eiffel Tower or the White House outside, writes Gibson, and for this very reason it is enough for these globetrotters to stop and contemplate art only for as long as they would any other milestone. This displeases Gibson on principle: like it or not, part and parcel of viewing art is that you actually look at the art and concentrate on it. Museums themselves, writes Gibson, have to insist that it is not just about the work, but also about a cultural practice that they have to instil in their visitors. In a concert hall or on the theatre stage one is likewise confronted with not only the performance, but, at the same time, with the etiquette too; how to behave from the seats to the stalls. Coughers should really leave, confectionary wrappers must not rustle and mobile phones have to be switched off. Museums “are also the guardians of something else: the experience of art. This is not pre-existing and cannot be taken for granted. It is the result of certain conditions imposed by an institution.” Can the Museum industry, which would rather focus on increasing visitor curves, be at all capable of that much antiquated reason on the occasions when it fixes its gaze on itself? The duration of visits – on average between ten and ninety minutes – is not included in these figures. New Museums such as the MAXXI in Rome, designed by veteran airport architect Zaha Hadid, have the flow of a quickly organized transit area. In the future, Max Hollein wants to draw a strict line separating concentrated silence in Museums and the expansion of the digital interface. “I’m very conservative. Smartphones should not be played with next to the paintings. But online we have the opportunity to go far beyond the physical limitations of the building.” All the same, Museums that go online can finally form a picture of their visitors. On Twitter. This article was first published at Süddeutsche Zeitung.
SC Exhibitions Magazine 2014 | 5
Legend and Location The Olympic Park in Munich is one of the most renowned and successful event centres in the world. Top-ranking companies, the most important music stars and international elite athletes have been feeling equally at home here for more than four decades. The unique and unmistakable atmosphere of the Olympic Park creates an extraordinary environment for events of any size. In the middle of the cosmopolitan city of Munich, embedded in an impressive park landscape, under the imposing canopy roof, there are facilities and halls for 100 to 10,000 people. The Small Olympic Hall, the Event Arena, the Business Area of the Olympic Hall and the Coubertin Club provide innumerable possibilities. That is why we at SC Exhibitions do not only present exhibitions in this premium event location, like “Body Worlds” (see page 25), but we also look forward to gathering here for the Touring Exhibitions Meeting 2014.
The Touring Exhibitions Meeting Photos: Olympiapark München GmbH; Timeline Images / Keberlein
The Touring Exhibitions Meeting
“The Oktoberfest“ by Artist-in-Conference Khaled Hafez: On Saturday, 13 September 2014, all delegates are invited to TEM’s main social event, a traditional Bavarian evening.
“Why has no-one ever thought about bringing all the producers and promoters of touring exhibitions together? Especially when this form of edutainment has been around for centuries?” So said José Araujo and Christoph Scholz in 2012. And decided to do something about it, kicking off the first Touring Exhibitions Meeting (TEM) in Paris that same year. TEM is an annual meeting for professionals working in the global field of touring and special exhibitions: exhibition producers from the private and public sector, promoters, Museums, science centres and exhibition venues as well as curators, project developers and other specialists. TEM is not an association and it is not a trade show. Its council members organize it as an “open forum” and a high-level networking platform for interested exhibition professionals. 2014 sees the third edition after the second meeting in Berlin attracted around 140 delegates from 31 countries
Photos: Rainer Christian Kurzeder
Come Together! “People need to feel as though they are the focus of the exhibition. We don’t care about a story as much unless we are involved in it in some form or another.” Don Wildman, US TV host and history enthusiast and TEM’s host in 2013 the year before. TEM’s philosophy is to build a conference around its people: a weekend for the professionals in the field to comfortably network and open doors to new and exciting business opportunities. A platform for sharing ideas and best practices from a truly global perspective.
The 3rd Edition of The Touring Exhibitions Meeting
Join us and touch base with the community of touring exhibition producers and promoters!
The MUNICH Meeting 2014 September 12 – 14 Olympic Park Registration: Early Bird Rate expires on June 15. Shuttles, coffee & lunch breaks and social events included in the conference fee. The Rilano 24/7: Our headquarter Hotel offers a special rate. Visit our website www.touringexhibitions.org or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Created for the Olympic games in 1972 - The park has become a landmark and Munich’s beloved treasure for sports, culture and entertainment 6 | SC Exhibitions Magazine 2014
SC Exhibitions Magazine 2014 | 7
The Touring Exhibitions Meeting
Learning About Fakes or Having Breakfast?
A Lively Debate
At TEM we want you to have both. “For a solid 15 years now, I have possibly been the world’s biggest opponent of special exhibitions – in
in a Quiet Place?
lectures, in newspaper articles, I have attacked everything that everybody in this room does,” said world-renowned art critic and writer Blake Gopnik in his keynote speech at TEM 2013 introducing himself to the delegates. Then he took them from there towards a pro-active debate on the status and potentials of exhibitions. We see it as a vital part of our mission to invite speakers who spark new ideas and offer a different take on key issues and trends. We are
Photo: Folker Schellenberg
Photo: CNN, A Time Warner Company.
Museums and exhibitions offer a distinct
Photo: Femke Bakker
3 1 James Durston: Controversial for the sake of controversy? 2 Gloria Gray: Or is the E in TEM for Exciting? 3 Philipp Hook: Drawing the parallels between art trade and the football transfer market 4 Arthur Brand: Working on the stuff movies are made of
8 | SC Exhibitions Magazine 2014
Not many know that the world of Indiana Jones and Robert Langdon indeed exists: Over the past 18 years Arthur Brand has been investigating the illicit art trade, which includes forgeries, robberies, cultural plundering and other shady aspects of the art world. Arthur has been involved in cases that made headlines all over the world, as for example the resurfacing of the forbidden Gospel of Judas after almost 2000 years. The total amount of artworks that he has recovered is valued between $100 million and $150 million
and he often assists the FBI, Interpol and Scotland Yard, and recently managed to solve a huge Museum robbery. The story he has to tell, which is called How the World Was Faked, is not only entertaining and interesting but also important. Arthur Brand was born and raised in Deventer, the Netherlands. He studied history and Spanish, and has lived in Spain and Argentina. He has worked on many international documentaries, and he has written a book, which will be turned into a movie. Board member and senior director of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art in London, Philip Hook has 40 years’ experience in the art market as an auctioneer and a dealer. Mr Hook headed Christie’s 19th Century Paintings Department from 1980 to 1987. In 1994, Mr Hook joined Sotheby’s, and he has played a critical role in every major collection sold there since. For 25 years he appeared regularly on the BBC programme Antiques Roadshow as a picture expert, and is the author of five successful novels set in the art world, and The Ultimate Trophy (2009), a history of the Impressionist market. His latest publication: Breakfast at Sotheby’s, which was a book of the year in the Sunday Times, the Financial Times, the Guardian, and the Daily Mail, is an intimate and revealing exploration of how art acquires its financial value. Mr Hook shares his views on subjects and styles, -isms, middle-brow artists, suicide as an enhancer of commercial value, and at one point even compares the art market to the football transfer market. The senior producer for CNN Travel James Durston will also contribute to TEM2014. Please find his controversially discussed view on Museums in this magazine on page 30. And join us in looking forward to the exchange of views with Mr Durston in Munich in September. Let Bavaria-born singer, actress and entertainer Gloria Gray be your host for TEM’s Oktoberfest Event on 13 September. Ms Gray and the TEM Council will make sure that you will not only find the meeting highly informative and packed with opportunities to make contacts and discuss issues, but that you will also have a really good time!
subject for debate in times of social media and digitilization: can they preserve their original status and purpose, are they able to evolve, will they eventually
Photo: Timeline Images / leicar6
pleased to announce the first speakers that have confirmed to be with us at Olympic Park and share their insights.
lose relevance? Our article from the #MuseumSelfie day on page 4 already complained: we might lose the focus on the actual work of art. Now here comes The New York Times’ cultural critic-atlarge Edward Rothstein criticizing the way Museums like MoMa or the Louvre make use of smartphone apps. In another article he complained about the recent trend of “Identity Exhibitons“, feeling that minorities retold and “distorted“ history. At about the same time author and columnist Arianna Huffington pointed out in her HuffPost blog that Museums needed to “guard against social media“ because they risked “forgetting their DNA“. While Ms Huffington pondered whether “technology deepens or diminishes the experience“, Nina Simon formulated a view different from both Rothstein and Huffington. Ms Simon is the Executive Director of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History and makes a point of the width and heterogeneity of Museums’ visitors and therefore the Museums’ approach in programming and connecting with their target groups. In this debate: who would you side with?
