Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Accessible History: Let the Visitors Linger

There are some interesting things going on in the history/ museum communities at present. They all seemed to be centered around one idea; "How do we engage more people in history & museums?"

One way, is the allow more access to historic sites. On his blog Twisted Preservation, Frank Vagnone writes about what he calls "fingerprinting." Read more here: Fingerprinting: A Defense of Leaving Your Mark. When it's all said & done, the self professed "Museum Anarchist" is saying let people take selfies & post them to instagram, pinterest, & tumblr. It can only increase the visitor experience, plus give your site some added exposure (pardon the pun) & free advertising.

But the other point he makes is even more provocative; let people have time in the space. Let them truly feel what it was like to live in a house museum, for example. Let them feel the history, the magic if you will, that we as site interpreters, tour guides, museum educators, guardians of the past, feel when we open up the site for the day. My favorite thing to do in all the house museums I worked at (the Schuyler House & Neilson House in Saratoga National Historical Park, the Marston House, & Villa Montezuma in San Diego, CA, and Schuyler Mansion in Albany, NY) was to walk in before the first tour of the day. Opening the curtains, or shutters to let the light in was almost poetic. I reveled in lingering on the staircase, glancing out an upstairs window, perusing the books on the historically accurate bookshelves. This is why I love house museums. As a visitor, I linger behind the group, so I can snatch a few fleeting moments without the constant chatter of the guide. This is the kind of thing we need to allow, & encourage. Our history NEEDS to be accessible. It belongs to all of us, not just a chosen few.

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