The National Trust has just announced that it’s inviting people to get closer to its properties ; to play the piano, pick up the telephone, have a game of pool. Is this the future for museums or does it turn going to a stately home into a slightly more glamorous version of going to see your mum for the weekend?
I like the theory of being able to get up close to things in museums and touch them. It’s something we’re thinking about as part of the Ditchling Museum redevelopment. In this case, with some good reason. A lot of the objects in the museum were made by a community of craftspeople and were made to be touched, used, washed up, put away and played with. Intimacy and domesticity suits them.
Where you gain intimacy, you lose a bit of drama though. In National Trust properties, I think the very excitement of being let loose in them and allowed to touch things that creates its own thrill. But they need to inject a bit of storytelling into it. Who’s on the other end of the phone when it rings?