For this post, I returned to the online presence of the Mütter Museum, which I used to evaluate online exhibitions back at the beginning of the semester. I recalled that the site hosted an extensive series of videos, posted through their YouTube channel and linked through a special section on the museum’s homepage. The museum uses video quite effectively, posting a mix of exhibition companion and standalone videos of with variations in tone, length, and scope.
For example, museum director Robert Hicks hosted a mini video series that serves as a companion to the exhibition “Broken Bodies, Suffering Spirits,” which investigates the experiences of Civil War wounded who were treated in Philadelphia. These sophisticated videos, which average about 10 minutes in length, feature narration and museum played over photos from the Civil War era; commentary from the museum’s director, who stands in the galleries; interviews with historians and experts from other institutions; and even actors dressed as historical figures, such as Walt Whitman. This video content extends the exhibition experience beyond the museum in meaningful ways; by presenting it in a mini series, moreover, the museum could keep its audience returning to the site to catch the next installment.
The museum also features a couple of other video series, including “Mütter Minute,” very short videos posted weekly that again feature museum director Hicks (who must be very committed to the video content!) showing and describing an object from the collection. Another series is “Guess What’s on the Curator’s Desk,” in which curator presents a “mystery object,” sometimes to a special guest, and that person and/or the audience tries to guess what it is.
The museum’s choice to use YouTube to host the content is a sensible one for museums, since that format will likely continue to be supported into the future and videos can be linked to and embedded without resorting to plug-ins that may quickly go out of date or require considerable maintenance. I speculate that the Mütter Museum has invested time and resources in producing this video content because the relatively small museum can only accommodate so many visitors at once, and because the often gross, creepy, “disturbingly informative” medical specimens that it displays lend themselves well to visual presentation and exploration.