Last Tuesday started off pretty typically here at the American Hysterical Society: we quietly exhibited a new collections piece, this one an original perspective on the visiting habits of museum professionals. That was six days, 4,000+ Facebook and Twitter shares, and almost 15,000 views from 30 countries ago!
All we can say is Holy Charles Willson Peale!
So many museum folks not only got the joke, but gleefully laughed at themselves. After everything the museum field has been through these last few years, it was heartening to see people take a breath and a step back. We would like to thank all of you who laughed along with us. You are our target audience.
Of course, not everyone thought it was funny. There were some who felt we had gone too far or that we shouldn’t pick on the noble museum profession. We would like to thank those people for showing us where we went wrong:
And secondly, that some informal, but standard museum practices are not acceptable. For example, in writing our post we used anecdotal evidence, based on our own and others’ observations, to create our perception of one particular visitor demographic. Museum folks develop these anecdotal theories about visitors all the time, and then use them to justify their actions and policies. All we did was do to our colleagues what our colleagues do to visitors. That simply wasn’t fair.
Fortunately, we seem to have amused more than annoyed. Of course, perhaps we’re wrong here and the offended were the silent majority. Maybe it meant something that on Saturday our stats page presented us with this curious view:
Despite the criticism, not only do we believe we lived up to our mission, we also feel we achieved some of the ideals current in our profession. We started a host of conversations on Facebook (including the AAM’s and the Small Museum Association’s pages), on Twitter, and in the post’s comment section. One of our favorites was this one from our comments section:
All museum professionals hope to contribute to the ongoing conversations about who we are, who we want to be, and what we mean (even if it is in some small, but meaningful way). We’d say that we accomplished that (in a small, but irritating way). In fact, even if we turn out to be a one-hit-wonder (and we know some of you are hoping we will be), we are proud and humbled to have contributed even this much.
Of course, thanks to the state of the field, we’ll always have more to offer…