Mediation refers “to a whole range of actions carried out in a museal context in order to build bridges between that which is exhibited (seeing) and the meanings that these objects and sites may carry (knowledge)” (ICOFOM 2015: 47).

Mediating implies interpretation. Hence, mediation is a prime function of the museum and the exhibition of the collections continues to be the main instrument of mediation that museums have.

The objects itself are mute. Displaying them is to give them voice(s). Curators are responsible for this process by creating a set of mediation tools as a means to ensure that the visitors will be interested and willing to listen to what the object has to say. This action becomes an interaction when visitors give the objects new meanings, multiplying their voices.

Opening a permanent exhibition is therefore the result of a scientific and educational curatorial program that outlines the museological program. The museological program is itself a mediation device perceived by any kind of visitor through various assumptions: the choice of a place for accommodating a collection; its display; which objects are chosen to be displayed; the way these objects are displayed in a particular order; the way these objects were placed in the space and the relationship they establish with each other, etc.

Permanent exhibitions are usually informed by criteria of geographical and chronological character but information about the objects is often reduced to a non-interpretive label (Serrell 1996), even if these objects have been studied and in many cases by different scientific disciplines.

Many permanent exhibitions seem to suffer from a kind of crystallization of knowledge, which may explain why so often mediation in this type of exhibition does not reflect updates, despite new interpretations of objects suggested by researchers academic or not.

 

Questions

Mediation session aims to raise two main questions:

  • having in mind that objects that are being displayed in a museum are no longer usable in other contexts, but are still very useful, how can History discourse be transformed into a conscious and updated narrative to the visitors?
  • knowing that historical contents narrated in permanent exhibitions are also result of historical interpretations, what kind of mediation devices may allow visitors to raise a critical interpretation of such contents as well as encouraging them (namely historians) to contribute to enrich and update those contents?