Can museums shape the future ?

I have been sent a link to an article in today’s Sunday Times by Bryan Appleyard, a good description of the change in attitude in museums from being at least as much about influencing the present as examining the past, the subject of Neil MacGregor’s forthcoming radio series, The Museums that Make Us.

Appleyard contrasts this increasingly present-centred and judgemental view of history with the ideas and beliefs of Aby Warburg as exemplified by the layout of his library, now contained in its 1950s (not 1930s) building in Woburn Square. Warburg, I think, always subscribed to the idea of the strangeness of the past and that it should be explored with intellectual sympathy on its own terms, not ours. It’s a good reminder of the importance of Warburg’s ideas and of the potential intellectual benefits of the so-called Warburg Renaissance currently underway.


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