Thursday, June 16, 2016

Zoo story

In the ongoing battle by art institutions to increase audience numbers, no one is targeted harder than school kids. All museum folk love the pitter-patter, pitter-patter of tiny feet that they can divide by two to build the body count for Councils, Governments and Boards. Besides, what could be more important than educating the young? To that end, the museum world has sprung into interactivity and become rather more doubtful about the attractions of content.  Yesterday in Budapest of all places, we saw an extreme example of the trend that seemed to indicate that all the expense and effort to be entertaining to kids might be a waste of time. At the Budapest Zoo's museum, in a huge hall full of vitrines and panoramic display cases (well rooms really), we found hundreds of children excitedly running from one window to the next, pushing and shoving to get the first look. Total engagement and animation with just one unusual aspect: all the displays were completely empty. No animals, no birds, not even a snail. Someone had forgotten to put up the ‘exhibition closed for repair’ sign. Kids didn’t care.