One with the work of art: Visitor in Munich’s Haus der Kunst, 1960s SC Exhibitions Magazine 2014 | 9
Photo: Matthew Jacques / Shutterstock
From Picassos to Sarcophagi, Guided by Phone Apps Photo: Timeline Images / Timeline Classics
by Edward Rothstein
Are portable radios more annoying than smartphones in the Museum? Early gadgets: Beach scene, USA, 1924 Walk into a crowded Museum, and what do you see? People with cameras or cellphones snapping pictures of people looking at objects. The artwork, document or fossil is a tourist site; the photograph is our souvenir. And the looking — for which Museums were created — becomes a memory before it has even begun. Now something else is in play that may distance the Museum experience even further — though it intends to do just the opposite. During the last week I have walked through galleries, half-looking at objects and half-consulting an iPhone screen. I have swiped, tapped and maneuvered in iSpace while negotiating Egyptian sarcophagi, Matisse paintings and Apatosaurus bones. I have searched for item IDs, audio-tour-guide numbers and tagged thumbnail images while trying to get information about Pacific Islanders or Picasso. I have used Museum apps to help me navigate Museums. But I have generally felt used along the 10 | SC Exhibitions Magazine 2014
way, forced into rigid paths, looking at minimalist text bites, glimpsing possibilities while being thwarted by realities. Free apps, meanwhile, proliferate, adding to their basic consumer information a varied set of technological virtues and flaws. The Brooklyn Museum has an app for the iPhone and Droid (Brooklyn Museum Mobile) that acts as a guide to the Museum, allows easy access to its online catalog and turns every gallery into a kind of social-networking site. The American Museum of Natural History recently introduced its own iPhone app (AMNH Explorer), which can identify your location, give you directions in the Museum and provide explanatory text and images of major objects. The Museum of Modern Art’s iPhone app (MoMA) is a short-cut entry into its audio tour system; it also challenges you to use the iPhone as a camera, slipping its trademark logo alongside each photo taken. The Metropoli-
tan Museum of Art will introduce its first app in February, for an exhibition, “Guitar Heroes,” featuring the work of renowned New York luthiers. Other institutions, ranging from the Louvre in Paris to the medical Mütter Museum in Philadelphia, also have apps showing off their collections. Such assistance is surely welcome. The best Museums bewilder us at first. They might show something unfamiliar, overwhelming or breathtaking, and thus something disorienting. We only begin to comprehend what we see when we put it in context, shaping a new conceptual map, making sense of the displays. A guide helps by offering an entry point, helping to construct a frame of reference. There is also a mundane aspect to this experience as we literally try to find our way around the world’s great Museums, many of which have grown into mazes of corridors, annexes and renovated spaces. Finding 17th-century Dutch portraits at the Met or the Hall of Vertebrate Origins at the Museum of Natural History can be as difficult as finding bathrooms. We ask guards, consult maps. And eventually, when we feel at home in a Museum, we begin to move easily between galleries and ideas. Every object has its place and resonates with multiple meanings. How to get there, though, from the bewildering beginning? There must be an app for that. So for years Museums have been playing around with audio guides, push-button affairs that have been, in essence, transmogrified cassette players or MP3 players, held up to the ear or attached to headphones, every item keyed in by the user. Some Museums have tried harnessing visitors’ cellphones: dial a number, key in an ID and listen to recorded commentary. The ideal is a guide that will not demand distracting attention. And given the capabilities of the new smartphones, which can respond to location, play audio and video, and allow Internet interactions, a sophisticated guide is inevitable. But the ones I have tried show the form only in its infancy. They offer information about events, exhibitions, schedules; they may feature audio or video. But seams are evident, and the apps creak under minimal strain.
The artwork, document or fossil is a tourist site; the photograph is our souvenir
The MoMA app, for example, though handsome and well laid out, does not do much more than its audio-guide system. It lets you find objects by floor, gallery or exhibition. But only a few objects get close attention — primarily the ones already singled out for the Museum’s audio tour. You can’t navigate well around the galleries because the app does not register your location. Keying in object numbers is awkward. And the preset tours, like the one I sampled of the Matisse exhibition, are far more distracting with the iPhone than with the Museum’s more straightforward audio-tour equipment. Moreover, apart from the audio itself, information is slight and availability inconsistent. Search for works by Warhol: some have almost no commentary; others offer excerpts from a book; others link to audio commentary. The app never got easier to use; it remained fussy and interfering. It was a relief to turn it off. In some ways, the Museum of Natural History’s app is far more sophisticated: Wi-Fi is now set up throughout its building and is used to calculate your location. You can sample the app’s preset tours by asking it to begin near your location. You can request directions to the giant sequoia, the blue whale or a restroom. You can read bits of commentary and share favorite objects with others. But the app’s limitations overshadow its strengths. The information is generally far less than what appears on the Museum’s labels. There is no audio. Even when novel snippets are offered (the Apatosaurus, we read, was mounted “for years” with the “wrong skull”), finding the ob-
jects and tapping through several screens is more effort than just walking around and looking. The app also ends up undermining the structure of individual galleries, particularly when they have narratives. The app isolates objects rather than connecting them. In a way, the Brooklyn Museum app is the most radical, but not because it is the most inventive or technologically advanced. You join the Museum’s Wi-Fi network to use the app, but it can only tell where you are when you ask for information about an object. It offers audio through a cellphone call — though often there is no cell service; the app responds by bumping you out altogether. You have to type in strings of as many as eight or nine digits to get information about an object, though many cannot be found in the system; some offer less information than the Museum’s label. The app’s real point, though, is its embrace of populist Web culture, in which votes and tags are supposed to yield a kind of collective wisdom. If you are looking at an object in the program, you can “vote” for it by clicking on a button with a heart, declaring your taste: “Like this.” You are then directed to other objects people have “liked” in the same gallery and can see how many votes they get. (Few people seem to use this system: the number of “likes” rarely seems to rise above five.) In a section called Gallery Tag!, you are asked to “tag” objects you see. First you are offered a series of words like “lions,” “fruit” or “nudes.” You choose one and then “tag” particular paintings with it and get points. And because the Museum wants you to “roam,” as it says on its Web site (brooklynMuseum.org), you
get “bonus points” for “tagging on more than one floor.” But what is the point of this time-consuming procedure? Is any kind of communal wisdom glimpsed? Is there even a useful index so you can find, say, portraits of nude lions eating fruit? Actually, the tags are almost anticuratorial: they filter out any hope of wisdom. They are elementary, limited, the kind of associations encouraged in middle-school art classes. Monet’s “Church at Vernon,” we learn, is tagged “blue,” “dreamy,” “hazy.” The various votes for “likes” in the Museum are equally unilluminating. The result is a kind of scarcely literate cybergraffiti that does nothing to help reach a deeper understanding of the works or reveal their artistic traditions or cultural significance. The Museum becomes a smorgasbord of objects, their importance a mystery. It is best to consider all these apps flawed works in progress. So much more should be possible. Imagine standing in front of an object with an app that, sensing your location, is already displaying precisely the right information. It might offer historical background or direct you through links to other works that have some connection to the object. It might provide links to critical commentary. It might become, for each object, an exhibition in itself, ripe with alternate narratives and elaborate associations. And, best of all, you could save it for later, glance up from the screen and look carefully at what faces you, all scrims removed, all distractions discarded. Like this! There must be an app for that! This article was first published at The New York Times.
SC Exhibitions Magazine 2014 | 11
Photo: Ted Holladay/Studio Holladay
Open Letter to Traditionalists
by Nina Simon
Dear Mr Rothstein and Ms Huffington, Nina Simon is not only the Executive Director of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History. She has been named a “Museum visionary” by Smithsonian Magazine for her innovative approach to design and was named one of the 50 most “powerful and influential people in nonprofit arts” by the Western States Arts Federation in 2012 and 2013. She regularly publishes thoughts and insights on the blog Museum 2.0 and wrote The Participatory Museum: a practical guide to working with community members and visitors to make cultural institutions more dynamic, relevant, essential places.
It’s not about you. I appreciate that you write about Museums, and by doing so, publicize their work and efforts. I appreciate that you write thoughtfully about changes in the cultural sector. But I’m a bit frustrated by the short-sightedness of your vision with regard to the role that Museums serve in society. In short, I think you focus too much on your personal experience and preferences, not acknowledging the fact that you represent an incredibly small and rare slice of Museums’ intended audience. It’s not about you. It’s about culture, learning, and community space – for everyone. There are two basic assumptions you’ve made lately that I think are flawed: 1. the idea that (art) Museums are fundamentally for a contemplative experience, and that techniques that distract from classical forms of contemplation are therefore bad. 2. the idea that it’s OK for (American) Museums to have a Euro- and white-centric approach to interpretation, but not OK for them to centre on minority identities or approaches.
