The Rhetoric of Museums

Aug 11

A Video Essay

6-10 min video, from a minimum 900 word script. Due by midnight, Sun, Aug 11

Upload your essay to YouTube; paste a link in the comments and upload your script; the comments feature will go live at noon on Aug 11.

What makes one museum exhibit engaging, and another one a bore? Is interaction the key—turning cranks and pushing buttons? Or is it some quality of the artifacts on display—their uniqueness, their beauty, perhaps their strangeness? What role does lighting play? What role explanatory placards? The juxtaposition of related artifacts?

To step back further, what response should curators aim to evoke in museum visitors? Awe? Curiosity? Understanding? Just how are these different emotions best aroused?

Your video essay shouldn’t aim to definitively answer any of these questions. It should focus instead on one particular museum exhibit (a single room or perhaps just a single display case), offering a close reading that draws the viewer’s attention to the way(s) in which that exhibit excels. So the questions posed above aim to get you thinking about what your exhibit does: what response it evokes in viewers AND what methods it employs in doing so.

By showing the exhibit to us, your video should allow us to experience it for ourselves. At the same time, your verbal commentary, in combination with close-up shots of key details, should deepen our understanding of how your exhibit works its magic on museum visitors.

Source Citation: MLA-style list in the video description.

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