Personalisation and Playlore: Intangible Cultural Heritage and Childhood History in Museums

Children are everywhere; we all are or have been children, and some of us have children of our own. So why are they largely invisible in so many aspects of cultural heritage? This article examines the intangible cultural heritage (ICH) of children and childhood in Western cultures, a specific aspect of ICH relating to the youngest in society. It asks what we mean by “child” and what might be their intangible heritage, considering aspects such as oral traditions, social rituals, folklore, playlore, and children’s skills in crafting their own toys. It provides an overview of the literature relating to ICH and childhood in museums, arguing both for greater recognition of children’s intangible heritage and for the value of incorporating it into exhibitions, considering some examples of where this has been done. While examination of the archaeology, history, and material culture of children is growing, there has been limited consideration of how intangible cultural heritage might be developed in the museum context with regard to presenting childhood, something this article aims to address.

Fostering Relationships through a Co-creative Exhibition

Recent literature on museums and learning suggests that the museum visitor experience is determined by the fluid interaction between three contexts related to the visit: the personal, the social, and the physical. Meaningful social interaction from positive relationships helps to engage and generate interest in learning. To promote interest in Singapore history among the young, the Peranakan Museum launched a community-curated exhibition that presented history through love stories told by older couples. It conceptualised and tested a model that primarily focused on relationship building and interaction in the multi-ethnic and multigenerational setting that is Singapore. The project involved one museum staff member, four young curators from a polytechnic, twenty young participants, and seventy elderly people. This paper presents the design rationale from personal, social, and physical perspectives; surveys the effectiveness of the implementation; explores the wider issues raised by the findings; and relates lessons learned from unforeseen challenges encountered along the way.

How Buildings Speak: Architecture and Ambiance in the Construction of Art Museum Discourses

This paper explores the exterior and interior of several different art museums to determine to what extent art museum buildings can be considered inclusive or exclusive, welcoming or deterring, depending on their architectural construction and internal ambiance. That is, this paper asks what messages do these art museum buildings and interiors send and how might their various publics interpret them? To try to answer these questions, I take a semiotic approach, assuming that each building (inside and out) is itself a signifier and that each visitor receives a unique signified or sign that depends upon his or her sociocultural background and past experience. I begin with a brief review of the building exteriors (constructions, materials, locations, accessibility, etc.) and continue with a discussion of how interior design, layout and museum protocols could affect the behaviour of potential visitors. I follow this with an analysis of the shops, cafes, bars, and restaurants to determine what role they, too, might play in constructing welcoming or deterring discourses. To support my analysis I use theoretical works by Roland Barthes, Julia Kristeva, and Umberto Eco. In addition, Jameson’s analysis of the Bonaventure Hotel and Benjamin’s Arcade Project, as well as Baudrillard’s discussion of Beaubourg, provide useful reading for my project as they help to legitimize my belief that buildings, the space around them and the space inside them, can, in and of themselves, send powerful messages to their visitors. Other theorists, most noticeably, Pierre Bourdieu and Herbert Gans, are also useful in helping me to articulate my argument.