Myth #1: Museums are about contemplation.
The Participatory Museum by Nina Simon was published in 2010 by Museum 2.0. Available for purchase in paperback or ebook at www.participatorymuseum.org
In October, Rothstein bemoaned the way that mobile phones have distracted people from looking at art. Last week, Huffington mused on the same question with regard to social media, worrying that Museums might lose their power as secret gardens of idle aesthetic pleasure in a world overrun with media. While both these articles have some reasonable points in them, the underlying argument reflects a bias about what Museums are for. Museums are not fundamentally for “contempla-
tion” any more than they are for “celebration” or “exploration” or “challenge”. Looking at the data on Museum use, very few visitors come alone to sit in quiet reverence and soak in the beauty. As John Falk’s research has shown, these “spiritual pilgrims” represent a much smaller percentage of Museum audiences than those who come for social experiences, to learn something or to have novel experiences. When critics coo over Museums as aesthetic temples, I get nervous. These same folks prefer their galleries sparsely used and quiet. They are nostalgic for a type of Museum experience that is frankly both endangered and dangerous to the long-term future of Museums. They remind me of Catholics who miss the old days when everything was in Latin and ignore the fact that the antiquated rituals they long for also led to serious erosion of use and value of the churches themselves. This nostalgia threatens Museums’ abilities to engage younger, more diverse audiences. I understand why connoisseurs of classical Museum experiences can feel threatened – but that doesn’t mean they get to arbitrate what makes a quality Museum experience in an age when Museums have gotten serious about universal access, inclusion and diverse learning styles. New interpretative techniques don’t threaten the fundamental value of Museum experiences; most of these tools thoughtfully create new opportunities for access, enjoyment and understanding. I’ve heard many people rant about how “no one looks at the artifacts anymore! They just snap photos through their phones!” but you could equivalently argue that these digital memories help people form relationships with artifacts and images beyond a single fleeting visit. I appreciate Huffington’s argument that we should avoid “social media being the point of social media”, but I also worry when she writes that “the wrong kind of connection can actually disconnect us from the aesthetic experience”. I have a very hard time imagining that anyone, even an incredibly
knowledgeable media-maker such as Huffington, can fairly arbitrate what is and isn’t the “right” kind of connection. If you gasp when you see an artefact, I snap a photo, and another visitor texts her friend about the experience, is one of us doing it wrong? It’s time to put to rest the idea that there is a basic adversarial relationship between technology and quality Museum experiences. The important thing is not that a Museum employs these tools or those. What’s important is that Museums relentlessly pursue strategies that allow them to be as relevant, useful and essential to their communities as possible.
Myth #2: White-centric is OK, other-centric is not. This myth is primarily put forward in Edward Rothstein’s recent rant about identity Museums, though its bias is reflected in Myth #1 as well (since the contemplative temple vision of Museums is innately wrapped up with a Euro-centric vision of what Museums are for). Rothstein criticizes a show on Muslim scientific discoveries and others for being ineffectual, revisionist messes. While there’s some validity to his argument that exhibitions that scream “Me!” are often uninteresting, Rothstein seriously understates the extent to which the majority of European and American Museums have an unrelenting, white, wealthy “Me!” encrusted on their walls. Rothstein admits that “even the great imperial Museums of Vienna, London, and Paris .. reflect the power and grandeur of their creators.” I’d argue that he should replace the word “even” with “especially”. Imagine being a young woman walking into a science Museum in which Marie Curie is the only female name chiseled into the wall of heroes. Imagine being a member of an indigenous tribe that is treated solely as ancient history in an anthropological Museum. Imagine being poor, or an immigrant, or anyone who isn’t
part of the great colonizing story of most Museums and historic houses. It would get pretty damn tiring seeing all those “Me!”s that belong to someone else. I’m not suggesting that we move to a world in which we have a rainbow of identity Museums for every background and interest group. Instead, I think it would be incredibly useful if we would acknowledge the inherent biases that come with any design process and figure out how to transcend them. I’m thinking of projects like Dialogue in the Dark, in which blind guides lead visitors through a pitch-black, multi-sensory environment, or places like the Wing Luke Asian Museum, which strikes an incredible balance between telling a uniquely ethnic story and welcoming non-Asians into it. I’m thinking of the tensions and lessons that come when an institution authentically engages with new audiences, as in the St. Louis Science Center’s YES programme or the Glasgow Open Museum. I’m thinking of places like the American Visionary Art Museum, whose educational mission is to “expand the definition of a worthwhile life”. So, my professional, critical, and Museum-loving friends, let’s get beyond these out-of-date ideas about Museums as temples to the past and start figuring out how to make them even better for the future. Nina Simon’s article was published on her blog Museum 2.0 under the title “An Open Letter to Ariana Huffington, Edward Rothstein, and Many Other Museum Critics.” It is a reply to New York Times articles by Edward Rothstein (“To Each His Own Museum, as Identity Goes on Display” and “From Picassos to Sargophargi; Guided by Phone Apps”, see page 10 ) and a Huffington Post article by Ariana Huffington (“Museums 2.0: What Happens When Great Art Meets New Media”). Ms Simon’s “Open Letter” is still the most commented post on her blog Museum 2.0. Enter the debate and add your comment or read the full Rothstein and Huffington articles that are linked in Ms Simon’s blog post: www.Museumtwo.blogspot.com
SC Exhibitions Magazine 2014 | 13
Re-creating a Moment of Wonder
“This is a King Tut exhibit for the digital age. It’s true, “The Discovery of King Tut” does not contain actual Egyptian artefacts from more than 3,300 years ago. But in an era of virtual reality, the producers say they are offering something else: a chance to re-create a moment of wonder”, wrote the Kansas City Star when our exhibition opened at Union Station’s Bank of America Gallery in April 2014. And so thousands of years after his untimely death the Golden King still mystifies audiences and generations around the world. Former Director General of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Egyptologist Wilfried Seipel, lets you in on his thoughts about the creation and production of the exhibition. Outstanding Egyptology icon Zahi Hawass explains new discoveries about Tutankhamun’s life and era in his latest book. And let us show you the palaces visited by the King’s Tomb and Treasures this year in Kansas City, MO, and in Azerbaijan’s capital of Baku. Come with us on the Adventures of an Exhibition.
14 | SC Exhibitions Magazine 2014
SC Exhibitions Magazine 2014 | 15
Professor Wilfried Seipel was Director General of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna from 1990 till 2008. As an Archaeologist and Egyptologist, he has been responsible for numerous exhibitions on the art and culture of Ancient Egypt, such as “Gold of the Pharaohs” (2003) and “Tutankhamun and the World of the Pharaohs” (2008) in Vienna. He mentors the exhibition “Tutankhamun – His Tomb and His Treasures” with his scholarly advice.
The Fascination and Adventure of a Tutankhamun Exhibition by Wilfried Seipel 2
16 | SC Exhibitions Magazine 2014
Few archaeological discoveries have fascinated the world, or captivated the imagination, more than the discovery of the tomb of King Tutankhamun in 1922. After years of steadfast perseverance and tireless searching, and just before his patron Lord Carnarvon was about to cut off funding for the excavation, archaeologist Howard Carter managed to unearth one of the most sensational finds in the history of archaeology: the nearly intact preserved tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh. Although Tutankhamun had reigned for just under ten years, and died at an early age, his tomb and its treasures would reshape our view of ancient Egypt, its art and its culture, in instrumental and fascinating ways. With well over 5,000 items – including sarcophagi, statues, jewellery, furniture, weapons, chariots, and vessels – the tomb contained a previously unimaginable amount of precious treasures and ritual and religious objects. These items, in quantities worthy only of a pharaoh, were intended to be used by Tutankhamun in the afterlife, during which it was believed he would become Osiris, the ruler of the underworld. News of the discovery caused a sensation around the world and dominated the newspapers and periodicals of the day. Today, the desire to see the ancient treasures with one’s own eyes remains just as strong. Shortly after the last objects were excavated from the tomb, ten years after the initial discovery, a replica of the tomb was displayed in London, complete with replicas of individual tomb goods! Pictured in hundreds of periodicals, the treasures from Tutankhamun’s tomb influenced the fashion and design of the 1930s, setting off a new wave of Egyptomania. And that same fascination has persisted throughout the years. In the days before international travel was as commonplace as it is today, only a privileged few were able to gaze upon the tomb’s treasures at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. It was only in the 1960s that major Tutankhamun exhibitions began to travel to other parts of the world, first to the United States and
Canada, then to Japan, England and France, and later, in the 1980s, to Germany, giving millions of people the chance to see some of the treasures of Tutankhamun, if only a fraction of the total collection – between 31 and 50 objects. A visit to a Tutankhamun exhibition was considered part of normal education in our society and virtually become a social event. It first became possible to mount a new series of Tutankhamun exhibitions in Germany in 2004, some 23 years after the last show here, following the partial lifting of Egypt’s ban on exporting antiquities, which has since been reinstated. Two versions of the exhibition, with close to 80 original artefacts from the Pharaoh’s tomb, were shown in Switzerland, England, Australia, Germany, Austria and the United States, before travelling to Japan in 2012 to cap off their world tour. The fragility of the artefacts, which are more than 3,000 years old, has sparked repeated discussions in Egypt about the dangers of such “international travel”, as well as vehement and persistent demands to put an end to these exhibitions. And it is certainly reasonable to take special care to protect not just the treasures of Tutankhamun but all of Egypt’s cultural heritage! This applies to Tutankhamun’s tomb, as well, which is put at particular risk by thousands of visitors and their effect on humidity levels. Yet restricting the number of visitors, as was attempted at the tomb of Nefertiti in the Valley of the Queens, is of little help, if any at all. So what can be done to maintain what is almost considered a “human right” to access the famous treasures of an ancient culture?
