In response to a call for content for a book titled Hack(ing) School(ing), I wrote an article on how we should replace middle- and high-school history content standards with helping students to develop curatorial skills. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic. Check out the post at my more academic blog, The Clutter Museum.
So. . . someone apparently called up The National Museum of the Royal Navy at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and asked if the museum would like an old can of pudding.
When the museum discovered it was a 111-year-old can of pudding distributed by Aggie Weston, a philanthropist later made a Dame of the British Empire, to sailors during the Boer War, it accepted the tin.
On the one hand, these kinds of stories can go a long way toward making clear that museums collect all kinds of things, as well as what might make an object valuable—in this case age and rarity. It also could be an opportunity for a museum to articulate its own collections agenda, in case readers might have something that would enrich the breadth or depth of the museum’s collections. (Hint: the collections plan shouldn’t be “Anything with Any Connection to [Name of State].” I’ve seen collections where that, indeed, seems to be the “plan.”)
On the other hand, I suspect some of my curator friends can now expect calls that begin with, “I have a can of Campbell’s soup from the Bicentennial. Do you want it? Also, a Wheaties box featuring Mary Lou Retton.”
(I suppose such artifacts would be a nice addition to the exhibit a curator and director recently schemed about having: “Crap From Donors Who Expect Us to Put It on Permanent Exhibit.” Each label, of course, would prominently and graciously feature the object donor’s name. It could be quite the cabinet of curiosities, no?)
What are your reactions to stories like these? Do you appreciate the “buried treasure” aspect of them, or is your reaction more complicated?