The Nerd and the Museum 1#

nerds like us are allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff… Nerds are allowed to love stuff, like jump-up-and-down-in-the-chair-can’t-control-yourself love it. Hank, when people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is ‘you like stuff.’ Which is just not a good insult at all. Like, ‘you are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness’”

– John Green

At the Society of Museum Archaeologists’ Conference in Manchester 2012 Dr Nick Merriman suggested that museums need to reach out to the geek audience. Museums have always struggled to bring in young people, so marketing and programming for an ‘unironically enthusiastic’ audience might be just what is needed.

Studies of visitor figures from around the world show that, as a general rule, you stop going to museums when your parents and school teachers stop taking you. You start going again when you have kids of your own. So what is going to make you come in while you are a ‘young person’? This is something which really troubles me as somebody teaching mostly 18-30 year olds from within a museum of rural life.

I went to a fantastic ‘Steampunk’ exhibition at the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford a few years ago which was packed with people in the 18-30 bracket. More recently I found myself as part of a Nerdfighter gathering, in which I was one of the oldest people, at the STEAM Museum in Swindon. I was there to see John and Hank Green, who have found a variety of ways to get young people interested in history, science and culture online. Not all young people are geeks but thinking and marketing geeky clearly expands your audience from the perspective of age. It can also be the catalyst for new questions and displays of creativity.

As somebody marching on through their 30’s I am sad to say that I am no longer in the ‘young person’ demographic. However, I would define myself as a bit of a geek.  In light of this I thought that I would combine my two passions and write a series of posts about things which link the geeky and the museological. Next post on Nerdfighters and Brainscoop.

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