1 Face to face with the Boy King: Replica of Tutankhamun’s death mask 2 Egyptologist Wilfried Seipel 3 Moments of wonder: sarcophagi and shrines 4 Objects in context: The advantage of working with replica 5 Replica of a statue of Tutankhamun 6 The innermost coffin
Photography by Theo O. Krath 6
SC Exhibitions Magazine 2014 | 17
Professor Zahi Hawass is one of the most influential archaeologists ever. He has worked
To recreate the “big picture”, the broader context of the treasures in the tomb, is a fascinating challenge which this exhibition successfully masters.
Similar problems plagued cave paintings dating from the Ice Age, such as those in Altamira and Lascaux, and a solution was found years ago in the form of a detailed full-scale replica produced under scientific supervision, which – as Lascaux demonstrates – loses none of the original’s capacity to inspire. And what about the treasures of Tutankhamun? There is hardly a better example than the replicas in our exhibition, which have been carefully prepared under the supervision and guidance of Egyptologists! Presented with subtle lighting, and accompanied by texts written by experts, explanations and translations of some of the hieroglyphic texts, the close to 1,000 replicas provide visitors with an unparalleled impression of all (!) of the treasures in the young pharaoh’s tomb! Nowhere else is an “experience” of this kind possible, not in the Egyptian Museum, and not in the aforementioned Tut exhibitions. Experienced up close, unobstructed and unaffected by the glare of glass display cases, security ropes or beeping alarms, the objects on display are able to speak directly to the observer. Time and again there is the question of whether seeing an exhibition consisting exclusively of replicas is somehow less “exciting” than a show displaying originals. For the viewer, where precisely does the difference lie? One aspect is perfectly clear: a replica can never be an adequate substitute for an original work of art, whether a painting, a sculpture or a relief, when the goal of its consideration is to discover the hallmarks of the artist’s mastery, to understand the language of his artistic intention; only an original permits this by virtue of its very authenticity and uniqueness. The awareness of standing before something utterly unique, irreplaceable, and authentic has an additional effect on the viewer, who is drawn in by the aura of the art object. Thus a replica of a painting by Raphael or Tizian, no matter how masterfully executed, will never exert the same effect on the viewer as the original. But the treasures of Tutankhamun’s tomb are another story entirely. Here the main intention is not so much to examine processes of artistic production, but rather to bring the entire spectrum of this incredible wealth of precious objects, faithfully and artistically rendered as replicas, to as large
18 | SC Exhibitions Magazine 2014
on countless excavations, books, documentation films and toured the whole world with his lectures on archaeology and Ancient Egypt. He has striven for more publicity and international awareness for Egyptology and served as Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities and Minister of Antiquities of Egypt. We were able to invite him on several occasions to hold lectures in conncection with our Tutankhamun exhibitions.
an audience as possible. A similar type of exhibition with the originals would not only be impossible, for the reasons already mentioned, it would also be irresponsible. But this exhibition shows just how fascinating carefully executed replicas can be as they allow visitors to understand the full extent of King Tut’s treasure trove – something that was previously only possible to see in selected photographs or paintings and illustrations. Here the focus is not on the authenticity of individual objects, but on the effect they create as a group, or rather on the reconstruction and documentation of a wealth of ancient treasures which were sealed in a tomb thousands of years ago, and, upon their discovery by archaeologists and Egyptologists, divided up, inventoried, and transported to various repositories, cabinets and display cases, only some of which are accessible to the public. To recreate the “big picture”, the broader context of the treasures in the tomb, and to reconstruct their original combination, is a fascinating challenge which this exhibition successfully masters. The exhibition is made even more attractive and informative by the fact that the magnificent replicas also provide visitors with an impressive look at the masterful skill with which artisans fashioned both the originals and their “doubles”. The exhibition tour begins by recreating the treasure trove as it was originally found; for the first time since Howard Carter entered the tomb in 1922, it is possible to see the artefacts as they once stood, placed in their original locations throughout the burial chambers. Furthermore, the replicas themselves document the individual objects in a way that is both scholarly and accessible, giving visitors the opportunity to become acquainted with their cultural, historical and religious contexts. In this way this fascinating Tutankhamun exhibition, recalling the exciting discovery of the tomb, continues to communicate the significance of the art and religion of the pharaohs, and their allure and mystery, to as many people as possible. And since the beginning of this exhibition project, five million visitors, especially children and teens, have succumbed to this fascinating combination of magic, mystery and adventure.
Discovering Tutankhamun by Zahi Hawass
When Christoph Scholz asked me to write this book, I told him that I had already written six others on Tutankhamun and the discovery of his tomb. Three were catalogs for the exhibits of Tutankhamun in the United States and Japan, and one was about the “golden boy”. Two more books focused on the discovery. I even re-excavated the tomb (imitation), which you can read about in King Tutankhamun: The Treasures of the Tomb, and found out that I could not do anything better than Howard Carter. He was a great archaeologist. Scholz then said to me that there was no book that included the new information about the king and also what has been found in the Valley of the Kings after Carter. I thought about that and realized that this is true. So in this book I concentrated on the history of Egypt before the Golden King and also the history of his time, along with the discovery of the tomb and the objects. But what is especially
interesting for me about this book is being able to introduce new people in the life of Tutankhamun, such as Maia, the wet nurse whose tomb has been found at Saqqara; a man named Sennedjem, buried near the city of Sohag, who might have been the boy-king’s tutor; Parennefer, called Wenennefer, who lived in his time. There are also newly discovered scenes from his reign found at Memphis, and what they can show about the king’s life. Many people thought that this tomb of Tutankhamun might be the last treasure to be discovered in the Valley of the Kings, but many important things have happened since Howard Carter, such as the rediscovery of KV 5 and KV 53, and the truly new discoveries of KV 63 and KV 64. There has been an Egyptian expedition working in the Valley of the Kings now for the first time, searching for missing tombs there and in the Valley of the Monkeys. We have found important things about how the ancient Egyptians tried to protect the royal necropolis and we have revealed the secret of the mysterious tunnel in the tomb of Seti I, which has puzzled archaeologists since the tomb was first found in 1817. Not all the work has been out in the field. Using forensic techniques such as CT scanners and DNA we are working to uncover secrets of the mummies. You will read elsewhere in this book about what science has told us about the family of Tutankhamun and about how the young king died, but I will tell you here a little bit about what we have learned about three other mummies. We have been able to identify the mummy of an unknown woman found in KV 60 as Queen Hatshepsut. This happened thanks to CT scans and a tooth found in a wooden box containing a liver and stomach and inscribed with the queen’s name, which was found in the mummy cache at Deir el-Bahari in 1871. CT scans also revealed that Rameses III was murdered with a sharp knife, a fact not mentioned in the ancient papyri recording the trials of the people involved in the harem conspiracy. With DNA analysis, we realized that a famous mummy in the Egyptian Museum known as Unknown Man E is Rameses III’s son, Pentawere, who worked with his mother Tia to murder the king.
From starting out as a concert promoter over 20 years ago, Semmel Concerts has evolved into a producer of cultural happenings: concerts and tours from all genres of music, musical and show productions, exhibitions with expanded programs of lectures, festivals and motto days (see page 22) and adding to that: book publications. Complimentary to our Tutankhamun exhibition we published Zahi Hawass’ Discovering Tutankhamun in cooperation with The American University Cairo Press. The German translation is up for publishing later in 2014, and the book in French in early 2015. Zahi Hawass and SC Exhibitions are currently working on a children’s book, The Legend of the Golden Boy, which will be released in the second half of 2014. Through this book you will feel the magic of the great discovery and read how Tutmania has entered the hearts of people all over the world. What is even more interesting is that I will take you on a great adventure through all the new discoveries about this great king and his time. I hope you will follow along with me as we explore all about the legend and the mysteries of Tutankhamun.
