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Audiovisual Cultures 104 – Beyond the Halls with Mackenzie Finklea automated transcript

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This is Audiovisual Cultures, the podcast that explores different areas of the arts and media join me your host Paula Blair and the researchers, practitioners and enthusiasts I meet along the way see our website at audiovisualcultures.wordpress.com and other links in the show notes for more information for now enjoy the show thank you for cheating and see what do you think she'll cultures the podcast that explores different areas of arts and culture with me your host all up there to date we're returning to a topic of great interest to me but it's one that we haven't visited for a while namely museums  with my special guest today mackenzie  Finkley. mackenzie is the author of beyond the holes an insider's guide to loving museums and mackenzie has a background and that's our policy as well so these are all great topics for us to really get stuck and say after I expanded very warm welcome to you I can say hello %HESITATION hello it's so nice to meet you and talk to you today yes like grace McKenzie hi are you eating are you well today I am doing well today thank you for asking if you hear any %HESITATION low but is that is the fun musical sounds of the cicadas in the trees outside my house it is very hot where I am and I'm very thankful to be inside in the air conditioning okay interesting is it okay to ask where bites your at the moment absolutely I am from Houston Texas in the United States that's pretty exciting Texas is a state I'm very curious about it I'm very curious but holistically emeritus for Sierra taxes since an interesting place I gather but yes very hard at the moment yes it is an interesting place that is an enormous state with all different kinds of cultures and biomes where can I talked quite a bit but museums I hope we're going to properly Nur die to play museums it's a topic I really love we have had some episodes about eighty CM visits and certain museums and that kind of thing but not for read a long time so I'm so grateful that you've brought up this opportunity to talk about next set topic really close to my heart as well I've lived all kinds of museums since childhood and I was wondering what is the debate museums that really draws you in so much that's such a good question what is it about museums that draws me in so much I think for me I am an incredibly visual person and I also love to learn and the museums are beautiful marriage of those two things I love going to museums and getting to see objects of history kind of having the starstruck moments where you're like hello this is a piece of the moon you can actually touch you know things like that and getting to learn then to continue on the moon example there's this really great exhibit where they had all these different scales and you could learn about the difference between mass and gravity with the scales and it would tell you how much she would weigh on different planets who right on the moon versus all the other things instead of getting to see those actual numbers and laugh about them with your friends right like the thousands of pounds you weigh on Jupiter right it's fun interactives and moments like that and shared experiences that are why I love museums so much traffic on Sir do you have a favorite type of museum do you love all the same sekali R. as a techie types of sneezing cyclic like some specialized museums I have a special place in my heart for natural history museums those are probably my favorite type I do love all types I love visiting all types %HESITATION more recently I found a new found love for art museums and contemporary art so my favorites and my current loves are always changing but there is a special place in my heart for natural history is not to to U. S. life on this planet and learning more about that more but she made history what is it exactly by natural history that really get to see much it's exactly that it's all of the above what gets me is trying to answer these really big picture questions of who are we where do we come from how does the world work in all its facets you know how to animals live breathe eat reproduce what's the water cycle what's volcanoes and natural disasters and all of these really big wow factor things that are very much real parts of our life that we for centuries are seeking to understand and always always there is something new to learn and there's always a new fossel it's been discovered that teaches us something different about evolution of some species whether or not it's us or %HESITATION turtles or dolphins or you know the list goes on and on that's why I love them there's always something new to learn and it answers really big picture questions and concepts yeah I'm a big fan of sat T. I. E. when I was a kid I probably still stay from feminist I I have a burning desire to be a paleontologist's dinosaurs are must love of I think yes to anything pre historic is mind blowing to me and hi that sets and tell us today is ridiculous to learn of plates have you had the opportunity to visit lots of difference natural history museums and lots of different locations I wondered what you think of the sock comparative experience yes I have had the luxury of visiting other natural history museums in other locations and I will tell you that one of my ultimate favorites and it's gonna be a funny answer because it's not like the biggest or the most impressive but one of my favorites is the natural history museum on the university of Oxford campus okay what I really love about that museum is just the architecture the %HESITATION this is gonna be such a Gen Z. thing to say but the vibes but also there are these really cool parts of the museum where there are all of these columns made out of all the different types of stone that are native to the British Isles and that is such like an incredible learning moment because not only are you showing like you know the strength of stone how it can be used but in context with actually where the museum is and that makes that particular museum unique because so many natural history museums cover all the exact same topics or they try to have the exact same replicas of famous bottles but not all of them have the fossils right because only one museum can have it in the one copy but I thought that one was particularly compelling that in a very just