This week’s guest speaker, Adriel Luis, Curator at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, got me thinking about museum spaces. We’ve often discussed in class the differences between the museum space and the digital space. However, what happens when you take the physical museum away completely? This is something I never would have thought of had it not been for our discussion this week. The APA center does not have a physical location, no museum building on the National Mall. They describe themselves as a “migratory museum,” that “brings Asian Pacific American history, art and culture to you through innovative museum experiences online and throughout the United States.”
As emerging museum professionals, I’m guessing most of us have always thought about our future careers as having physical locations. But, digital technology has challenged that assumption. With the increasing prevalence of social media, websites, apps, digital interactives, and our addiction to instant gratification, I would argue that many of the museums of the future will be “migratory.”
Luis spoke positively of the center’s migratory nature. Their lack of a building actually has given the staff more freedom to produce innovative, energetic programs. They first come up with what they want to do, and then they figure out how to implement their plans including where and when the program will be held. Though I’m sure there are challenges to this approach, their results are stunning, interactive, and site-specific “culture labs.”
I love how digital technology and professionals like Luis are challenging our definition of the word “museum.” And as young emerging museum professionals I think we should continue to challenge definitions (of the word curator, of museum hierarchies, and of the field as a whole).
I welcome any thoughts on migratory museums, museum spaces, and digital spaces. What do we lose when we take away the museum’s location? Would you ever want to work in a museum that doesn’t have a building?