Thursday, 11 June 2015

Rules for a Playful Museum

I visited Manchester Museum recently for the joyously playful launch of their booklet Rules for a Playful Museum. Oh what fun! From climbing between the enticing strings of a spider's web, to flying paper aeroplanes and hopping from carpet to carpet, I've never enjoyed such playful interpretation of a natural history collection!IMG_7529

I should confess, I'm not enormously attentive when I visit a museum without a sketchbook in hand. I'm not so good at reading the panels and making thoughtful conversation with my visiting companion. There's too much to read and so I don't know where to start.

I solve this problem with my sketchbook, but I often wonder what less confident people than myself must do - and how many others are visiting museums and reading the panels out of a sense of duty. 'This is what we must do - it's on the tourist sites list'.

IMG_7526So I was excited by the idea of playing, but slightly curious about how it might achieve the museum's objectives - how would playing send visitors away having gained something specific to the Museum? 

Until I found myself discussing the qualities of the beaver. Good looking? Ugly? Slightly sinister, actually. It's those claws. And the teeth! I mean, clearly they need them, but ... and the fur, so much less soft than on a cuddly toy! And why do they build dams anyway? Do they live in them?

IMG_7522All this was provoked by a heap of cardboard boxes and the challenge to build a den for one of the animals. I'd be thrilled to hear this energised discussion going on in front of a museum object (although slightly surprised, in the London Transport Museum!). And suddenly I connected, that all these games linked perfectly to the displays on hand.

We built a den for the beaver.