Let’s consider museums for a moment.
Communities have high expectations for their museums, and in turn, museums have strong connections and responsibilities to their communities. Narrow definitions of museums as spaces to store and display art and objects have never really cut it; there’s a huge breadth of activity and output. And, when we collectively realised earlier in the year that COVID-19 was about to be a big part of our lives, our museums were some of the first institutions to go on the front foot and make that tough decision to close.
The two documentaries we’ve selected for this week’s Virtual Cinémathèque offer us much more than a socially-distant tour of two museums. They remind us of the huge responsibility museums have to save art and artifacts; to preserve and restore them, to draw historical and cultural stories from them, and to share them with the world, despite barriers.
Alexander Sokurov’s documentary on the Louvre, Francofonia (2015), reveals a museum built on the spoils of war and the quiet fight to protect them during Nazi occupation. Frederick Wiseman’s National Gallery (2014) paints its own picture of a centuries-old museum by looking at artworks from all perspectives to reveal the activity that happens in between and around them.
Both masters of filmmaking, Sokurov and Wiseman, were given the keys to the castle, and when our museums eventually begin to reopen – including ACMI – we look forward to being given the keys to our own.
– Reece Goodwin, Curator (TV & Special Event)