Tuesday, August 11, 2015

What’s in store for what’s in store?

It’s well known that art museums can only show a fraction of what they have in their collections. In the nineties there was a rush of institutions eager to show more. Most of them chose to do it with what's still called an academy hang after the densely packed exhibition style of the Academies from the late eighteenth century. Here the volume of work on display trumped anything to do with quality, coherence or even format. When Te Papa was in its planning stage (and for some years after that) there was the promise that the stored collections would be made accessible to the public. The details were never revealed about how this would happen exactly but the general idea of access always meets with polite approval so it made political sense. Public access though seems to have been corralled into the digital realm and as in the past the vast majority of the national collections can only be accessed via images in the collection database. Apart from backroom tours at the odd open day, that's it. There are other possibilities though. The Schaulager in Basel is founded on the idea of an open warehouse and now in Los Angeles the soon to be opened Broad Museum is making the storage areas and what goes on there viewable to the public. This 'peek behind the institutional curtain' isn't just selective storage - that's been tried often enough - but an attempt to expand the museum experience beyond curatorial packages. You can read more about the Broad idea here in the LA Times.