Thursday, 10 September 2009

Some inside comment

Nigh on six months have passed and hardly anyone has added a "comment" to this blog. But it has been read! People keep making quiet comments to me. And today an exchange with a former senior member of management saw me agreeing to post the following by way of a comment. It is signed by a nom-de-plume and though I hedge my bets in agreeing with every word, I find my heart agreeing with many and certainly think this is a voice worth hearing and respecting:

"When I was there the curatorial view was that there was no need, for example, for so many Edwardian 4-4-0 locomotives in the collection, but that the corollary view was that no Head of Museum could or would dispose of five of them, and would never be allowed to if he wanted to. Not long after I left, I detected, there was a move away from subject specialists among the curatorial staff to museologists - in other words, people who would be equally at home in a collection of clogs or motor cars. Continued pressure from London resulted in tracks around the turntable in Great Hall being cleared for more and larger cocktail parties, dinners, and other revenue-producing events. The worst and most inexcusable case was the removal of the permanent way exhibits. This was done to create room for the Japanese power car: the failure to display permanent way elsewhere in lamentable - what is a railway without theway of rails? The besetting problem with museums, as with too much else in life, is the obsession with quantity at the expense of quality. Visitorship seems only to be measured, and only recognised by London, in terms of numbers of people and income received. No effort is made to measure the success or otherwise in informing the visitor: Is he better off, in his knowledge and understanding of railways, than when he went in? I think that one problem creeping up on NRM as a result of this is that the high visitor numbers disguise the fact that as time goes by, this nation has fewer and fewer people genuinely interested in railways. The Museum may be trading on its reputation rather than actuality. That is partly the product of anno domini as the old steam generation passes on, and partly because there is nothing to follow the juvenile interest in Thomas the Tank engine. If there is, anywhere, that function is probably being performed by the "preserved" railway, and not by the museum, even though through its collections it is a far better position to give a deep understanding, rather than the superficial attractions of a day out on the A B & C preserved railway.I think that the collections need a vast amount of attention, but that they are not likely to get it for as long as the Museum is seen as a producer of visitor numbers, and is seen as being based upon the interests of anoraks rather than real people. I do not see this changing, unless the Museum gets a truly Messianic director rather than a "safe pair of hands". Ray L Weigh "

1 comment:

  1. Being fair to the museum, I did note a display on 1st October 2009 which I had not clocked before. It was covering ancestors of railways with a Dandy Cart, Belvoir Castle Wagon etc and the track they ran on.