generally enjoyable experience for me %HESITATION that's ridiculous here I haven't even been to Oxford so he's got me on that one that you sang that does remind me there is a really nice natural history museum in Manchester university so just a bit north of socks and it's talks right end of the campus so easy you really have to know what's in there and I love the small ones like that we can collect the chore syndicate all the samples and it'll different rock samples and stuff it's a really nice example tonight where anybody does something unique because as you say there's a pretty big ones you know opens today natural history museum of London that's when you have to go see if you're there and absolutely yeah it's huge and it's almost overwhelming there's so much stuff I am also an example of Zeus smaller rooms as well I think that's really important to remember are these the kinds of things you go into the and your back beyond the wholesome mean what was it that really motivated GT go right I love museums not enough other people love museums I need this project this problem what was it about all the stuff that goes to the right topic it was exactly all of what you're describing so when I was doing my studies in anthropology towards the end of my undergraduate degree I realized that my interests primarily lie in displays of human culture and I was getting %HESITATION professional museum studies certificate and I was visiting at least one U. CM a week many times more than one and I was doing all of this writing and learning all these things and having these great experiences and I wanted to share that with other people I wanted other people to enjoy museums and learn these valuable things that I was learning at my studies in a very specific kind of program but I wanted it to be accessible %HESITATION and help people you know love museums more sense it's important and we can of course get into that later if you like but ultimately what I wanted to write was something that was it accessible as I believe museums should be accessible to everyone so why would I want this book to be any different right I wanted something that wasn't a boring tech X. book like truthfully many of the books I had to read for class and I wanted something that wasn't just a very specific guide to a specific kind of museum or place or period I wanted it to be a general exploration of museums especially for people who don't visit or think they're not important or just want to understand them better so that's ultimately what I produced was a guide to loving museums that covers a ton of different areas green I wonder is well it might what do people see as barriers T. access as you say because I know my experience in the U. K. it's may be seen as a for a middle class things today is going to museums even if most of them are free to go and say it's just something that other people daily where is my background is probably a bit unique in that I am my grandfather was a security guard and %HESITATION living history museum so I spent a lot of my summers just running a fight these fields and this living history museum so it was a fluke and transports me Sam so I was physically learning about the history of my please so it was the Ulster folk and transport museum in Northern Ireland they would have said actual colleges that people really live stand would have been taken apart very carefully rebuilt some sites and sometimes they would have investigators are demonstrators the last time I was there and this was just a few years ago they had somebody using the latency no somebody actually waving the way they would have a couple of hundred years ago you know and telling us if I didn't mean it is just such a fascinating experience like you're saying that's when you can actually see it and it comes alive free it's much more meaningful so it's something I think about quite a bit is how do we get more people to realize this is for years while you know it's fake questions %HESITATION just to try and drill into that a bit more we want to purchase G. Shanker are helpful and trying to achieve not that's a good one I think it's a lot of what you just said %HESITATION making museums accessible and in many ways entertaining and the entertainment value can either be in your face or more nuanced and here's kind of what I mean by that is within your face entertainment you're gonna have really interactive museums opportunities to ride on train cars you know through nineteen twenty Chicago right or actually touching a moon rock to use an earlier example but then the other more nuanced ways in which %HESITATION museums can provide entertainment value is through fun games or educational curriculum that museum educators provide and museum educator is like a specific position at a museum but I'm sure you're familiar with and those are typically the people that lead school tours or field trips and they will come up with a whole set of really interesting games for ways to interact with things as simple as a painting on a wall to really provide context learning opportunity and that's something that's actually fun and memorable so that's another thing that I really wanted people to have access to was games that they could play on their own in art museums and help them realize it's not as boring as you might think it is at face value yeah is this just to push a bit further without points on interactivity I'm a big fan of tears I really like a museum terror and to see absolutely yes three the ISIS somebody you because it's usually a volunteer it's not even always a member of staff at somebody who has such passion or maybe they're retired historian or something and they have such a passion that they want to lead people three and for you to see it through their eyes I think the last time I managed to date that was an Attenborough I think it's the national museum of Scotland it was thought it was a retired historian and he was just so lovely and so knowledgeable oil and just really passionate you get a nice good people and you're walking around together and %HESITATION I mean this was in December of twenty nineteen so this was before things were really naming properly it was a real joy because I think it's a Saturday or you can get really overwhelmed if it's a very fake museum with lots of different sections and it's trying to cover all the bases and to just see it three right we're just gonna get the specific things in there you're going to see a narrative unfolds got