The cultural mediator's role, or how to ensure that museum visits are filled with rewarding human interactions.
October 8, 2020
Strolling silently through the Museum from one display case to the next, we stop before an object that catches our eye. What is the history of this garment? If our desire for information exceeds what is on the label, we are left to our own devices.
The cultural mediator’s role is to build a bridge between visitors and objects. This is how Marianne sums up her work. Thanks to mediators, the experience of exploring museum displays involves human interaction and discussion.
It is impossible to put everything on the information labels, so we are there to tell the stories behind the objects, she explains.
Although mediators come from a variety of backgrounds—artists, painters, students of history, art history and fashion design—I am struck by the fact that they are nonetheless driven by a single passion. They all have the same respect for the people they help to discover the Museum. You definitely have to enjoy talking with people and be a good listener, confirms Flavie. Not only do they show respect for others, they also exhibit tremendous curiosity. We are always learning. I think that’s one of the things I like most about working here, confides Louis.
Caroline tells me that she especially enjoys meeting with the children who visit.
I have worked with youngsters who didn’t want to leave after spending a week at the Museum. I think that’s wonderful. They’re going to grow up with a positive view of museums.
Mediation is therefore a brilliant combination of human interaction and education. You’re always adapting to make the content accessible to visitors, says Joanna with a smile.
In their work, mediators do not merely walk through the museum with visitors, chatting with them. Several of them also help create educational experiences and content.
Marianne, for example, works on the Museum’s outreach project, Sharing our Memories, Our Stories. This intergenerational experience pairs young volunteers with seniors, helping them establish a dialogue using objects from the Museum’s collection.
Everyday objects from the past prompt seniors to share stories about their own youth, passing on anecdotes from another time.
With the pandemic, group tours have been suspended, says Flavie. They have now been adapted to observe the new hygiene measures and will be gradually added to the schedule when the Museum reopens,
Flavie is also working with Louis and another colleague to design virtual tours of the Museum. Although online, they’ll still have the human connection because they’ll be conducted in real time. These will make the Museum accessible to schools miles away from Montreal. And mediators can now build bridges far beyond the walls of the Museum.