I found Peta Motture’s lecture absolutely fascinating. One of my favorite things to do whenever I have free time is go to a museum. I usually take some homework and head over to the British Museum or National Gallery. I can spend hours alternating between reading and wandering the museums, balancing schoolwork with the personal joy of walking through exhibits that have now become familiar. Yet, even though I spend so much time in museums, I don’t think I fully thought about all the work that went into creating these exhibits before Peta Motture’s talk. I can easily acknowledge when I think I gallery or exhibit works well- the Hollywood Costume exhibit at the V and A over the fall was stunning, and The Enlightenment Gallery and the Parthenon Gallery, both at the British Museum, are stunning. Despite this acknowledgement, I barely thought about why I found these displays so interesting. Yet know, as I wander through the museums, I have a better appreciation for how they are set up.
I think the clearest example is my experience with the Enlightenment Gallery. I can distinctly recall a sense of awe the first time I accidentally stumbled into the room. It was one of my first weeks in London and my old cultural foundations class went to the Museum. We had some free time to explore (technically it was a chance to see the mummies…. but I am sort of scared of dead things….). I was walking with one of my friends when all of a sudden we found the Enlightenment Gallery. Both of us stopped and stared, amazed by the aesthetics of the room. I have been to the gallery many times since then. I read Machiavelli’s The Prince sitting on one of the benches in the gallery and even brought my family to see the room on our quick tour through the museum (and I was dealing with my rather cranky teenage brother who claimed he didn’t want to go any museums in the first place). After the talk, I went back to the Gallery with Courtney to do some research for my essay. This time, I saw the room in a completely different light. Suddenly I could look beyond the beauty and attempt to understand why I found this room so pleasing. I could appreciate how the room appeals to different audiences and the superb organization (along with the excitement of finding secret doors… though Courtney seemed to think it was unnecessary to walk around the entire room looking to see if there were more after we saw a couple of guards walk into one…). It is easy to understand when you like something. Yet know I feel as though I can better understand the question of why and the extraordinary amount of work that goes into making a gallery appealing.