something it's really getting to me what do you think it bites hers and that sort of thing because you can also get order you terse order ops and things like that they'll take you on a tour of mean do you have much experience aside or what are your thoughts on those sorts of activities absolutely in my personal opinion is that I love in person to worse more than anything because audio tours are great they are accessible you can use them at any time you can access them from home in some cases personally I'm less inclined to listen to an area ambiguous robot voice as I'm walking through a museum way more inclined to exactly what you were saying watch a person get really animated and passionate about the things that they're talking about hearing from their expected natural off the cuff storytelling and not as scripted recordings I do really enjoy museum tours especially in the before times you know when I would travel to go see a museum I would make an effort to try to book a museum tour because that's also if you have a limited amount of time in a city or a place they will show you the highlights they will show you the most compelling pieces or artifacts that the museum highlights and then tell you from their perspective it gives you really great insight into the culture of that place as well getting to experience it through the eyes of the person who lived it was online math it's it's not something you a field of in the past couple of years because we've had last access I don't know what your pandemic experience in Spain but I have to museums near ye been accessible through online means I mean there's all sorts of implications are with from dying and he's able to provide that of course then again we've been able to access places in the world we may not have been able to before because we can travel there so I was wondering hi his your access to museums bane and the past couple of years hasn't changed a lot I will say so my book was published in December of twenty nineteen so slightly in the before times right I do talk a great deal about the digitization of museums and how a lot of museums even before Kobe we're starting to put a lot of their collections online to be more accessible to people which is an absolutely great thing and speaks volumes about the rapid acceleration and development of the internet and digital access in general then during a global pandemic that rapid acceleration towards digitisation such a hardware display is more important now than ever because many museums especially in the beginning when everything especially museums had to shut down entirely a lot of museums didn't bounce back from that number had to permanently close some are on the brink of having to permanently close and so being able to provide visitors with ways to engage and support the museum from the comfort of their home has played an increasingly important role not only in accessibility for learning opportunities but also in supporting the museum's business model and keeping it open and continuing to be able to preserve cultural history so locally to answer your question yes the museum's near me have done a really great job of providing virtual events especially in the in the thick of it as we were starting to get better %HESITATION but a couple months ago they were doing a really great job of providing outdoor events things where people could come together distanced but still have these great learning opportunities or a lot of museums near me and across the country have implemented the concept of time demands so that way you come at a certain time and there's not too many people in the museum it runs to the course to prevent the spread of disease a lot of that has changed in the past couple weeks even but yeah hopefully that answers your question it's a lot to think about it I think and as you say the implications of that acceleration of moving everything online we're in very intense times it feels there were times especially for early on when we didn't really know what this was he asks you know a year and a half ago I felt a bit overwhelmed just thinking oh this is going online %HESITATION that's going online %HESITATION I can view got exhibition online I'm sitting but I need to get some work son I can't just sit and let me see here yeah the three sixty degrees online all day and ended up forgetting about it most of it so I think in a way personally I fax est museums and galleries probably a lot less than I would have done if I had of been able to just go right I'm just gonna transfer it to him to school and have a look round an exhibition or something and I don't know hi David title but I wonder if other people are taught that similar experience where people have access to more because before they didn't have the time and then they're on furlough and the dates and all sorts of things I think people who study this sort of thing in a formal way are going to have some work cut out for them to go through hell with him would you like to receive updates links and special offers straight to your inbox and visit audio visual cultures tower presto com to sign up to our mailing list something I eat thank you bye a lot as well as potential problems as PCM speeches we were talking earlier but some of the bigger older ones and especially here in the U. K. risks auctions last colonial history and places like the British Museum matches in upstate global and situation and many ways because there's nothing actually British and they have very little and he everything's covered from everywhere else and I was wondering if you ever come across people challenging yet but that sort of thing because I feel like it's something we need to address that we need to confront said we need to just say yep that's our history and that's not but why do you feel the bite those sorts of issues if they arise and how you might deal with challenges to pot I do really enjoy this topic I like talking about the British Museum because truthfully I have a love hate relationship with that because the very first time I got to visit the British Museum was in the summer of twenty eighteen so I had not yet finished my degree I was the summer before my senior year %HESITATION budding anthropologist just like jumping in my seat waiting in line to get into the British Museum because it is you're absolutely right this global institution where you can see thousands of years of human culture across the world in one place started walking through and seeing all