Of all the reasons why I love museums one important reason is that they give me space to daydream and think, to write, to tell stories, and to chat and converse with the people I love about the things that I am looking at. Museums are places that spark the imagination and prompt creativity. And though I am not starry-eyed about them (I know that they are never neutral and that many are flawed) I recognise that they meant a lot to me in an otherwise lonely childhood.
My book is called the Museum Makers, and it takes as its premise that just as making museums is about making meaningful patterns out of the confusions of the world, so – in what we all do with our pasts and how we try to make sense of them – we are all museum-makers. Most of us inherit something from our pasts, even if it’s just an old pair of shoes, an old suitcase or a family memory. Often those memories are painful and even if they are not we still struggle both to take care of these things, and figure out how to express to the next generation what they have meant to us. My book began when I started looking in the boxes of my family’s stuff under the bed and began to turn my professional museum-making skills back onto the secrets of my childhood. So think of it as part-memoir, part-detective story, part museum-history, and part map as to how to connect up your past with your present.
Also on this website you will find my museum blogs, all focused on creativity – great examples of museum-making, as well as imaginative examples and interesting responses to museums from writers, poets, artists, film-makers, in fact from all of us.
And one last thing. Should you be wondering why this website is called the Museum of Marco Polo, well, the idea came about when we were on holiday in Venice. I am an admirer of the original, historical Marco Polo, who was a twelfth century traveller with an endless and tolerant curiosity for everything and everyone he met. Once I had named this website the Museum of Marco Polo it became imperative to give it a back story or a history, which is what all museums should have, whether they are real or invented.
So enjoy the book, enjoy the website, and remember that we all own our museums, huge or tiny, and that they are well worth fighting for.
Rachel’s cv: Rachel was one of the founding directors of Metaphor, an established museum-making company specialising in exhibition design and museum masterplanning. Prior to working at Metaphor she had two novels published by Heinemann and by the Sceptre list at Hodder. For a full list of the work that Metaphor has done over the last twenty years go to www.metaphor-design.co.uk