Monday, October 15, 2012

Monday Musing: When is a Little Attention Worth the Risk?


A lot of my time goes into reading and synthesizing stuff relevant to the future of museums, and sharing it via Twitter, Pinterest, Dispatches from the Future of Museums, various reports and of course this blog. Not all the interesting stuff I see fits into one of these formats. This is my first Monday Musing—an experiment in  occasionally sharing a few quick thoughts and a link about something I spot in the news or on the web. My hope is that if a news article, blog post, photo or video got me thinking (even if it doesn't yield a fully thought essay) it might strike a chord with you as well.

Here’s a video I came across on The Ultimate History Project site.


It shows “street trials” bicyclist Danny Macaskill using the abandoned Dunaskin Ironworks in the UK as a venue for his two-wheeled acrobatics. The collections manager in me cringes to see him riding across historic artifacts, bouncing off rolling stock and generally treating the site as a giant skate park. (Or whatever you call the bicycle equivalent.) Not to mention boggling at the thought of what the insurance coverage must have cost. Mostly, I imagine the skepticism that would greet a proposal like this at most museums/historic sites (“You want him to what? Where?!?”)

But I was mesmerized, and this video has had over 6 million views on YouTube. I sure wish they’d included “you can contribute to the preservation of this site by donating to Ayrshire Railway preservation” at the end.

The abandoned landscape is as beautiful as it is desolate. I wouldn’t have seen it without this video (part of a documentary produced for the television documentary series Concrete Circus.) And I see the landscape differently because of his interaction with it. It’s a kind of performance art, enhancing the structures and machinery kind of like wall dancing on museums. The footage seems solitary and contemplative (they do a good job keeping the film crew out of the picture). I was inspired to root around the web and find this follow-up video filmed at the site a year later (which is also well-done but it doesn’t move me in the same way) and read up on the various groups in the UK involved in preserving sites such as this.

So maybe next time someone comes to you with a really crazy proposal, you should watch this video again, and think about the possible upside, as well as the negative risks.

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