Opinion Piece 3: Almost a Christmas Carol

Finishing work early on my way to the Christmas break, I decided to give myself a treat and visit the Australian Museum.  For the last few years this institution has been given a bad rap, albeit largely by me. I can’t help it, I’ve grown up with this museum and seen it go through more misguided renovations, reinterpretations and politically correct mumbo jumbo phases than I care to remember. I’m an angry middle aged man, who tends to remember when museums were less linguistically complex , but definitely more exciting places to be. You see, the Australian Museum was once a master story teller in simple narratives. This was before somebody had the idea that simply explaining our growth from primeval swamps was passe. Up until the 1980’s the museum still had many of their classic diorama’s and worked wonders in their “halls of life”  using darkened rooms , stunningly beautiful glass (yes) reproductions of ancient marine creatures and the odd skeleton of an Irish elke . It was simple, elegant and could have evolved into including touch screen simulations, but this was not to be. Over the years  galleries were replaced  and re documented with complex narratives. Someone forgot why people go to museums,  which is to get out of the elements and into their dreams. True, audiences need to be aware of how what they see fits into their world but for a while there it seemed that somebody took the pleasure factor out and put the lecture factor in. Whenever, I went to the museum I raced to what was left of the older exhibits. Sometimes, you just need time to stare at a stuffed emu or try to pronounce a mineral with more vowels than is legal. If I want detailed geopolitics, I’ll buy an Ebook.  It can be fairly argued that contemporary museums run the risk of becoming amusement arcades. However, amusement to me is not the same as enjoyment. Enjoyment of a museum, does mean the generation of ideas but  not everyone wants to engage in the same way during every visit.

It was therefore with a certain sense of trepidation that I paid a visit to Tyrannosaurs:Meet the family.  After  getting burnt by the hype of last years Alexander the great exhibition, and finding myself amongst a mass of fantastic objects lost by narration which appeared to be someone’s PhD, I was pleasantly surprised. Tyrannosaurs, ain’t  no droll thesis. And that’s a really good thing. The exhibition tells the story that there is more to the family of Tyrannosaur, than T. Rex alone. It is a fantastic mix of artefacts, interactivity and reinventions on the diorama (yes!!!!). The simplicity of the storyline allows the artefacts  to speak , providing tangents of enquiry. This notion had escaped the museum for some time, with artefacts playing a secondary role in some curators quests  for greatness. There is an open level of engagement. I just browsed, but  could have utlised touch screens or read more wall text if I had of required it. For the first time in a long while, I actually saw a range of demographics enjoying the exhibition. For the first time, in a long while I enjoyed the museum. Not because of flashing lights. Not because it was “critically important”. Simply because, the museum allowed me to dream again.

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