Meet Dr Hawass in Seattle! AAM Annual Meeting / Museum Expo 2014 Booth of Premier Exhibitions 19 May at 3pm/20 May at 4.15pm Get your signed free* copy of “Discovering Tuthankamun“! (* While stocks last)
1 Lectures all over the world: Zahi Hawass 2 With Christoph Scholz at the Winter Palace in Luxor
SC Exhibitions Magazine 2014 | 19
From the Heart of America to the Silk Road: “Tut”, the Travel King
Our Tutankhamun exhibitions have travelled the world. This year, the Golden King will visit two special destinations: The historic Union Station in Kansas City in Missouri in the United States and the Heydar Aliyev Center in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku.
Photographer Roy Inman captured Kansas City’s treasure in its 100th year
Built in 1914, Union Station, with 850,000 square feet of amazing space, served as a working train station in its prime. It accommodated hundreds of thousands of passengers each year. During WWII, an estimated one million travellers passed through the station. With rail services dropping out of fashion in the 1980s the station almost lost its relevance until in 1996, a bi-state initiative was passed to fund the station’s renovation, which was completed in grand fashion in 1999. Today it is recognized as the region’s finest educational and cultural resource committed to the preservation and interpretation of Kansas City’s regional history and the promotion of innovation, research and discovery in science and technology. And just as you could 100 years ago, you can still catch the train at Union Station and head out across the country. Union Station’s “Bank of America Gallery“ hosts the US premiere of “The Discovery of King Tut“. As the highlight in the Station’s 100th Anniversary Program the Golden King’s tomb lies in Kansas City from 4 April through 7 September 2014.
4 April - 7 September 2014 Union Station, Bank of America Gallery, Kansas City
From the 1960s through the early 2000s Heydar Aliyev was the strongest and most important politician in Azerbaijan. He led the country when it was a member of the USSR as well as in the times of independent republic, holding diplomatic connections to the USA and Europe as well as Russia, Turkey and Iran. In his honour the Heydar Aliyev Center was created. Completed in 2012 in the capital of Baku, it is one of the spectacular achievements of internationally renowned and awarded architect Zaha Hadid. Before Baku she also completed buildings in Hong Kong, Milan, Rome Abu Dhabi and for the Olympic Games in London. The Center houses a Museum dedicated to the history of Azerbaijan, a 9-floor exhibition hall and a multifunctional auditorium. It will host “Tuthankamun - His Tomb and His Treasures“ from 8 September through 6 December 2014. Trade, travel, culture, exchange, history – all this connects Kansas City in “the Heart of America” and Baku at the historic Silk Road. Our host venues offer a rich programme: www.unionstation.org www.heydaraliyevcenter.az
6 March - 29 June 2014, Tabakfabrik, Linz (Austria) 15 August 2014 - 4 January 2015, Incheba, Bratislava (Slovakia) 8 September - 6 December 2014, Heydar Aliyev Center, Baku (Azerbaijan) 3 April - 27 September 2015, Kleine Olympiahalle, Munich (Germany)
11 October 2014 - 26 April 2015 Museum of Natural History, San Diego
20 | SC Exhibitions Magazine 2014
Heydar Aliyev Center, Baku, Azerbaijan Photos: Heydar Aliyev Center; Sandro Vannini
Union Station, Kansas City, MO, USA
“It’s only natural that Union Station would bring a momentous exhibit in to celebrate their centennial anniversary. While displaying an exhibit of King Tut would be amazing, they took it a step farther: Unlike a typical Museum display, “The Discovery of King Tut” combines dramatic production effects and recreated artifacts to simulate the discovery of King Tut’s tomb. Visitors explore the tomb chamber by chamber exactly as it was originally discovered. Audio headsets (included in the ticket price) narrate your journey, while creative lighting guides you artifact by artifact though the tomb. There is even a kid’s version of the audio, so that youngsters can experience the adventure on their own level.” KC Going Places, April 2014
“To my huge surprise, I left (the exhibition) unconvinced that a show of originals would have been much better, or more informative. The repro show let you get a very close, long look at objects that otherwise you’d have to fly to Cairo to see, in the much less than ideal conditions of the Egyptian Museum. And the show was surprisingly informative, even pedagogic – sometimes verging on the pedantic – without much of the empty splash you’d expect of a for-profit, mass-market touring exhibition. The one near-fatal drawback was, you could say, epistemological: You had to trust the organizers to be giving you faithful copies, whereas when you see original objects, you have the near certainty that the knowledge on offer in them is real.” Blake Gopnik, TheDailyBeast.com about the Berlin exhibition, September 2013
SC Exhibitions Magazine 2014 | 21
We at SC Exhbitions find that it is not enough to “hang pictures on the wall or put objects on show”. We call our take on modern exhibitions “expanded programming“. Take a look at the many scientific, cultural and entertaining facets that surround our work as local host of touring exhibitions. And let our guest speakers Guido Knopp and Philipp Charlier enlarge on their particular area of expertise and their
Guido Knopp: The Fascination in History
2 Family fun!
by Christoph Scholz
days, lectures, concerts and press trips. It means cultural work in every city. It means educational work aimed at different visitor groups – including the media. “Expanded programming” is an indispensable part of our press and marketing work. In this issue we will introduce some aspects of our current programmes accompanying exhibitions which we host locally: Renowned German historian Guido Knopp will lecture at our exhibition “Da Vinci - The Genius” in Nuremberg. At our exhibition “Body Worlds“ in Munich acclaimed French scientist Philippe Charlier speaks about his work on body parts of historical figures. And photographer Dirk Murschall wandered with his camera through the historic parts of Nuremberg to capture “Places of the Renaissance”.
Professor Knopp, the public has a great appetite for history. History magazines are popping up everywhere, TV documentaries are scheduled at prime time, Museums report ever-increasing attendance figures. You have played a part in stimulating this interest in Germany through your work as ‘historian-in-chief ’ at ZDF, a major public service broadcaster. What do you think are the most important reasons or stimuli behind this great interest in our history? There are several reasons for this: In Germany, after reunification, there was an interest in such questions as, how did the 20th century work out like this for us, how did it happen that after all, the century culminated in this kind of happy ending of reunification? What happened between 1914 and 1945, this “Thirty Years’ War” of the 20th century? What happened in the Cold War after 1945, which ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall? There was a new interest above all in the Nazi period, because many of the people who were then our viewers – in the late 1990s – had been affected by these events themselves. Many had undergone the most extreme experiences of their lives in connection with this time, with war, bombings, service at the front, the Holocaust, dictatorship, fleeing or being driven into exile. Towards the end of their lives, people found a great interest in revisiting all this in film. Apart from 20th-century history, there was in general an ever-increasing interest in the history of earlier periods. We noticed it with our series “Geschichte der Deutschen” (“History of the Ger-
2 Photo: ZDF Enterprises
Illustration © MOSAIK Steinchen für Steinchen Verlag
At least since the beginning of the 21st century, it has been the goal of innovative cultural institutions around the world to present knowledge in an interesting and entertaining way and to combine an exciting experience with education. However, for this science-based edutainment to be successful, exhibition organizers have to leave familiar territory and develop entirely new forms of presentation. We believe that today it is no longer sufficient to simply hang pictures on the wall or put objects on show. In each city we work together with local Museums and institutes under the heading “expanded programming”. As part of this, we organized a series of accompanying academic lectures during our Hamburg season at the local Museum of Ethnology, and, together with the former Egyptian antiquities minister Zahi Hawass and the photographer Sandro Vannini, we put on a companion exhibition to Tutankhamun entitled “A Secret Voyage – A Photographic Journey into the Lands of Pharaohs”. Together with the Royal Museum in Brussels, we organized an accompanying exhibition of replicas from the Museum, replicas from our inventory and original pieces. In Frankfurt, our exhibition has been accompanied by a “Festival of Egyptian Culture”. The festival forged a link between Ancient Egypt and modern Egypt: Egyptian authors, filmmakers, musicians, comedians and actors were here in Frankfurt as guests at over 30 events. Four accompanying exhibitions were organized in collaboration with art galleries in London and Cairo. “Expanded programming” – this means workshops, Museum nights, talks, readings, family
3 Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon seen by the artists from German comic magazine Mosaik – A project accompanying our Berlin exhibition
connection to our current exhibitions.