of the things and wondering where they came from and how they came to be into that institution and learning more about the ways in which those objects were acquired and then some of the contentions regarding the fact that a lot of those objects have been requested to be formally returned and subsequently denied so the more I learned the more that the magic was kind of stripped away from me so it's been really wonderful institution I absolutely believe that something like that should exist but at the same time yeah you have really big ethical questions that need to be answered and yes people do challenge me on this topic they will often say well especially in the case of the British Museum if they started giving things back they have to give everything back and then they have nothing left which is such an exaggeration and far from the truth but I think that certainly concessions you need to be made I think it's an important topic to philistine and I think we just need to be honest I've heard our colonial power in this country I think the sooner we are in the center we don't yet our ancestors to thought and it's not pretty intense violence on that's horrible scenery might maybe move on as a society yeah we need to find that balance is holding things in posterity and learning from not passed but also not just forgetting and sang all everything's fine and whitewashing it you know quite naturally it's good to know I used to say look I thought sort of thing I think it is an experience when I first I think it was two thousand and nine when I first went to the British Museum and I had thought I was going around going oh everything's from everywhere else and how did they get yeah I had a very similar awakening to it and then just gradually find out more and more but that's not to say that people shouldn't go because it's a really yeah one situation like so many of them that's another pretty basic example and I do have a great love of small museums curiosity type museums ready specific things whether it's seen them myself for where I've seen them on the TV program and they're all ministers places to visit remember being in Barcelona one time and there is a chocolate museum and I was just solely sculptures made out of chocolate I never intended to find somewhere I wasn't looking for that I didn't know I needed thought my life but I went and I had a choice tied as under if you had examples of things again that were smaller and worker came because we talked the natural history examples earlier but at any other came to three specific things that you really love him much like to highlight there are hundreds of small and quirky museums and the first one that comes to mind it's so embarrassing but it's hilarious there is a toilet seat museum oh really in Texas is kind of off the beaten path and it's not about the history of toilet seats or anything more than anything it's a public art display so he has this essentially a garage at this random man's property %HESITATION where he has floor to ceiling toilet seats that people have decorated signs and just completely imprinted their personality on too and I think that there is just so much to think about in terms of what that says about American culture individualism consumerism like you really could get into the weeds with that but also at the surface it's this really fun and quirky like toilet seats you know I think that's a fun example in haven't friend he's an artist and her her work is ready the weird things that she collects and she's done residency site in Virginia you're ready small tines in Virginia and she's done artworks based on right this time has this particular Moscow and sushi's meet at an art exhibition slash museum items things to do with this hot dog mascot you know it's really super specific really off the beaten track I really love things like that really quite blur the fine J. between what's an art exhibition the museum collection yeah you know something that really muddy suse waters I'm quite and spots I'm quite interested and intrigued by things that aren't necessarily museums but the jury yen and then you think actually this is quite like a museum you probably have places like this in the United States as well I don't know if you're aware of the National Trust for example or English heritage you put me on their buildings to places that they look after they become museum of fights I suppose that since and I was wondering what you thought of as well is that a tear of the CMS occasion another awkward first yeah that process of museum of finding an old place or anything like that is that something you've encountered very much sure what do you think that I would send the National Trust in the United Kingdom is definitely more prevalent than the national trust's awareness in the United States so similar concept the National Trust here seeks to preserve places of architectural significance but the National Trust in England is of a different breed I say England because that's the specific region I've been exposed to the most the National Trust and the United Kingdom is a different rate because it's become something more of almost like a passport you have all of these places where you see the little logo and you can almost fill them out and take them off and go and visit them it's also significantly smaller country to explore but %HESITATION yeah I'm getting to go to see places in Dover %HESITATION you'd see the little logo going to the Stonehenge I believe is also included in the National Trust the national trust's in England definitely and the United Kingdom was certainly more obvious to me that and the existence of a national trust in the United States and museum of occasion there are a lot of places and I include them in the book is that don't necessarily feel like museums but in many ways aren't because museums are preservation's of human culture and if we look at it that way lots of things can be used yeah libraries kind of falls under that category historical holds certainly fall under that category and so the museum of the cation of something if we want to think about that word is probably including a gift shop including educational materials to explain the context of the architecture of a place or its contents ticketing and branding and all these things so it's almost like could be institutionalizing of something that makes it a formal museum and there are always those questions over things what gets to be preserved what is deemed worthy enough