Orhan Pamuk On Museums As They Are And As They Need To Be
The founder of the Museum of innocence and the Nobel Prize winning author from Turkey. Orhan Pamuk and his keynote speech at the International Council of Museums was by La Republicca, an Italian newspaper as a video link. The point that he focused on was that the future needs smaller and more economical museums which would address the humanity.
He further mentioned that though every museum is a sincere treasure trove of humanity, but also emphasized that he stands against idolizing the current elite and monumental institutions of today for any future establishments. It is important for a museum to explore and unearth the whole of humanity including that of the modern man who evolves in the rapidly progressing economies that are not necessarily in the West. He further went on to say that his manifesto in particular addresses the exponentially growing and evolving Asian museums.
A state sponsored museum, no matter how great it is, more often than not has the aim or purpose of representing the state, which isn’t necessarily a great aim to have. He further lists out some themes and drafts a proposal for upcoming institutions.
Taking the example of two of the most popular national museums viz. the Louvre and the Hermitage, Pamuk mentions that these institutions gained the status of a tourist destination due to the act of opening up of the royal and imperial residences to the general public. These establishments that have come to be recognized as national symbols showcase the ‘History’ of the nation as something that is of a lot more importance than the histories of people or individuals. This, however, is quite unfortunate as it is these histories or narratives of individuals that do a better job of showcasing the humanity in all its reality and ingenuity.
Another point that Pamuk mentioned was that when the palaces are transformed into national museums, the process of this transformation should follow the process of conversion of an epic into a novel. He equated epics with palaces that speak of the heroism the kings demonstrated and insisted that the palaces need to be like novels, which unfortunately has not happened.
The third point put across by him is that there definitely is no need now to establish any more museums to recreate a chronological account of the society or community as an account of a clique, a nation, and/or a state. It is well known and an established fact that everyday lives of ordinary people are richer in content and a lot more relatable.
The fourth point of concern is the lack of showcase of the narratives from cultures like the Chinese, Turkish, Indian, Iranian & Mexican even though it is extremely important to be done and is definitely not a gargantuan task. The challenge however lies in using museums and similar establishments to tell the tales of humanity in these cultures with genius, power and depth.
Number five in the list of Pamuk’s reflections is that the criteria to judge the success levels of a museum should not be the capacity of the museum to showcase a specific nation, a specific state, a specific society or any particular history. The museums need to be judged on their knack to showcase the humanity and the human aspect of individual histories and narratives.
Pamuk’s sixth reflection is that the museums need to be scaled down in the sheer size of it in a way that it can be oriented towards individuals and be more economical, with an objective to tell a human tale. The humungous museums of today invite us and weave around us an acceptance of the state as a homogenous mass of humans. It is this particular trait that museum is feared in many countries outside of the West and this is why the museums have come to be associated with the government.
The seventh in the list of Pamuk’s reflections is that the museums must re-inspect their aim of showcasing and representing the state and must make it an aim to recreate the world of individual humans. It is important to do this because these humans were the ones who had suffered ages of tyrannical oppression.
Eight in the list of reflections is that the enormous amount of resources that are being directed to the bigwigs in the world of museums must be oriented to support the smaller institutions that focus on the individual tales of humanity. A part of these resources should also be utilized to encourage individuals to transform their small houses or stories into individual narratives.
Reflection number nine in Pamuk’s list is that the objects need not be uprooted from their context and natural surroundings where they belong. In this manner the narrative is self-formed and the objects tell their own stories. It is imperative that we encourage evolution of modest museums that may exist on the streets, houses and shops in their natural surroundings and turn into poignant moments in a larger narrative.
To sum it all up Pamuk says that the future of the museum needs to begin at home and we have to outgrow the habit of epics and move on to the humble novels. Instead of showcase and representation, the museums need to have the ability to express. We need to step out of the world that exists in monuments and get introduced to that which exists in houses.
The museums today showcase History when the real need is for stories. They represent nations, when all we need is to represent people. Instead of masses and cliques, we need to highlight the individual in a museum. In the past, present and in near future there are and will be more and more lavish, gigantic museums, particularly in Asia as the government funds them. Today the need, however is for small and economic versions of the institution that orients itself to the humanity.