Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

3. Services offered

Depending upon the concept of the museum, specific services have to be offered, maintained and developed further in due course. But no service is as important as the stimulation of the imagination so that this experience at the museum becomes unforgettable. This is very often if not forgotten but neglected due to subsuming this under such goals as serving the community. The latter has more often to do with how museums seek their additional funds with a tendency to overemphasize quantity over quality. This has to do in turn with expansion plans. Tate Modern is experiencing that dilemma in 2010. There is even fear of over extending capacities, financially speaking, as this leads to a neglect of other areas.

Services rendered should depart from being attentive to all needs and not just focus on a specific interest group. Unfortunately even famous and well functioning museums like the Benaki in Greece can succumb to single drives by putting more emphasis on creating a library than facilitating, for instance, services for children and young visitors even though it could be expected that a museum wishes to attract young audiences. As this is connected with internal and operational matters, there are many issues to be covered before having a cohesive idea as to what services could and should museum render.

Above all many directors emphasize the importance of communication but not in the sense of modern media but one resulting out of having a competent staff capable of communicating the collection and the substance of the museum to the outside world. This then can be reflected on hand of positions taken by museums in due course of their multiple stories and engagements in various fields.

Services linked with getting to know where the museum is located

Location – transportation / accessibility / physical environment – movement: flow of things, material composition as stimulation (Zeitgleich) and reliable as source of information and of further going experience to enrich the senses and knowledge. In that sense the museum has to be above all authentic and convincing by letting things speak for themselves. It invites the visitor to enter new spaces of experiences by leaving at the wardrobe all presumptions and even negative forms of judgments. If visitors are unsure and hesitant, then the museum must convey at the very least that he is important enough to be addressed and not to be bypassed by others making different experiences.

A museum in the countrysite faces other difficulties compared with a museum which is part of a museum island as in Berlin or Viennna. Such proximity means either linking it with other services rendered by having the restaurant of the museum on a near-by farm with natural products or else a common ticket for all museums to facilitate the visitors' movement in and out of all museums in the area.

Services of the building itself


Entrance / exit

There is information needed at the entrance while at the exit people would want to take more information with them after what they have just seen. Often these two different functions are not distinguished enough. While the first priority has to be to provide orientation, the information given at the end of the visit as to stimulate something Peter Higgins called an ongoing experience. Naturally this can only be done if the experiences made in the museum are also web based so that a visitor can return to certain objects which have attracted his or her attention and re-examine what he or she might have thought to have noticed but then could not remember well enough because of rushing through the exhibition.

There can be offered all kinds of information in the various exhibit rooms. Museums have experimented with all kinds including having information sheets pasted on larger bulletin tableaus which people can take into their hands to read and then put it back in place before leaving that specific room.

Many a times a certain booth is connected with the gift shop, the most commercial part of the museum visible to the visitor.

Petra museum

Crucial is the lay-out of the museum as some have no clear entrance and therefore no specific exit as the case with the Petra museum which landesign studio and Peter Higgins helped to create. The exhibition can be accessed from different entry points. That alters the floor plan and makes it clear that the traditional concept of a museum cannot be upheld any longer. The order of things changes with a new system of categorization in adaptation to the new technological possibilities but also changing needs of visitors.

Two distinct service with regards to information can be found in the museum: relicts of exhibits which can be bought and taken home as memory e.g. replica of the sculpture and intangible memories reinforced by books, music cds and other means to keep the memory alive. It means services have to differ and distinguish in terms of the time a visitor spends at the museum the ‘before’ and the ‘after’ while ‘during’ or while being at the museum other needs require other services from food, meeting place, discussion possibilities (in order not to disturb the other visitors), etc.

Exhibit spaces

special guides, special guidebooks, special gift shop, lectures and workshops on themes and topics related to the special exhibition e.g. El Greco and Greece, advertisement and Andy Warhol with further services provided in particular for schools, universities and a ‘learning society’ about history, civilizations, plants, art forms etc. Clearly a museum’s profile depends here on marketing skills when it comes to promote a special exhibition e.g. photos about the war in Afghanistan. Services in a museum would mean activating people to visit the exhibit and thereby stimulate a debate about the reasons for that war. This can mean eye witnesses, meeting the photographer(s), showing special films on the subject and bring about such mix of people that the museum begins to tap into the different layers of experiences people have with regards to Afghanistan. Some key elements could facilitate entry into this space:

To tap into layers of experiences and to enrich them so that this aspect of cultural history becomes a built-in memory chip in the visitor’s mind, there has to be an understanding of the dialectic between visualization and imagination. Going beyond the visitor’s own boundaries of experience in terms of accessibility means to open up entirely new and till then not imagined possibilities to experience the otherness of that period even though condensed in a very limited time frame and space. Like Alice in Wonderland, a visitor must step out as much as into a space that defines itself according to the sense of time for what happened back then or in that moment. Details can add but an exhibit must know when not further clues are needed in order to suggest what it was like then e.g. Children experiencing the Blitzkrieg of Hitler at the Imperial War Museum.

