Amid Covid-19, Museums May Find Ways To Help People Imagine Different Futures, Singapore News & Top Stories
SINGAPORE – While Covid-19 has been a disaster for museum visitors, curators have had the opportunity to pause and rethink how best to weather the storm.
Last week, the National Heritage Council hosted a symposium on International Museum Day titled The Future of Museums: Recovering and Re-imagining. It is not surprising that the most repeated term is Covid-19. Digitization was also a buzzword.
But there was a segment of the symposium that focused on how museums can play a key role in climate and sustainability discussions. Beyond finding a viable business model during and after the pandemic, stakeholders focused on how museums can help a struggling economy rebuild.
“As museums explore contemporary approaches to public engagement and collecting, they have also sought to reimagine their role in promoting awareness and civic action around pressing global issues,” said the National Heritage Board.
During the panel discussion, ArtScience Museum Executive Director Honor Harger called on museums to operate with this goal in mind. “I believe that we are in a battle of the imagination and that museums can win,” she said.
“We have to find the courage and the clarity to imagine different futures. It is not just an act of creativity, a flight of fantasy away from the stressors of the present, or a form of escape, it is an urgent requirement. We must insist on a fairer and more sustainable future.
“The first step to a better future is to be able to imagine it.”
She cited various exhibits that the ArtScience Museum has put on over the years that have contributed to this imagination.
Into the Wild, an augmented reality experience put together with help from Google and Lenovo, brought the Sumatran Forest to Marina Bay. He taught visitors about the rich diversity of the forest, where Sumatran tigers, tapirs, pangolins and orangutans roam, and has had a real impact on the world as well. For every virtual tree planted by visitors during the tour, a real tree was planted in Rimbang Baling, Sumatra.
The result has been the planting of over 10,000 trees.
His exhibition 2219: Futures Imagined challenged visitors to imagine Singapore and the region in 200 years. While immersive and fascinating in its lineup, with tiny worlds created by over 20 artists, it has also encouraged viewers to reflect on the impact of their consumption and the standards that are taken for granted today.
She said: “The emotional connection made possible by art and the understanding made possible by science gives us the tools to tackle systemic problems.”
More recently, other institutions have also organized exhibitions on the subject of the environment. For example, the National Library Humans x Nature: Environmental Histories of Singapore challenges viewers to reclaim their natural heritage by showing how the island’s flora and fauna have changed over 400 years.
Ms. Neo Xiaoyun, 25, invited to the symposium as a Youth Ambassador, said, “Museums are a key part of experiential learning for everyday Singaporeans. How can curators present current collections for contemporary purposes?
“It starts by thinking of museum visitors not as consumers but as citizens, not just of Singapore but of Earth. Human events are only part of a larger story.”