The Multi-layered Interpretation
Namely, industrial heritage institutions, museums s of technology have a complex task. At best, they are about heritage of labour. Researching it, collecting its remnants and documents, caring for this scattered memory and presenting it to the users must respect the best needs of those users. Knowing the needs is not easy and is certainly different from wishes. We have to establish ourselves as relevant source of information when about useful experiences. What labour system and labour culture do we need, may not be an attractive title of an exhibition, but a good marketing can think of better. We do need a relevant and effective way to get in touch with relevant historic experience to borrow the inspiration from, or to see what were the mistakes of our predecessors, disregarding the obvious differences between past and present.
Can we use museums and institutions alike with their powerful exhibitions to make exhibitions on entrepreneurship which would raise the level of thinking about daring individuals and the system that could direct this creativity and energy towards personal and common use? All to often we are pushed into thinking that lethargic anonymity of work lost in kolkhozes or Donald Trump's apotheosis of bloodthirsty ultimately selfish predatory individual are the only two possibilities left. That is not true, a and yet I do not know of a museum which ventured into saying that. Some countries don‘t have even a possibility to do so: they lack professional consciousness that could lead to such an interdisciplinary cooperation, nor would they have any museums dedicated to industrial past let alone to the work and workers. The sad truth is that entire arena of possible public discussion is left to the high-flown economists and biased business people. The majority does not understand a thing and is expected to go to the polls, where their destiny is decided deciding by the arguments that have no quality consequence.
When was the last time you have seen an exhibition on societal value of labour heritage? What is the role of industry(-ies) in the world and what future they prepare us for? Sustainable development became another spent word void of meaning because it tells us basically that we have to spend more for managing the waste and, perhaps what is own individual responsibility within the problem.
Instead, they should tell us what ethics and consequences in sustainable development we want, and who are the protagonists. The shallow investigation reveals that the makers of the environmental problems ( be it oil production, or plastic packaging or whatever you recall as problematic practice, are practically the same list as that of sellers of the solutions? It is logical, but also frightening. Has anybody ever told how many cars can we drive for how many years to equal only one flight of a military jet-fighter in its short life (though the best among them cost as much as 2 billion dollars a piece). Scared of pollution we produce by heating our homes, we would also like to know how many homes can we heat for how many years just for one blown up oil reservoir in Faluja a few years ago or, indeed, how many of the are hit almost daily? What is amount of exhaust gasses of military wheals all around the world, so that we can compensate for it by using bicycles.
Every day we are confronted with new, future industrial / technological heritage. Sitting upon the huge experience compressed in our technical collections, and in collected documentation, we, however, remain silent about the social and economic consequences of different technical solutions offered daily. Of course it is not the matter of being an arbiter, biased by any side or political option, but of merely offering a well argumented, scientifically based insight as a precondition for democratic processes in society. Any museum can pose questions and offer multiplicity of solutions deriving from weighted arguments. That is democratic and useful; it is this way to become “an honest museum” (Kenneth Hudson).