This freewrite post was prompted by Toner Stevenson. I’m not sure it’s what she intended me to write about – but I hope it’s interesting anyway. Just as a reminder, I write about each prompt in ten minutes, and though this is typed from a written text I’ve kept any errors and idiocies.
Let me know what you think. Let’s chat about this.
What do we mean by ‘pretend’? Pretend is that which is not real, which is imagined. Which is not, but is enacted as though it is. In museums and heritage what is pretend? Is it the reenactments and costumed interpreters you find at Mary Arden’s House? Is it the videos one might see illustrating a battle? Is it the audioclip recalling WWI that play in booths at Liverpool Museum?
Or is it the whole thing? The whole enactment of heritage? The history books, the TV documentaries, the arrangements of objects and stories told in museums?
Of course, these things may be fact, or based upon uncovered facts, but their representation is always a sjuizet, always a telling, an arrangement, an imagining, a form of pretend.
Because telling is never real. Not really, really. Telling – which is to some degree the way we see the world – is always a form of pretend. Because viewing ‘reality’ through our flawed eyes, we are become imagineers.
In museums, pretend is both the wonderment and the danger. Because the ways in which museums have presented reality have become so ingrained and successful we have forgotten they are pretend. Forgotten they are tellings which modify the facts museums tell us. Present becomes reality, in as much as it is thought to be true.
There is a need to recognize the pretending of museums for what it is – no more or less than the wonder in the eyes of a child, staring into an infinite cosmos.