Let Us Edutain You
1 El Shoada Square by Bassem Samir. Taken from the special exhibition “To Egypt with Love” by Safarkhan Gallery Cairo which accompanied our Frankfurt exhibition
mans”), and we notice it also, for example, with series about Ancient Egypt, the Germanic peoples or the Romans. People know less about this than they do about German history; it’s a great mystery about which people would like to know more and have shown to them in the modern medium of television. Thirdly, from the outset, from the early 1990s, there has also been a great interest internationally in how we as Germans deal with our history. For example, the History Channel in the United States has shown our series with great success ever since it was founded in 1995. When did you first become aware that history could interest the broader public? That would be in the early 1990s, when we first started to present our history documentaries in series form. The first one was the six-part series on the history of German partition and unification, from 1945 to 1990, which we filmed from November 1989 to October 1990. When we started this series, we had no idea how it would end. I was in Berlin the weekend the wall fell, and with my team I had a really very emotional weekend as we were filming. When the series was broadcast from the summer of 1990, by then of course we knew that there would be a united Germany again, so naturally it was a great success among viewers and juries – we won a number of prizes. 1+2 Places of the Renaissance in Nuremberg: the old town hall (the Wolffscher Bau)
Guido Knopp Professor Guido Knopp, who for 30 years was editor-in-chief of the contemporary history section at German national broadcaster ZDF, owes his great popularity to successful TV formats like the magazine programme “History” and documentary series such as “Die Deutschen” (“The Germans”) and “Hitlers Helfer” (“Hitler’s Helpers”). These informative, riveting programmes have captivated large audiences in over 130 countries, as have the books accompanying his series, which have so far been translated into 52 languages. In recognition of his life’s work, this two-time “non-fiction author of the year” has been the recipient of numerous national and international awards, including television prizes, the Golden Lion and Golden Camera, two Emmy awards and a lifetime achievement award.
A major exhibition of the international archaeological sensation. The spectacular reconstruction of the Pharaoh’s tomb and treasures. An exciting list of free activities included in your ticket price to keep the little ones (and adults) entertained. The Egyptian themed Fun Days will provide educational, fun and stimulating activities for children between 3yrs to 11yrs.
22 | SC Exhibitions Magazine 2014
SC Exhibitions Magazine 2014 | 23
The Nuremberg blogger Dirk Murschall, aka Sugar Ray Banister, will be showing his photo project “Places of the Renaissance” in the exhibition café. He has documented Nuremberg buildings from the Renaissance in 15 photographs – including the Toy Museum, the Pellerhaus and the old town hall (the Wolffscher Bau). Michael Taschner from the Friends of the Nuremberg Old Town Society provides background information on the buildings depicted. 12 April – 10 August 2014 Exhibition café, Quelle-Areal, Nuremberg www.sugarraybanister.de
Lecture by Guido Knopp Historian Guido Knopp provides insights into da Vinci’s era Professor Guido Knopp, who has led the ZDF “contemporary history” editorial team for almost 30 years, is regarded as probably Germany’s most popular historian. His name is inextricably linked with successful TV formats such as the weekly magazine show “History” or the documentary series “Die Deutschen” (“The Germans”). His successful combination of accurately researched and exciting information fascinates a huge audience in more than 130 countries worldwide. To mark the exhibition “Da Vinci – The Genius”, the well-known TV historian Professor Guido Knopp will dedicate his lecture to the question: What was Germany like in da Vinci’s time? Tuesday, 1 July 2014, 7.30 p.m. Comödie Fürth
DA VINCI – THE GENIUS exhibition in Nuremberg In numerous cities around the world, four million people have already had the opportunity to experience the touring exhibition “Da Vinci – The Genius”. Now Grande Exhibitions’ show about the extensive work of the universal genius Leonardo da Vinci is making a stop in Germany for the first time. In 13 different topic areas, which are both informative and entertaining, the exhibition “Da Vinci – The Genius” illustrates the multifaceted work of Leonardo da Vinci. The painter was born in 1452 and, up until his death in 1519, not only created unique works of art, but was also driven by a scientific curiosity that led him to discoveries and inventions in fields as diverse as anatomy, natural history, engineering and architecture. 12 April – 10 August 2014 Opening times Tuesday to Sunday from 10.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. Quelle-Areal, Nuremberg www.davinci-nuernberg.de
24 | SC Exhibitions Magazine 2014
The following year, we broadcast the first series of a major documentary serial I co-produced with at first Soviet, then Russian television: “Der verdammte Krieg” (“The Wretched War”). This was the first joint production of a series ever made by German and Russian television, and it was about the most difficult and traumatic episode in our entire history, World War II. There were 18 episodes in three series: the first, “Unternehmen Barbarossa” (“Operation Barbarossa”), went out in 1991, when the Soviet Union still existed. The second series, “Entscheidung Stalingrad” (“Turning-point Stalingrad”) was in 1992 – these were always on the fiftieth anniversaries – and the third was “Bis zum bitteren Ende” (“To the Bitter End”) and it went out in 1995; 18 episodes, always with the same images, the same text and the same time broadcast on TV in both countries. It wasn’t just a TV event, it was a political one and it had a message of reconciliation. The series really grabbed people’s imagination. With six or seven million viewers per episode, the managers and programme directors at ZDF also began to take note: history can interest people. In 2005, your TV documentary “Das Drama von Dresden” (“The Drama of Dresden”) won the coveted Emmy TV prize. Where do you get your ideas? Why have you explored some subjects and not others? The subjects suggest themselves from the great historical events, but also from intuition for what is going to speak to people, not just in terms of content but also emotion. The bombing campaign as a subject in the 1980s and 1990s was frowned upon in Germany because it portrayed the Germans as victims. People always said, if you make such a film, you trivialise German guilt. But having worked very intensively in the 1980s and 1990s with subjects like the Holocaust, we were then able to go on to tackle things like escape and exile, and even the bombing raids. The success of “Das Drama von Dresden” shows that even topics like this can touch a public nerve. Even when grandparents are no longer with us, there are many memories stored in family stories that children recollect. So choosing subject matter is always a question of taking a responsible attitude to content but it is also based on a feel for the emotions that will be elicited in the viewer. A great deal of research goes into your books, films and television productions. How important has it been here to work together with Museums? Very important, and it always has been! In the history department, from the beginning we were cooperating with the Imperial War Museum in London, for example, which not only has an outstanding exhibition but also owns original films from the period. The Red Army Museum in Moscow is another of our partners. It holds numerous pieces from Hitler’s bunker as well as other
things, like the famous red flag that was raised over the Reichstag on 2 May 1945. With earlier history, of course, it becomes even more important to work with Museums. For example, for our series “Die Geschichte der Deutschen”, which covered the history of the German peoples from Charlemagne to the 20th century, we worked for instance with the Schatzkammer (Imperial Treasury) in Vienna, where the imperial Crown Jewels of the Holy Roman Empire are kept: the Reichskrone (Imperial Crown), the Reichsapfel (Imperial Orb) and the Reichszepter (Imperial Sceptre), objects that were already of great importance in the reign of Otto the Great in the 10th century. Working with Museums is vital for major television projects about history, whether recent history or the history of earlier times. You have made countless films and series for German television, and written many books on historical events and figures. Would you have been interested in the medium of the exhibition as a way of telling your stories and conveying the facts? Absolutely! Unfortunately I have never been asked. There was at one time an idea of establishing a Museum of the bombing raids in Berlin, but working at ZDF at the time I was unable to bring it about in my spare time. That would have interested me very much, both in terms of the objects one could collect and the information one could assemble in the form of images and recordings. But exhibitions are an area I may still be able to work with in the coming years. What was the last exhibition you visited? The permanent exhibition at the Deutsches Historisches Museum (German Historical Museum, Berlin). It offers a cross-section of German history from the Roman period – when there was no such thing as a “German people”, only “Germanic peoples” – through to the 20th century. I must say that it is a courageous exhibition, both in what it shows and what it is forced to omit for the lack of exhibits. It is always a great joy and pleasure to visit this exhibition. I am a friend of the Museum, and whenever I am in Berlin I always take the chance to look at a different part of the collection. Was history your favourite subject at school? Of course it was! Unlike many of my contemporaries, for whom history was something boring – learning dates by heart, teacher-centred teaching – I had a history teacher who even in the mid-1960s was incorporating the media of the day into history lessons, with tape recordings, records and above all films. He made it all so real by doing that, and it was so exciting to work with these media, it gave you a quite different feel for history. I was already interested in history, but these lessons greatly amplified that interest and in the end led me to decide to study history.
