The diary of a national museum director - Museums Association

The diary of a national museum director

Part three
Museums Association
I know it’s hard to believe, but there was a time when there were no interactive exhibits in museums. Imagine a world where you couldn’t draw a virtual moustache with a laser brush on the Madonnas in the National Gallery (the personal idea of the last director – how often is he given credit for that?).

I’ve been looking around for the latest innovations in museology for our new National Museum of British History. One of the best things the new government has done is to get rid of all the petty-fogging health and safety legislation. There is now much less risk that, if some silly child injures himself, the museum will be called into account.

The trend for authenticity is particularly exciting. The National Maritime Museum now offers children the chance to experience at first-hand rum, sodomy and the lash. (All staff are CRB-checked first, of course.)

The National Army Museum runs one-hour water-boarding sessions led by retired SAS officers and at the British Museum you can have your pet dog or cat mummified: pay £475 and you’ll get a lasting memorial. For an extra £50, they’ll put the animal out of its misery first.

The beauty of this last example is that it raises hard cash for the institution as well as providing an educational experience. The new minister seems pretty keen that us nationals do more of this and has even gone to the extent of threatening to cut our budgets by 30 per cent as an incentive.

My favourite hands-on though is the Science Museum’s miniature nuclear reactor. There is nothing more thrilling than seeing those rods glow and the electricity flash, even if your fingers do tingle for days afterwards. You should see the pleasure in their little faces.

Illustration: Paul Bommer/Higginsonhurst

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