Sunday, January 27, 2008

"Life-Changing" Museums

I only remember vague details about the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum, but I clearly remember how visiting the spot had made me feel. Although I could not have been older than eight years old, the historical interpreters did a fantastic job of explaining the significance of the Boston Tea Party’s defiant behaviour, and the role that it had in leading to the American Revolution. I vividly remember being filled with a sense of awe, thinking how amazing it was that I was standing on the site where a crucial historical event took place. This brief amount of time spent on this old ship in the Boston Harbour had an immediate impact on me. It was my “aha!” moment, the point in time when my love for history had first been activated.

I found myself revisiting this experience when my museology professor asked us to read and respond to the article “Inside the ‘Black Museum’” by the historian Andrew E. Masich. Masich was awarded a grant to travel the world in search of museums that he felt had the power to change visitors’ lives. Museums that Masich deemed life-changing included well known museums such as the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and the lesser known Black Museum in Scotland Yard, London, which is only open to prospective law enforcers.

I easily reflected on what museum had changed my life, because I have never forgotten that moment of awe, and the wonder and excitement that the site of Boston Tea Party instilled in me towards the study of history. I do not know that the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum would make Masich’s list as one of the top “life-changing” museums in the world, but as Masich's article advocates, every museum has the power to make a long lasting impact if approached with the right mindset.

1 comment:

Meg said...


I enjoyed reading your latest post - it came up on a google alert for museums that I have set. My magical moment in museums was at age 5 or so (between 5 and 8 is very impressionable - whatever you are doing at that age really changes what you like and do, I feel) and I saw a life-size diorama of a Cro-Magnon man wearing an animal fur - I just began to have a concept of time more than a year or so, and had never really thought beyond 10 years, or my parent's age. So to all of a sudden imagine 10,000 years ago, and humans being around in some form totally fascinated me. I have been addicted to hominid evolution ever since.

I also like the end of your comments - you talk about that moment of awe, wonder and excitement - it is because of that that museums are so wonderful. I am promoting how wonderful museums are, and what a great educational resource they are for us - whether it is history, science, engineering, you name it. The publication is called Museum Illustrated, and I hope to have it out in a few months. - I will have more content up soon on the web site. Feel free to take the survey, and check back often and I will post more information.