June 10, 2011

Object Stories at Portland Art Museum

As technology enhances the access that people have to art, history, culture and entertainment, museums attempt to keep up with virtual collections and exhibitions, new technologies to accompany in-house exhibitions and innovative education programs. Over the past several years, the Portland Art Museum has expanded their education program to bring a new generation of art viewers through their doors.

In 2010, PAM partnered with Portland State University for "Shine a Light," a night-time party inside and outside the museum that featured food carts, beer and music, in addition to new ways of viewing art. Art-related activities included "marrying a work of art," touching art

object replicas (called "You Can Touch This") and watching nude performances of wrestling in imitation of Greco-Roman statuary. “We want people to be open-minded about what can happen in a Museum, ” Education Director Tina Olsen commented about the event. She added, “We are suggesting that visitors view art as something that is happening right now—that isn't in the past—but that is directly related to their life today.”

More recently, PAM has installed a new permanent exhibition called Object Stories. Fashion Buddha, Ziba Design and Eyelevel collaborated to create a sound-proof recording studio inside the museum where visitors share their personal story about an object that is particularly meaningful to them. This could be anything from a favorite stuffed animal, to heirloom jewelry, to a favorite piece of art. The story sessions, which must be reserved ahead of time, last about 20 minutes and can be recorded in English or Spanish. Professionals then edit the story down to about 2 minute.

Image from Museum 2.0

Each visitor is photographed with their object and must share a "six word story" (a la Twitter) that explains it all in a nutshell. You can view the photos and short stories, such as "Roaring kissing dragon, don't be scared" or "A house has an aging soul" or "Middle school thesaurus thief" on the

Image from Portland Art Museum's ObjectStories.org.

Object Stories website. The exhibition aims to involve the public, rethink the meaning of objects, and engage audiences on new levels. Learn more about the installation.
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