An Exhibition of Optimism
“The ability to update history is a very important detail because history doesn’t stop,” she says. “It constantly has innuendoes and new discoveries that change our assumptions.”
Miller, a former archeology student, says she wishes “people could have delivered rapid-fire information to my hands while I was digging over something. It’s finally come to that exciting opportunity where we can do that …,” she says
She envisions The Museum of the American Cocktail soon offering catalogs and book updates to members via a password portal.
Karlstrom says it sounds wonderful in theory, but she doesn’t anticipate the mid-sized Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco will jump on that bandwagon anytime soon.
For a majority of museum publishers, the Internet could be its savior, in Medlock’s estimation, simply because it appeals to youth.
“Think of the larger democratic, sociological issues,” she says. “We have more and more books published in the United States every year. But there is not any evidence that people are reading more. Museum Web pages offer searchable aspects that are incredible. You can relate different works, do a virtual tour and have students compare and contrast. It’s like getting people to your museum without actually having them there.”
And where there’s an interest, there’s also a consumer full of surprises. Certainly Karlstrom knew Egyptian subject matter would sell, but she didn’t predict the strong book sales and tag-along DVD orders for a quilt exhibition. Nor did she predict the catalog on a local Japanese-American artist’s retrospective show would sell out, but it did. “It’s not a predictable science any more than regular book publishing,” she says. BB
Julie Sturgeon is an award-winning journalist who specializes in business writing. She is based in Indianapolis.