MA director Mark Taylor

Museums are not places to come and worship in silence, says Taylor

Geraldine Kendall, 09.01.2013
MA director talks about changing social role of museums
Museums of the future will be spaces for debate and catalysts for social change, according to Museums Association director Mark Taylor.

In an interview with the organisation Europe in the UK, Taylor described how the role of museums was transforming and spoke about how the sector is beginning to take a more active role in issues such as social justice and equality.

“People who work in museums sometimes say, ‘I didn’t train to be a social worker, I trained to be a curator.’ And of course we don’t want to go too far and lose the object in the middle.

“But the younger generation of curators is not happy for museums to be places where people come and worship in silence. They want them to be more like town halls, where debates happen, you can speak the unspeakable and there are things going on.”

He added: “The key thing is getting museums to give up power, to say, ‘It’s not my view that counts - what’s your view?’ It’s a hard thing to do if you’re a high priest of fine art.”

The MA’s Museums 2020 initiative is currently examining the kind of impacts museums can have in order to produce a vision for the future direction of the sector.

On the issue of budget cuts to museums, Taylor said: “We have a funding crisis, but frankly we’re in a better state than 20 years ago because there’s a greater general diversity of income.

“Museums are also more popular and better at selling themselves. Perhaps they have more relevance in hard times as they give people a sense of place, or understanding.”

Taylor also described how the Network of European Museum Organisations (NEMO) lobbies the European Union to influence cultural policy on behalf of museums across Europe.

He said: “In NEMO, it’s not just the money that’s brought us together, it’s the benefits of working across borders, of understanding what issues our colleagues are dealing with.”

Click here to read the interview in full