Night at SA Museum is not all that it seems. This is a picture from the very first Night Lab event at the SA Museum and unofficially was my first Lonely Adventure, held in conjunction with its exhibit on Iridescence in 2014. I was one of the first attendees there since I went alone and indulged in my creepy habit of people watching with cider in hand. I decided to take an obligatory selfie because these events aimed at young adults in their 20- early 30s seem to be as much as being seen as seeing the SA museum at night in consuming culture as clever soundbites -and then I saw the ghostly skeleton of Flipper rising in the purple light to take my soul back to Hades.
Maybe I should’ve taken it easier the Hills cider but I’m all about supporting local business including psychopomp cetaceans. Forget the T-Rex, the Dolphin Skeleton was out to get me. Actually my ghostly dolphin brings us to a very good point about spaces like museums. They have been described as safe houses of dangerous ideas and a museum used as a public space in darkness has changed its cultural meaning from a public institution designed to retain and showcase knowledge, to a place that educates through entertainment. There were a number of events (short term in nature) designed to appeal to this quick type of consuming information and knowledge such as the lights table.
The new director of the SA Museum, Brian Oldman, has mentioned in my museum’s class at Flinders last year that I’ve attended that museums need to run like businesses now and it seems events like Night Lab (2014) are aimed at the young adult crowd with a disposable income and the desire to look like they are involved in the cultural phenomena of *adulting*. Young adults who are after a unique experience they can use to gain cultural capital and build a social media presence (brand even!) rather than the traditional visitor to a museum.
All over SA, historic and cultural institutions have to had to adapt to the new uses of traditional spaces where audiences aren’t as heavily involved in the traditional exhibit format but the overall experience of being at a venue and quickly consuming it’s cultural importance. Things like the 1920s speak-easy at Glenside’s historic Z-Ward earlier this year and events like the Gaol Blues festival on the weekend I reviewed and Jana will be guest reviewing.
Confession time: I haven’t missed a Night Lab yet, being part of the targeted audience with the (barely) disposable income to experience the cross between an elite old fashioned night club and a culture industrial site – Night Lab is an interesting experiment in science communication and community engagement run by the SAM in successfully running a cultural heritage business in a failing state economy and as a public institution relying less and less on state funds since during times of economic hardship money tends to go to education or health. This is an innovative form of cultural tourism.
I think the real challenge of events like Night Lab and the Adelaide Art Gallery’s First Friday events is that they need to find a way to communicate the traditional ideas imbued in a cultural institution such as information, artistic/cultural/historic capital and the importance of maintaining and continuing research in a museum environment with a social media culture that is about temporary consumption of experiences and instant gratification . And they need to consider how to draw crowds back to see exhibits in a traditional context beyond the night club in a museum atmosphere of a night club and the next one is May. Keep an eye out for tickets! My next post will be about how the SAM solved the need for gratification at the 2015 Night Lab associated with the Opals exhibit!
Clara Rose Santilli