Thursday, 14 May 2009

Mobile Culcha

Marcel Berlins has a timely piece in the Guardian today on the ubiquity of mobile phones in museums; not used for conversation, of course, but as cameras. The British Museum is plagued by this phenomenon, as is the V&A’s current Baroque exhibition; of tourists standing arms outstretched capturing the image of an object that they will no doubt never look at again. If they were to, they would be better off buying a postcard, contributing to the museum’s coffers in the process.

What is worse, as Berlins observes, are visitors having their picture taken before an object – the Rosetta Stone, for example – to prove they were there. It’s OK, we believe you; we’d be more impressed if you developed your memory beyond the capacity of a goldfish. Perhaps museum staff should point such purveyors of rudeness in the direction of Frances A Yates classic The Art of Memory in which the great scholar elucidates the mnemonic techniques employed by the likes of Dante and Cicero. Then again, museum authorities could just take the sensible and welcome step to ban the use of mobiles for any purpose within their confines, just as classical music venues and theatres do. Or would the current ‘culcha’ secretary, Andy Burnham, override such restrictions on ‘access’ to the mnemonically impaired?

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