I have been to a LOT of museums. Some have been massive, and have loads of money, like the Natural History Museum (that's where the first picture is from). Others have been tiny, like the D'Arcy Thompson museum in Dundee. I once even went to a museum that was two rooms in a man's house. All of them have been cool in their own way. I even wrote about two very different museums in London earlier this year, and why I preferred the much smaller one, although both were brilliant.
So if I could make my own museum, and control everything, what would I do ? These are the 21 ways I would make my museum absolutely fantastic for everyone, especially kids.
1. Museums should be free and open to everyone.
(ADDED 19 October 2013: Some people think Sir Richard Owen wasn't such a bad person, and that people forget what a brilliant scientist he was. This is a good article which is a bit nicer about him.)
2. Museums should be properly funded
When museums have less money, they can employ fewer people, open less hours, and sometimes even close whole buildings. That sucks. A prime minister should be ashamed if that happened.
3. Museums should have a great building
4. Don't have a vagina as the very first thing you see
5. It should have a bit of a wow factor inside
One of the best for the wow factor though was "Treasures of the Earth" which isn't as scientific as the others but is still pretty cool:
6. Make it as hands-on as possible
7. Don't hide the experts
8. Link exhibits to things in the real world
9. Label everything well
10. Have information for all levels of knowledge
11. Link related objects through the museum
The thing about museums is that no-one is ever interested in everything. Who cares about vases ? Not me. But if you get someone interested in one thing, and they want to go home and learn more about that thing, then that's a win.
Museum learning shouldn't stop when you leave the museum. Why not have an easy way to go to museum web pages with more information ? The Natural History Museum used these QR codes but only in the shop. Why not put them on exhibits too ?
13. Let schools have classes there
14. Put exhibits online, and use social media
The best websites for skull collectors are Skullsite.co.uk and Skullsite.com, but they aren't even run by museums. I can't believe that all the museums in the Uk with all their amazing collections have put things together in the same way online.
One of the best blogs for bone collectors - Zygoma - is written by an expert (Paolo Viscardi, the consultant editor on my book), but he does it in his spare time, but it's got loads of people interested in thinking about bones, science and museums.
I know social media isn't as important as other jobs in the museum, but it was sad that when I asked Kelvingrove Museum whether they really meant to say redwings on this sign (I'm not sure, maybe they did) that they didn't reply.
15. Make museums very child friendly
16. Find great ways of explaining things.
17. Make visitors ask questions about the world
How much should we spend on protecting endangered species ? Why should we save some and not others ? Could the £2m spent on protecting beavers be better spent ? Why is swimming with wild dolphins wrong ? Are tourists at the Great Barrier Reef actually damaging it ? These are very difficult questions that scientists worry about, but the Grant Museum is the only one I have been to which asks visitors the same questions.
18. Find cool ways of putting stuff on display
19. Encourage photographs
20. Museums are less important than nature itself
21. Sell my book in the gift shop.
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