Scene, Summary, and Museum Stories

Today was day three of the JHU Museum Studies seminar.  Today we visited two museums, the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) and the National Gallery of Art (NGA).  My recurring thought of the day, scene versus summary, and how museums use, exclude, and emphasize elements to tell the stories they want to tell.

This idea, of how scene and summary can be used in storytelling was introduced yesterday in Tim Wendel’s storytelling workshop.  At NASM, we saw how certain aspects of a children’s book were not included in the early education programming because the elements of the story would distract from the story the museum was trying to tell.

Ann Caspari, Early Childhood Educator at NASM reading a story about Bessie Coleman.
Ann Caspari, Early Childhood Educator at NASM reading a story about Bessie Coleman.

At NGA the curators tell their stories through carefully selected art pieces that are thoughtfully placed.  To tell their stories, curators will place certain works are prominently, or give an artist a gallery all to themselves.  This place of honor tells the viewer, this artist or work is important — much like a writer taking the time to set the scene is telling the reader what they are reading is important.  When a work or artist is not prominently place, this may tell the viewer the art or artist is a secondary character, or not as important as the “scene” art/artist.  

The Calder room at the National Gallery of Art. 


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