At the Museum of Marco Polo we try to look at museums sideways, picking up all the great themes of time, memory, stories, creativity and imagination. We want to celebrate all kinds of museums – real museums but also fictional ones; museums as theatre, agit prop and rebellion; big museums with spectacular artefacts but also tiny museums drenched in memories and stories; museums made by their communities but also by wayward individuals; museums seen through the eyes of artists, writers, poets and film makers. We want you to wonder why it is that museums, which are such solidly three dimensional things, are as much about ideas as they are about artefacts.
But museums are going through hard times. Ten years of austerity have weakened them considerably, and now the coronavirus has hit them hard. All the things we took for granted – touch screens and audio guides and object handling and queues for loos and big shows – are off the menu; and this at a time when we need museums more than ever, to help sew up the rupture that the pandemic has caused.
If museums are about making meaningful patterns out of the chaos of the universe, then we are all museum makers in the way that we all try to make sense of our memories and our pasts. In which case, however hard the times are, the impulse to make museums – somehow, anyhow, at any scale – will never end.