to be captain posterity he makes those decisions he gets the side when he gets what money to make those decisions so it unfolds and unfolds all the time that's quite a complex issue I think is quite recently at the National Trust property call Tom Brady hall in Worcestershire and it was only saved because it has the specific wall paintings they're actually part of the walls these murals are painted and sites by a specific artist they need to pick specific sayings it's these Greek myths same spot the faces of men swapped out for political figures of the time as just a splash of this is how wealthy we are this is where our political leanings site you're welcome in this ice if you're happy to discuss those things and it was one of those where debate because he says they were falling you know in the nineteen forties and fifties and the families just can't afford to keep them on anymore and that a labour government demanded the risk very high taxes and this was one of hundreds of calls see if only because of these paintings so we've lost so many other super similar but this one's there because of the spending you know so it's still that's sort of questions what gets to see if a place is quite interesting it is very interesting to think about the value of things right if you can come down and think about things of historical significance that may be easy to choose like I was reading this morning about and our archaeological discovery and almost fully intact tent made out of all the parts of a mammoth and its claim to fame is that it's one of the most early examples of architecture mmhm like how incredible is it to be able to say that you have that in your museum so you can say that the thing that you have is the first or an early example up or something incredibly unique that's often unique and rarity ultimately is what makes things very important museums happens like what's worthy of being on display is often a matter of what they have access to sometimes museums can be dumping grounds for donations of people I had a really interesting conversation and interviews part of my book with an exhibition director at the Houston museum of natural science we're standing in the great hall and emotions around and he goes out everything is trash everything in this museum is trash and I was like come again everything is strange because he was saying you know at some point or another it was something that someone didn't want anymore because if they really wanted it you know they would hold on to it for it and want to have it for themselves so either they didn't want it or they passed away and there are errors didn't want it anymore and gifted it to the museum so that's another interesting way that things end up in museums and then because they're in a museum there's this inherent perception of value because it's institutionalized right so a very interesting conversation nine I hadn't heard of that way of thinking about it before bed makes total sense I have managed to see behind the scenes a little bit one time enemy see and when I was doing my PhD research the curator of the Ulster museum in Belfast ways show me some things because I was using something from their permanent collection notice %HESITATION yeah I just needed to watch and study it yeah she's great she gave me this very quick sure and the stage spaces of the museum and there's just all these great art works and sculptures sins you artifacts and drawers and drawers and shelves and shelves for the boxes and everything and she said everything here is virtually of display everything here could be I tired sometimes we circulate stuff but people have their favorite Sir things right there that people just come here specifically to saying they want to see their Spanish Armada clean say want to see a bit already beaten up cost of a T. rex skills well we've got actual dinosaur fossils here but they're just these tiny fragments of things people find on a peach but the real threats of actually awhile fossilized bits of voxel dinosaur it's the iceberg this thing is suppose of what we see in a museum is just the one tense you know the nine ten Sunder is everything inside the box and we don't get to see absolutely would you or someone you know make a great cast an audio visual cultures then email audio visual culture shock dot com to have a conversation they can see Sir anything else told that you really like to chat about it today I feel like I've thrown a lot of questions out but if there's anything you told that you think it's really important that you have a just a message right there for people anything is holy crap the youth like to say yeah one thing I'd like to come back to that I briefly alluded to early on in our conversation and the importance of museums are why they matter why should we bother why should we visit them from what we discussed museums are places where cultural heritage is preserved and if we are not supporting those institutions visiting them what happens to all of those things do they continue to be preserved not even just professionally but just at all we are what we lose when we lose history you know there's all of these doom and gloom concepts of like %HESITATION we're doomed to repeat it but what I'm thinking of is just the learning opportunities the immersive exhibits the moments that things come alive really in your mind not only are they great spaces a community but ultimately preservation of human culture so I want to encourage people to visit support experience with your loved ones museums in all their glory that's great pretty good message and important message I can see where can we find out more at the union about your back you can read more about me and the book at mackenzie frankly dot com pretty easy to remember you can find the book on the ever ubiquitous Amazon dot com you can also find my book on bookshop dot org which I encourage people to support as well to support independent bookstores across the world accents my interest not sentiments as well both mackenzie frankly it's been such a joy speaking with you today you're very welcome back anytime if you ever wanna talk about a specific saying %HESITATION that you're working on or if you have a new project coming I it's you know just give us a show you're welcome back anytime and it's been pretty tough each day mazing thank you so much it's been such a joy talking to you and I look forward to more checks in the future

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