Clearly services in special exhibit areas are besides the exhibits themselves the different kinds of texts:


Special services

One key reason why visitors go to the museum is that the objects are less virtual, more real. Naturally this depends upon the degree to which things can be touched or be seen close up but still within a safety space. A lot can be enhanced through interactive exhibits and spaces e.g. in the Technological museum in Berlin there can be ordered certain products done on the spot in order to see how this specific technology works.

Educational / entertainment services

Interview with Lesley University Professor George Hein by Kathimerini

Question: What is the role of museums today?

Prof. George Hein: "In my opinion, museums are first and foremost educational institutions, whether their exhibits are about art, science or history. Just like schools, their roots can be traced to the 18th century, when the idea of public education and the notion that nation states have responsibilities toward society were structured; I support John Dewey’s theory, meaning that education’s main goal is morality, which varies according to the different needs of society. If we are talking about a democratic society, then education’s main aim is to support democracy and to create active citizens who will have critical minds, will ask the necessary questions, will doubt authority and will be willing to participate in various procedures. Museums have pretty much a similar role in democratic society, except that they don’t need to follow any fixed educational program like schools do. Access must be free to everyone. They must reflect the same ideals as the society which they represent. That means museums are obliged to look into their principles, their structure and the way they work: Are they accessible to all citizens? Are all sectors of the population represented on the staff? Are there any issue of racism or exclusion?" [2]

There are different forms of services linked to education / training e.g. MOMA teaching kits for art teachers – with special focus on children and youths – complementary program to school’s own curriculum about various periods in art history and related subjects e.g. the life of Van Gogh. Here the special focus is upon creativity and therefore the crucial role of ‘freedom of artistic expression’.

Museum Lectures and Art Trips
Each season, a new series of lectures become available, relating to topics the museum addresses in its exhibitions or its studio art programs. The museum also organizes exciting trips to other cities to visit regional exhibitions of interest. Learn more about RAM's lectures and art trips.

Brera – Milano

Special service is to offer photographs of exhibited works – order online – with the possibility of a virtual tour through the entire museum.

Museum of Krakow

Link to cemeteries: Sensitivise for other kinds of descendents than those claimed by the city as being the founders. This would mean looking at grave stones and tracing the stories of those who are buried there. The individual grave is still a difference from the mass graves. Even then, the history of a city can be told out of the vicinity to those who lie buried there.

Disability Services



While the British Museum has entrance free, usually entry to museums is usually very expensive and therefore exclude those with low incomes.

National Museum of New Zealand


National Services Te Paerangi works with museums, iwi (tribal groups), and related organisations to enhance museum services and support these to become self-sustaining.

‘Museums’ include any museum, art gallery, iwi museum or cultural centre, historic place, open-air museum, heritage or marae (meeting place) collection, science centre, or exhibition centre.

Through sector consultation the museum has identified four priority areas to focus the support the museum can give between July 2003 and June 2006:

Across these four priority areas, Te Papa is committed to help build a strong museum sector in society. This is done through partnership projects, facilitation, training, and promoting networks and collaboration.

National Services Te Paerangi has a permanent staff of five, an Advisory Group which meets three times a year, and four sector reference groups (one for each of the priority areas) that meet at least once a year. Already the distinction between permanent staff as core group of not more than 5 people indicates that the museum must be able to household its personal costs while being able to organize strategically and practically its service work (to be distinguished from other tasks a museum has to undertake). Services are understood as something done for the sake of the community as a whole. Given the time scale of organizing and preparing major exhibitions and related work i.e. lectures, readings, guided tours, dissemination, etc. it is important to notice that two further groups are involved at different time scales:

The permanent staff will be engaged already in seven crucial meetings per year at organisational level. The counter check between advisory and reference groups is substantial as the validation process is of crucial importance to any museum.

SECTOR ISSUE: Increasing importance to the identity, and social and economic fabric of communities


Implications for improving effectiveness

SECTOR ISSUE: Advancing relationships between iwi and museum, and iwi-led Developments


Implications for improving effectiveness

SECTOR ISSUE: Sector diversity


Implications for improving effectiveness


Services include nowadays access possibilities to data banks e.g. Access of the British Museum




[1] This was already a part of the CIED project. The idea came from Palermo: children discover a monument. Writing different texts is a very good teaching method and reveals modern society has and requires different knowledge bases all of which cannot be easily integrated or synthesized; a literal text differs from a scientific one. Museums could provide such services as bringing different texts together so as if it is not possible to close the gaps in knowledge to bridge at least these gaps and thereby strengthen mutual understanding in society.

[2] Margarita Pournara, “ Museums: Houses of education – Lesley University Professor George Hein talks to Kathimerini about the role of these institutions today”, Kathimerini, Thurs., Nov. 4, 2004, p. 7

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