Monday, April 17, 2006

No Michelangelo for the Masses

Reading Liz Hoggard’s (Observer, 26/03/06) glowing report on Neil MacGregor, the ‘dynamic director of the British Museum’, I learn how he considers that a 'collection that embraces the whole world allows you to consider the whole world'. The Michelangelo’s Drawings as with any collection which you are charged to see, cannot embrace the whole world only those who can afford the embrace. Perhaps I am misreading the quote but it has brought to mind my disquiet regarding paying to see such collections.

Living in Tower Hamlets, the most deprived borough in London I know that there are many people who cannot afford to go to exhibitions like this. As well as charging to attend such exhibitions the museum also charges for an audio guide. I wonder if the visually impaired are charged or those who have learning difficulties or are illiterate ie. people who cannot access the written explanations/descriptions. I would have thought that, as large print exhibition guides were provided for those who they would benefit, the same would apply to the audio guides. Charging for this facility, as much as for the exhibition itself is discriminatory against the already deprived. So the deprived become more so.

Hoggard tells us that for Neil MacGregor a museum is a 'machine that generates tolerance and dissent’. I would rather it more organically produced these fruits. Tolerance and dissent are wonderful produce but we don’t want them to end up as the waste product of the capitalist machine which keeps the rich rich and the poor poor.


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