Exhibition Summer in Munich Premiere in Munich
Art photography: Von Hagens by Sanges 12 June - 5 October 2014 Photo: Marco Sanges, London
Places of the Renaissance a photo project
This summer the Olympic Park in Munich hosts visionary art photography created by Marco Sanges in collaboration with Gunther von Hagens. The pictures will be exhibited alongside the “Body Worlds” exhibition at the Small Olympic Hall in Munich. The aesthetic inspiration behind the project came from Rembrandt’s famous painting The Anatomy Lesson. The images were taken at the Plastinarium in Guben, Germany, where Gunther von Hagens works. “The project Von Hagens by Sanges is a very sophisticated series of photographs, inspired by Rembrandt’s well-known Anatomy Lesson. It consists of mystical and yet almost hilarious photographic images, starring Gunther von Hagens, famous for his plastinated bodies. The photographs reflect not only the omnipresent reference to death but are at the same time also celebrating life and the moment”, says Edwin Becker, Chief Curator of Exhibitions, Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
His work earned him the monicker “Indiana Jones of the Graveyards“, but Dr Charlier does not confine himself to his closet of a laboratory at the hospital. He writes books, makes television documentaries and does radio broadcasts to popularize his findings. His public persona has brought criticism from those who complain he is as interested in fame as in science. He says his pursuit of fame is well intentioned: “I want to share everything I know with the greatest number of people. What I do is not dilettantism; it’s intellectual vulgarization.” Dr Charlier became interested in historical remains as a child in Seine-et-Marne, near Paris, when he participated in an archaeological dig of a Merovingian cemetery dating from sometime between the 5th and 8th centuries. His love of archaeology also stemmed from Homer, which his mother read to him and his sister at bedtime.
Philippe Charlier: Opening the Lionheart Dr Charlier, you are a legal expert at the West-Paris University (UVSQ), a superstar of paleopathology, a young research area which deals with historical corpses found and combines insights from medicine, anthropology and archaeology. You already inspected the supposed relics of Joan of Arc , the embalmed heart of King Richard the Lionheart and the mummified head of the French monarch Henri IV. How would you describe your professional development and your mission? What does paleopathology mean in our daily life? First of all, I’m a forensic pathologist specialized in anthropological cases. In order to improve scientific researches in this specific area, archaeological samples are of great interest, especially well-documented subjects (i.e. saints, kings, queens, etc.). Osteo-archaeological cases help us in improving techniques of retrospective diagnosis and individual identification. This is why
paleopathology and forensic anthropology are intensively connected. But research does not authorize everything: we will never exhume a body by curiosity, but only at the occasion of a restoration process, for example. As a MD, the respect of the patient, behind any human remains, is essential. You will hold a conference in July at “Body Worlds” in Munich. What can the audience expect from your presentation? This paper will be an occasion of presenting the variety of research that can be conducted on ancient human remains, especially those of past historical figures. I’ll try to show that dead individuals may be “useful” to living ones in a kind of knowledge transmission. Treated with respect, human remains from archaeological origin may give precious data on living conditions, aesthetic cares, health status, etc. You have already dealt with exhibitions, such as
“Autopsie de l`Art Premier”. You also have the possibility to research for your work in the archives of Museums. How would you describe the importance of Museums in relation to your profession? Many of the samples we are working on originate from Museums and institutions (for example the Louvre Museum, the Quai Branly Museum, or the cathedral Notre-Dame in Paris). A cooperation with historians and curators is essential. But Museums are also the occasion of presenting our results or a specific vision of art: this is what we did with “Autopsie de l’art premier” (“Autopsy of Primitive Art”) where I “dissected” statues and idols of African and Oceanian origin with a specific medical and anthropological look. On which projects are you working at present? My current activity deals with relics of St Louis held in French institutions, and the analysis of organic patina from voodoo artifacts from Benin. SC Exhibitions Magazine 2014 | 25
Premier Exhibitions Photos: Premier Exhibitions, Inc.
Premier Exhibitions, Inc., a leading provider of international touring exhibitions, is bringing our project “The Discovery of King Tut“ to Museums and Science Centers in the USA. The NASDAQ-listed company has made it its mission to captivate, educate and inspire large audiences around the globe through compelling stories that utilize authentic objects and artefacts, in diverse and unique environments. Premier Exhibitions also has a soft spot for the Golden King: In early 2012, they acquired Arts and Exhibitions International, who had organized the international acclaimed blockbusters, “Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs” as well as “Tutankhamun, the Golden King and the Great Pharaohs”. Meet our esteemed partners: Premier Exhibitions, Inc.
Real Pirates The Untold Story of the Whydah “Real Pirates” tells the compelling story of the Whydah, the first authenticated pirate shipwreck in US waters. Sunk off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in April 1717, the Whydah was located in 1984 by explorer Barry Clifford. “Real Pirates” features more than 200 authentic objects recovered from the shipwreck – real treasure last touched by real pirates. “Real Pirates” is currently touring as two exhibitions – one in San Diego, CA, and the other in Galveston, TX.
Titanic “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition” and “Titanic The Experience” take visitors on a journey through the life of Titanic. Along the way visitors will learn countless stories of heroism and humanity that pay honour to the indomitable force of the human spirit in the face of tragedy. “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition” is currently touring worldwide, as well as semi-perminent exhibitions at the Luxor Las Vegas since 2008. “Titanic The Experience” is currently on exhibition in Orlando, FL since 2010 and Buena Park, CA since 2013. Premier’s Titanic exhibitions have been seen by over 25 million visitors worldwide. In addition, Premier Exhibitions, Inc.’s wholly owned subsidiary RMS Titanic, Inc., serves as the exclusive steward of RMS Titanic, which tragically sank on 15 April 1912. The Company is dedicated to preserving the legacy of the ship, wreck site and all her passengers and crew through educational, historical, scientific and conservation based programmes.
26 | SC Exhibitions Magazine 2014
Bodies Revealed “Bodies Revealed” is a world renowned experience that provides an opportunity to see inside carefully preserved real anatomical specimens like never before. These meticulously dissected bodies are preserved through an innovative process and respectfully presented, giving visitors the opportunity to view the beauty and complexity of their own organs and systems. “Bodies Revealed” is currently touring worldwide.
One Day in Pompeii On 24 August 79 AD, the Roman city of Pompeii was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, burying everything in its path for more than 1700 years. The Vesuvius eruption that spewed searing hot ash not only obliterated the city, but preserved its people and treasures, freezing them in a volcanic time capsule. The catastrophic power of volcanoes is also illustrated through an immersive CGI experience of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. After a successful premier at The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, PA, “One Day in Pompeii” is travelling to the California Science Center in Los Angeles, CA, opening in May of 2014.
SC Exhibitions Magazine 2014 | 27
Photos: Theo O. Krath; Laurence Underhill, Archive SC Exhibitions
Since we have started to produce “Tutankhamun – His Tomb and His Treasures” in 2005 to the present day we have relied on a dedicated team at SC Exhibitions and on friends and allies whose expertise and support carried us on.
Meet the People Inside and Around SC Exhibitions
28 | SC Exhibitions Magazin 2014
1 CEO Dieter Semmelmann (right) 2 Sales Manager Helge Kranz 3 Project Manager Daniel Hauschild 4 Merchandising Manager David de Zwaan 5 Operations Manager Thomas Englberger (right) with Munich’s former mayor, Christian Ude 6 Project Manager Astrid Arnold 7 Wulf Kohl, José Araujo, Rainer Verbizh, João Parreira (from left to right) 8 Deputy Director Oliver Rosenwald 9 Egyptologist Martin von Falck (1962–2014 ) 10 Project Managers Marie LuiseReber and Oliver Zietzke (from left to right) 11 The inventors of our King Tut exhibitions: Wulf Kohl and Paul Heinen (from left to right) 12 Egyptologist Wolfgang Wettengel 13 Exhibition Manager Daniel Batyi 14 Exhibition Manager Sebastian Rottner-Hönicke 15 Technical Directors Heiko and Ulli Schallenberg (from left) 16 Exhibition Manager Bernardo Marques 17 A very young visitor says “Hello” to Director Christoph Scholz 18 Tutankhamun exhibition designer Rainer Verbizh 19 Tages Arbeit! Abends Gäste! Saure Wochen! Frohe Feste!* (*This for our German readers, International readers may check the lyrics of Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s “The Treasure-seeker”) 20 Egyptologist Wilfried Seipel guiding journalists in Egypt
SC Exhibitions Magazin 2014 | 29
Opinion Currently the Senior Producer for CNN Travel, James Durston has been involved in journalism, publishing, writing and editing for more than 12 years. He has worked in London, New Delhi and Mumbai and is now residing in Hong Kong, where he writes, edits and manages the homepage for CNN International’s travel website. Most recently, his article on CNN.com entitled “Why I hate Museums” understandably ruffled feathers in the Museum community.
