Dr. James Bradburne



Dr. James M. Bradburne

Editor-in- chief of Museum Management and Curatorship


Ideas in play

A quasi autonomous museum

Mister Bradburne speaks about the fruit of the work of 8 years in the Palazzo Strozzi, Italy. The museum was declared autonomous just this year. It is now quasi autonomous in the sense that it still does not have it’s own bank account, it’s own board and staff etc. It is taking big steps by looking further into the future as was possible before.

Prevention of blindness

Mister Bradburne start his talk by saying museums are institutions for the prevention of blindness. In relation to catering for children in museums, Bradburne states that age is observational; we need to stop talking about age as if it’s a determining factor. Even more so about art: art is not contemporary, we are. And interaction with exhibits doesn’t exist in the hands, it exists in us and in our minds and between us and in us as human beings. Museums are about linking emotion to knowledge (or the information that may grow into knowledge).

Kids write the labels

At the Palazzo Strozzi, various elements were developed to generate links between the visitors’ emotion and the museums’ artefacts. In one of the examples, kids were asked to write the labels, rendering the idea of a label in a less pompous manner. “We need to do this more, because you never want people to feel stupid, especially in a museum”. Other examples focus on visible listening (interviews between children and their grandparents) and suitcases filled with various activities for multiple levels, in order for families to learn simultaneously. Art cards are mini versions of the activities in the suitcases; also very practical in the sense that the families using the suitcases don’t block the whole museum.  They developed books on the exhibitions on display, which can be used before or after the museum visit to enhance the continued learning.

Three tips for every museum professional

Bradburne wants the attendees to take away three points from his talk: 1) Just say ‘yes’; we censor ourselves too much. 2) People are contemporary, the artefacts are not. We need to shift the focus to the visitor. 3) The key goal is engagement with artefacts; everything we do needs to serve the engagement of people with the objects.