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Use Versus Non-use in Collections Exhibition

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    • #134190
      Aaryn Moloney

      In the collections world is it more prominent/ethical to use collections objects for their original intended purpose when on display in an exhibition or to simply let them remain static? As an example use a working 18th century German Cuckoo Clock on display at a museum. Would it be better to keep the clock running so observers can gain a better understanding of how the object operates and functions, or would it simply be better not to have the object running and just let museum visitors solely see the object in its non functioning state? If you have the clock in a working state for visitors to see they may gain a better understanding of how the clock works/experience it the way someone in the 18th century would have, but you then have the possibility of wearing the object down faster. If you keep the object in a static state the visitor can still see the object but will not get the same experience, however the object may be preserved for a longer period of time due to the lack of wear and tear so to speak. When the object is in storage this is not as big of a problem because the objects can remain static for the majority of the time and be used every once and a while to keep it in working condition. Thoughts on which of these options might be better or any alternatives? Thanks!

    • #134194
      Jeannie Whited

      These days, there are so many ways to illustrate function that continual – or even occassional – use is hardly necessary. While absolutely nothing duplicates the original, there are many ways of recording and playing back function – up to and including 3D scanning and holographic projection. Basically money and evolving tech are your limits. You could even model or 3D print a replica.

      Of course, some objects like ritual pieces (or some would say musical instruments) are thought to require use to remain “living,” and that’s a philosophical discussion about the very nature of the piece.

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