I have never considered that museums may not be displaying “authentic” history. Preserving an artifact in its ideal form rather than its reality is an interesting issue. I don’t think the public would be very receptive to going into a respectable, national museum only to be met with dirty smelly things. If a museum chooses to put Michael Jordan’s uniform on display, they are going to wash it first. But isn’t the sweat and stadium smells of a winning game part of history too? The public, I believe, has a very specific image of what we call ‘history’. It is supposed to be neat and orderly — no matter how messed up a massacre was, or how devastating a hurricane became, or even how revolutionary a torn down wall is, things need to be labelled with smart little placards. A visitor should be able to walk into an exhibit and experience from start to finish the progression of events.
But I don’t think history is actually anything like museums say it is. Just like in Bush’s memex, people should be free to jump around history as they please, making their own connections and analyses. While museums for the most part appear to allow this, a visitor can easily go on a ‘guided tour’ or download the best route to see everything. Or consider the Luvre in France. You walk inside one end, and go in one line, exiting out the other end. I understand that not everyone is a trained historian, but traditional museums are almost patronizing in their treatment of experiencing history, holding your hand like a child and explaining in simplest terms the significance of something. I think instead of this, a picture or a replication should be the jumping off point for the experience of history, not the end.
How best to preserve this exact moment?