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Museum Haunting: The Beauty of Navigating History’s Fragments

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The opulent Victoria and Albert Museum offers the spectator a sanctuary of culture, encompassing 5,000 years of global history. Its grandeur overwhelms the senses, as the vast, classical structure soars heavenwards; the display of the mastery of humanity’s handiwork through time creates a vacuum in which the spectator interacts with the past. In light of this, a symbiotic relationship is fostered by the curators, which in turn serves to expand the understanding of the rapport between the self and the movement of society at large. A museum is a jewel to behold and treasure—yet, it should not be tucked away, or seen as a sterile site; instead, it is something to be woven into the fabric of daily life, as wandering about rooms with items of the past is an enlivening exercise.

The act of cataloguing treasures from the grand to the mundane, illustrates the importance of observing every section of society; the lowly, practical objects are equally eye-opening as the jewels of the affluent, as they each offer rich narratives of fleeting moments. Skilfully, the V&A excels in showcasing the cross-section of high and low status items, underscoring how each object has an enrichening quality which expands our scope of understanding. This rich display serves as a reminder that, in order to live a life, we must be observant and grateful for each small innovation at hand; the dynamic between man and object is intensely magnified, as the material goods in the museum exemplify the past motivations of particular individuals. There is a temptation to treat museum items as holy relics, as in doing so, it removes the sense of practicality and life; although glass barriers remove the spectator from having a tactile experience, it offers a paradoxical perspective in which the object is intellectually but not physically useful.

The complete immersion in the artistry of the museum curators’ vision can be attributed to their ability to identify the subjectivities of the viewers; in a multi-cultural society, the politics of representation come under greater scrutiny, as a museum operates within a social context that privileges diversity. What comes into view, is the social agency of the museum, and its responsibility to perform as an agent of transformation within a global network. The sustained movement towards a richer, global outlook fostered by the V&A, ensures that the handling of vast cultures continue to be discovered and appreciated. The flourishing discourse born from museum haunting, reflects the value of restoring items, as they are fragments which narrate the needs and passions of humanity through the diverging streams of history.

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