Friday, September 28, 2007

More Museums Embracing Blogs?

If you're a blog junkie like me, the question of whether they represent a respectable form of communication or not probably seems irrelevant. I was drawn to blogs because I was starving for information I couldn't find elsewhere. I knew a good chunk of that information was questionable, but not all of it so much less so than a good deal of what I heard on TV or read in mainstream newspapers. At least on the blogs, I could write back (either via email or comments) in real time and express why something struck me as questionable or just plain wrong, and via that process work my way toward a better understanding if not always exactly "the truth."

Since their rise in popularity, blogs have endured a number of rather misguided assaults from pundits, reporters, or writers who generally focus on blogs' shortcomings as "Journalism." To my mind that's like faulting medicine for not tasting like rich creamy chocolate. You could make it do so, if you wanted to put the effort into it, but as long as the taste of the medicine doesn't make you gag, there are other concerns for its makers than whether it can pass as something it wasn't meant to be. Some blogs are journalism; others aren't trying to be.

Recently, however, there have been indications that the tide has begun to turn, and blogophobia is giving way to a wider understanding of how blogs can help those institutions whose mission it is to spread the word. As I noted
last week, the Old Gray Lady cited the rise of blogs and their usefulness in the Times' goal of "offering unfettered access to New York Times reporting and analysis" as one rationale for their decision to end their pay-to-read service.

Then this week I was emailed a press release from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, who is about to launch their very first blog in conjunction with an exhibition in The Costume Institute galleries. Now there are a host of museums who already have truly excellent blogs, but for the Met to join their ranks suggests to me that opinions are shifting about the medium. Moreover, I'm not sure if any other museum is yet offering what seems to be an interesting innovation that the Met is going to include in this: a "blogbar" (i.e., computer terminals in the exhibition galleries specifically so visitors can comment while there). I'm intrigued by this idea, but I have to say my first reaction is that while in the galleries, I'd rather be focused on the work. I'll save a final opinion on that until I see how it's installed and operates, though.

I can't find the press release on the Met's website, but here's the gist:

“blog.mode: addressing fashion” Sparks Dialogue at Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute

Exhibition dates: December 18, 2007 – April 13, 2008
Location: The Costume Institute
Press preview: Monday, December 17, 10 a.m. – noon

As a living art, fashion is open to multiple readings, and blog.mode: addressing fashion at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from December 18, 2007, through April 13, 2008, presents approximately 40 costumes and accessories dating from the 18th century to the present — all recent Metropolitan Museum acquisitions — and invites the public to share their reactions via a blog on the Museum’s website.

Over the duration of the exhibition, which will take place in The Costume Institute galleries, individual costumes and accessories will be posted on the blog periodically with commentary from curators Harold Koda and Andrew Bolton, and, where relevant, from contemporary designers.

The blog is the Metropolitan Museum’s first foray into the blogosphere, and can be accessed from the “Special Exhibitions” page of the Museum’s website (www.metmuseum.org). Visitors can respond to the postings from anywhere during the run of the exhibition, including a “blogbar” of computer terminals in the exhibition galleries.
Don't go to their site looking for the blog just yet, though,

The blog for the exhibition will go online at www.metmuseum.org on December 18, 2007, and will accept new comments until April 13, 2008, when the exhibition closes.

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7 Comments:

Blogger Kate said...

It would be difficult to fault any institution for trying to create greater access to the arts for the public at large, but, like you, I would reserve judgement about the way in which it is done.

The ubiquitous headsets, already provided at most institutions, are loved by many who like the backstory whispered into their ear while looking at art. I would argue that this mediated experience takes away from the power of the work. Watch these plugged-in people some time: they are all sitting TV-distance away from the work, while the narration drifts effortlessly into their brains. I don't think that this is the way the work was meant to be viewed, and I don't think that you can "hear" the work with those voices in your head.

I hope it can be pulled off in such a way that it does not detract. Think about those moments when you have walked alone through a museum, seen something amazing, and immediately wanted to tell someone about it, to articulate for yourself what the work "did": now you can tell the world.

9/28/2007 10:14:00 AM  
Anonymous ml said...

For better or worse ours is a verbally based culture. Writing has always held a higher status than the visual. This just reinforces that. Not a good or bad thing, just reality. When we have full scale virtual realities -of museums, places like Mars or the moon available, then that bias might shift a bit.

9/28/2007 11:16:00 AM  
Blogger achristian said...

with the immediacy of the format it should work well in this context (fashion). it also allows for judgement, which is pretty popular, especially when it comes to fashion.

With the volume of people moving through the MET they'll probably end up with a ton of unreadable crap in the comments section.

9/28/2007 11:55:00 AM  
Anonymous joy said...

Ed,
hilariously, I just received this email from my pal Sonia, an ex-Met colleague of mine, who stumbled across your post and has no idea of our connection:

"this guy [meaning you, Ed!] has to be set straight - your blog was the first met blog!!"

Hee! What she means by "my" blog is not newsgrist, but the library blog I initiated 3 years ago at my place of employment (full disclosure) at the Met: http://GoldwaterLibrary.org

You will notice, it piggybacks on newsgrist.

Failing to get "full Met support" right off the bat, and despite the efforts of some fabulous people in our Tech dept., we in the library started it as a password-protected blog. Later we removed the password. In a short period (3 years) it has become quite popular among the Anthro/ Ethnographer/ Library/ non-western art researcher crowd... We're proud of it, and it must be pointed out that sometimes not having "full support" is a blessing in disguise. I daresay, http://GoldwaterLibrary.org is probably helping to form what will inevitably become Met "blog policy" just by functioning.

Best,
Joy

PS: Goldwater is Robert Goldwater, the anthropologist who was married to Louise Bourgeoise (I recently made an entry for him on Wikipedia).

9/28/2007 04:11:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

thanks for the great tip, Joy. I'm sorry to have not known that. It's one hell of a classy blog!

9/28/2007 04:24:00 PM  
Anonymous joy said...

thanks Ed! I'll pass that along to my fellow library blogger's here -- they love positive feedback!

9/28/2007 04:26:00 PM  
Blogger maxwell said...

When I was working on my history degree, blogs relevant to that subject were dismissed institutionally as "popular history" but accepted academically as primary resources on contemporary thought trajectories for the same reason (i can qualify this statement if needed).

The notion of authoritative, institutional blogs is an interesting challenge to the tradition of academic studies being a long, drawn out, and highly studied and researched exploration. Blogs are, by nature, timestamped, urgent, and somewhat disposable in a way that these establishments usually shun. The results so far have been kind of bizarre to me, such as Artforum's blogs, which have become kind of a Page 6 for the art world. It's interesting stuff, but i can't decide whether I think it detracts from objective appreciation and discourse, or whether it illuminates an existing lack of objectivity. I'm definitely curious to see how the met handles it.

9/28/2007 07:11:00 PM  

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