Saturday, July 28, 2012

I'll take my science with a twist: SmartBar at the Melbourne Museum

After scoring a couple of free tickets through a Facebook competition, I took myself over to the Melbourne Museum on Thursday night to check out the SmartBar. Verdict: heaven for anyone who likes their evenings to be a little enlightened, or their museum visits a little enlivened.

Museums worldwide, under the pressures of reduced funding and the need to
expand audiences, are undergoing a period of transition and growth. Where they once functioned as ‘cathedrals’ or ‘temples’ to the arts, they’re now trying to embrace new modes of museum experience that emphasise fun and frivolity alongside the serious.

With their SmartBar events, the Melbourne Museum are experimenting with one such new mode of visitation. SmartBar combines wine and wisdom, with the museum opening its doors after dark to a crowd of switched-on eighteen-and-overs. To my mind, it’s a win win. The Museum gets large numbers of a notoriously hard-to-get demographic pouring through the doors (clinking their $18 for tickets) and engaging with the exhibitions and talks programs. For visitors, it’s an opportunity to see the place through new eyes — one-off displays and extensive talks from curators and staff give you special insight and, surrounded by happy, like-minded people, you get to walk through the dinosaurs, butterflies and bodies feeling like an urbane sophisticate rather than an oversized kid.

It’s exciting for a place like the Museum to recognise that there are plenty of twenty-somethings out there looking for an evening that’s not just fun, but intelligent too. The turnout on Thursday night was testament to that, as was the ‘special event’ atmosphere — a vibrancy, energy, crowding, noise and intimate mood that you won’t get if you turn up on a weekend afternoon. The spaces for the enticingly-titled floor talks were packed as people sipped their drinks and nibbled their sushi, hearing about the urban myths of spiders, the expression of mental illness through art, psychiatric histories, and the euphoria and delusions of late-stage syphilis. There were live snakes to touch, a lie detector to beat, life-drawing sessions, and a mask-decorating station for those who wanted to go all-out on the craft.

For the sake of my social calendar and for the future of museology, I hope SmartBar continues. Tapping into the feel of the NGV’s After Dark nights (with just a dash more ‘cool’ and a hint of ‘hipster’), the Museum could use these events to imbue young visitors with new loyalties to the old institution. I had a lot of fun, and judging by the suggestions board and the Museum’s Twitter feed, so did the crowd. Keep your eyes on the Museum’s Facebook page for photos from the night and updates for the next event.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

No comments:

Post a Comment