Commentary by Chris Clegg
I used to think of museums as old, boring places to visit.
I never understood the fascination and utter joy my boring parents and grandparents received from visits to such old, dusty places. I mean, there was no Bugs Bunny, or football games on TV, not even a board game to play. How could anyone get any satisfaction from looking at some old piece of iron?
Being a kid, I was just flat-out bored. There was absolutely nothing to do, except follow our fuddy-duddy parents around as they gushed and gawked at displays I had no idea what they were about. Or cared! The biggest thrill we kids had was hoping for an ice cream cone after the tour.
Today, I walk into a museum and get depressed and interested at the same time. The kitchen displays are like a trip down memory lane. The old large cans of syrup, the Blue Ribbon baking products, the old iron skillets – many of these were in mom’s kitchen not so long ago.
Come to think of it, it was that long ago! Like these items in the display, do I now qualify as a certified relic? An artifact? Have I reached that age?
What I used to find boring is now interesting. What was that used for? How did they make that with such crude tools? Really, they couldn’t cook a meal in a microwave? How did they ever survive?
Technology has advanced so rapidly in such a short time many of us do not even think of it. Cell phone usage in the area began under 25 years ago. Heck, I still have my string and tin can.
Fax machines, now almost obsolete, are less than 30 years old.
Old boob tube TVs? You can’t even give them away? Today’s flat screens are 10 times less in weight and take very little space.
The old computer screens, same thing. Still, our office still has one of those monitors. It works!
What I think has changed the most about museums is they have caught up with the times. Sure, their main purpose is to store and preserve history, but they way they do it has changed form the day I went to elementary school.
I remember the tours but that was it. Teachers herded the little darlings into the museum like sheep, had them walk around the room and listen to someone try to explain to a disinterested student the important of some relic from decades ago. Some of us feigned interest. Others didn’t bother to make the effort.
Today, I see students tour museums and take part in crafts. They make fossils. They make butter. They make other crafts relating to the subject being taught.
I wish that had that in my day. Then again, when I was a kid you could never get through on a party line to make an appointment.
For the youth of today, a party line was not a phone call you made to set up a good drunk. You actually shared your phone line with as many as two or three neighbours. What naughty little kid didn’t listen in on Aunt Marion’s phone call?
Or vice versa, Aunt Marion listening in on your next date plans! Ha, ha!
Today’s museums are in fact fun places to visit. Like visiting the library, they educate but they also entertain.
It’s no longer the dusty old building we were forced to visit.
What a difference a few years make!