Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Museo: Origins and Evolution

We started using the term Museo because the bartender at the Lansdowne did.

If you did Museum Studies at Leicester you know the Lansdowne. There are times of day (and night) when it doubles as the programme's lounge. We'd often descend en masse after a lecture or set up camp for a social and stay for hours. In addition to being a wordsmith, this particular phrase-coining bartender was also dating a girl on the course, so he knew all of our faces albeit not all of our names. When we went to the bar to order he'd ask "Museo?" and if we said yes he'd perhaps mix our drinks a little stronger or fill our beer a little higher or extend the happy hour specials 15 minutes after they ended of course do everything just as he was supposed to, in the most professional way possible. This is the closest that I have ever come to the Cheers experience.

In short, one of the earliest meanings of Museo was "one who is in this pub all the damn time."

After finishing our course, we found Museo was still a perfectly serviceable term, and certainly better than most other options. "Museum person" and "museum professional" are clunky as far as self-identifiers go; "muse" is taken; "museologist" is archaic. So Museo it was and Museo it is.

It also makes a good prefix. Pete over at New Curator recently came up with the term "Museopunk." (More here.) The basic idea is that the most enthusiasm and the freshest ideas are coming from those on the fringes of the museum world: the recent graduates, the volunteers, those who are fed up with the endless funding cycles and the prioritizing of objects over people. As Pete wrote, it's "about the community over profit margins."

We feel like we're Museopunks here at Museos Unite (today I'm even wearing a plaid flannel shirt! Or is that grunge?). If you find yourself drawn to the concept you can chime in over at New Curator or even join the Museopunk social network at

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