Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Breathing Life...

"Observing the world observing world wonders is a favorite pastime. I get to be in the presence of natural beauty, and also the beauty of the curious visitor, the human in action - the human in awe. Like a fly on the wall in the Louvre, I get to view both the art and the onlooker and see how they need each other. Without the foot traffic, a museum is just another empty warehouse. Therefore, without acknowledgment, a human is just an empty vessel. It is we who breathe life into each other. Thank you for seeing me and bringing me to life. I hope these words reach you and give you a sense of relatedness. You’re the painting I’m presently staring at. The value I put on that is priceless."

~Jason Mraz

I came across these words whilst reading my Sunday dose of The Freshness Factor 5000, a pop artists thoughts from the road that seem to keep me grounded for the week. I love this statement about observing the world observing the world, and I can relate. Perhaps it explains (at least to some extent) why I sat outside the Louvre in Paris for two hours contemplating rather than going inside. It was inspiring just to be in the presence of the world wonder - but it wasn't just the familiar pyramid structure that was inspiring, was it? It was the tourists too, one and all: the disgustingly adorable honeymooners whose world might shatter if they're forced to break the grip of each others' hands, the elderly people on the "beep-beep carts" who threaten to run over any life-form that may be in their paths, and even the obnoxious American families with their matching tshirts cameras grasped like weapons. People from all over the world were crossing paths, and even if they all came with different feelings toward museums, they all came to go to the one and only LOUVRE. I suppose this was my own personal practice of "visitor studies" long before I ever dreamed I would be taking a Museology class at Western.

I must say that I really appreciate this blogger's insight to the world of museums and artifacts. I really feel that there is a co-dependency between artifacts and spectators. I was in the collection storage room alone at the OCHS today and I couldn't help thinking that these treasures may as well not even exist when they're locked away in the dark. Sure, on occasion, some history nerd like me will get a chance to get in there and enjoy a private moment with their importance - but it really made me realize what kind of life artifacts take on once they're on display to an appreciative visitor...or even an indifferent visitor for that matter!

It kind of makes me reconsider how much focus of a museum should rest on the visitor rather than the artifact. Should it be an even split?

I found a pair of slave chains from the Civil War era in our collection today. They're just sitting on a shelf with all the nonchalance in the world. I was grateful that we had the opportunity to see one another. It felt good to breathe life into them for the first time in who knows how long, even if it was only for a few minutes - and it's not too hard to imagine what kind of feelings this one particular artifact breathed into me.

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