Why I Hate Museums
by James Durston
Discuss This With James
We invited him to speak at Touring Exhibitions Meeting 2014: If you want to join the controversial discussion, come to Munich on September 12-14. Mr Durston will give a glimpse into the reactions he received, both positive and negative and will be happy to take questions during his presentation. He adds: “the more challenging the better!“
Exhibitions sc exhibitions Magazine
prefer to drink happily from a shiny new one in a pub, and you risk being outed as an ignoramus. Well, I’m outing myself. I’m a museo-phobe. It’s not that the hollow sound of shoes echoing off marble floors sends me into a fit of rage. It sends me into a shrug of ennui.
Amassing phantom university credits “Vase: Iran; circa 15th century,” I’m told, time after time, as if this is all I need to know. As if what isn’t said I should know already. As if I’m not going to forget every dusty nugget of non-information the moment I walk away. A visitor takes a nap in the Prado, Madrid “The Age of Algae: September 1-December 15; Clearly the institutions behind Museums are $15 only,” they offer, as if charging me for some- valuable. A lot of work is done outside the musty thing I don’t care about is a privilege. Worst of confines of their collections, from discovering all, there’s a climate of snobbery surrounding this new mammals in the jungles of Ecuador to crewhole industry. Confess that rather than stare ating and growing a huge global seed bank. They glumly at an old beer chalice on a plinth you’d provide an umbilical link between our planet and 30 | SC Exhibitions Magazine 2014
our history to the future. But inside these crypts of curatorship, the connection to humankind falls short. If this is all you see of Doha’s Museum of Islamic Art, count yourself lucky. Last year I visited Doha’s Museum of Islamic Art – a landmark at least as celebrated, if not more so, for its architecture than its contents, and no wonder. After the 200th glass case containing an old bowl – or was it a plate, or perhaps it was some more cutlery, who knows, who cares – I decided the photo opportunity across the sea was the best thing about the place. I’ve been to a sex Museum in Amsterdam and never felt less titillated. I’ve been to a beer Museum in Prague and never felt less intoxicated. Where’s the “muse” in all these Museums? Where’s the theater? Photo: Patrick Ward/Corbis
Graveyards for stuff. Tombs for inanimate things. Their cavernous rooms and deep corridors reverberate with the soft, dead sounds of tourists shuffling and employees yawning. They’re like libraries, without the party atmosphere. Occasionally a shrill voice bounces down from a distant hallway: “No photos!” and I swivel to see something, anything, that might be interesting. But it’s not. Leering at a censured tourist for kicks says more about my own desperate situation than it does his, and anyway, it could have been me. I unwrap a biscuit to get through the next 50 yards of 19th-century teaspoons and the same shrill voice rings out again: “No food!” I’ve always hated Museums. Yet twice or three times a year, I somehow find myself within one, shuffling from glass case to glass case, reading the little inscriptions, peering closely at the details, doing what any “good traveler” does. Two hours later I walk out bored, hungry and far less glad to be on vacation than when I went in. The main thing you learn in Museums, it seems, is how not to run a Museum.
Millions of dollars, to see a rock I put equivalent questions to several of the big Museum names around the world, including the Smithsonian Institution, The British Museums Association and the Western Australian Museum. Most didn’t get back to me, but Ford W. Bell, president of the American Alliance of Museums, did. As is usual when you ask any Museum pro what the problem is, it comes down to money. “Since the Great Recession, our studies show that fully two-thirds of Museums have reported financial stress,” says Bell. “Many have been forced to cut staff, hours and programs. At the height of the downturn, even the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Getty – arguably the two richest Museums in the country – cut their staffs.” Many of the world’s biggest and best Museums are dependent on public money.
London’s Natural History Museum needed £82 million ($128 million) to operate over 2012/2013, and nearly £46 million of this, 56%, came from government grants. The Smithsonian has been government-funded to the tune of $811.5 million for 2013 – 65% of its total costs. Yet these are still cited as among their country’s best “free” activities. Is this really the best way to appreciate a Stradivarius? Insiders claim they generate far more money than they suck up. “One statistic I never tire of citing – for every $1 a municipality invests in cultural organizations, including Museums, $7 are returned to the public coffers. That’s a return that would make Warren Buffett swoon,” says Bell. Fair enough, I don’t question the wider benefits of Museums, economic or otherwise. But the collect-and-cage policy that defines the visible exhibits, much of which is not even visible most of the time, is anathema to an engaging experience. The exhibit just opened by the Smithsonian is a good example. “Souvenir Nation” showcases souvenirs from history and among its most noteworthy items are a brick from President Washington’s childhood home, a piece of Plymouth Rock chiseled off by a 19th-century tourist, locks of hair from former US presidents and a napkin belonging to Napoleon. So this icon of world Museums is now proudly displaying an old brick, an old piece of rock, some hair and a napkin. Is there any other industry that could get away with this? This smacks of the most smugly provocative modern art, which insists that anything the curate deigns to put inside the building inevitably becomes “interesting.” Well, sorry. If you want me to fork out for some audio guide headphones, a gift shop key ring and even the $25 book at the end of it all, you need to do better. Where’s the relevance? Why, in places designed to celebrate life and all its variety, is there such a lack of vitality?
Great for kids, but what about the rest of us? My trip two years ago to Hong Kong’s Science Museum convinced me that if there were a World Championship for Most Dreary Things To Do On Vacation, Museums would be disqualified
for going over the top. One of its centerpieces is a large ball bearing that trundles through a kind of miniature roller coaster on the hour. Between that and the Smithsonian’s brick, there lies a large pile of steaming desperation. Of course some artifacts speak for themselves. The Royal Armories in Leeds, England, shows off an 18th-century tunic on which you can still see the blood of the soldier who was speared, and presumably killed, while wearing it. A brief description suffices – imagination does the rest. But for the most part, Museums need to stop relying on the supposed intrinsic value of their collections. Stop “presenting” when you should be flaunting. Give me a story. Show, don’t tell. Kids love Museums, because they get to have fun. What about the rest of us? One area in which Museums have struck some form of success seems to be with children. “Museums annually invest more than $2 billion in education programs each year,” says Bell, adding that US Museums welcome 90 million schoolchildren each year. Kids do seem to have a good time when pushing buttons, pulling levers and magnetizing soap bubbles (right up until they stop having a great time and turn into wailing bundles of hair and tears only a little more bored than the parents). But where’s the equivalent for adults? Why should over-16-year-olds, who still make up the significant majority of Museum-goers, be subjected to stiff, dry, academia-laced presentations as if fun were a dirty word? Where’s your joy gone, Museums? I can’t claim to have the answers, but I do know I expect a sense of traveling back in time when I visit a Museum, of feeling like I was there while these things lived or were used, of feeling the ghosts of the past grab me by the hand and walk me around. Instead I get a sense of a classroom made of cold granite, the only sense of life emerging from the tourists. On the odd occasion a Museum does succeed in transporting me into history, I’m ripped right back out at the end of the route by the gift shop-coffee shop-toilet triple-whammy. Nothing subverts a Museum’s mission like a shiny, digitally printed banner broadcasting $4.95 replica Davids. You can follow CNN Travel’s daily articles on James’ twitter feed: @jedurston.
Imprint Publisher: Dieter Semmelmann Concept and Content: Christoph Scholz Editor and Project Manager: Sven Vogt Graphic Design: Lutz Völkl, META-Team Project Management SC Exhibitions: Marie-Luise Reber and Oliver Zietzke Translations and proofreading: transparent Language Solutions “I was there” by Catrin Lorch was first published at Süddeutsche Zeitung. Republished under license from Syndication/ SZ Content, Munich. “From Picassos to Sarcophagi, Guided by Phone Apps“ by Edward Rothstein was first published at The New York Times. Republished under license from PARS International, New York. “Open Letter to Ariana Huffington, Edward Rothstein, and Many Other Museum Critics” by Nina Simon was published at Museum 2.0 - Museumtwo. blogspot.com. Republished with kind permission of the author. “Why I hate Museums” by James Durston was first published on cnn.com. Republished under license from CNN Newsources Sales, Turner Broadcasting Inc., Atlanta. Special Thanks to: Dirk Murschall, Guido Knopp, Philippe Charlier, Wilfried Seipel, Zahi Hawass, Sanem Habib, Sebastian RottnerHönicke, Olympic Park Munich, Union Station Kansas City, Heydar Aliyev Center Baku, Premier Exhibitions, Inc., Atlanta. Photo Last Page: Rainer Christian Kurzeder
SC Exhibitions is a division of Semmel Concerts GmbH Am Mühlgraben 70 95445 Bayreuth Germany
www.sc-exhibitions.com We will publish our next SC Exhibitions Magazine in April 2015 SC Exhibitions Magazine 2014 | 31
Do You See What I See?