Taking a Second Look at Museums-A A +A
By Betsy Gazo
Saturday, October 12, 2013
MUSEUMS may seem like either dusty repositories of stuff from our great-great grandparents’ bauls or a dumping ground for someone’s weird collection yet these are relevant to our growth as a nation. They mirror our race, our culture, our economy, our nationalistic attitudes, and our sentiments. We go to these places to learn and absorb things that have been gathered for a purpose. In fact, museums are not entertainment centers and should instead strive to be centers of education.
Education is what Zero In, the consortium of the Philippine’s premier private museums, hopes to impart to the delegates from all over the country. This consortium organized the National Workshop on Establishing Community Museums held at the Faber Hall of the Ateneo de Manila University in September 2013. Zero In is composed of the Ateneo Art Gallery, Ayala Museum, Bahay Tsinoy, Lopez Memorial Museum and Library, and Museo Pambata and these are represented by the country’s top-notch museum executives.
Yael Buencamino who has been Managing Curator of the Ateneo Art Gallery since 2007 had taught Southeast Asian Studies in the University of Asia and the Pacific, and Asian Art at the College of Fine Arts in UP Diliman.
She holds an MA in Southeast Asian studies and a postgraduate diploma in Asian Art from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.
Marie Julienne B. Ente graduated cum laude from her Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from the University of the Philippines Diliman and a few months after joined the marketing team of the Ayala Museum in 2010.
Here, she does the challenging task of fundraising and communications dealing not only with numbers and objects but with complex human beings.
Ricky Francisco is an independent museum, gallery and conservation consultant. Now connected with the Lopez Museum and Library, he also handles other private institutions in Manila and Singapore. He has received training from ICCROM in Rome, Italy; the SEAMEO-SPFA in Bangkok, Thailand; the Heritage Conservation Centre of Singapore; the National University of Singapore Conservation Laboratory; and the National Museum of the Philippines.
Maricel P. Montero, an Ilongga, is the Executive Director of Museo Pambata and has been since 2007. She is an AB Communication Arts graduate of the AdeMU and uses her talents to work in the field of social development. Her passion for children and media has brought her to work in “Stairway Foundation, a rehabilitation center for abused street children where arts and nature were used as a form of therapy”. She was a Packard Fellow in Bangkok, Thailand, in 2000, for training on Leadership Development Mechanism. She was a Project Coordinator for the Global Fund Program on HIV and AIDS TB and Malaria.
Meah Ang See is Director of Bahay Tsinoy. She has a Masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Lesley University, Cambridge, Massachusets, U.S.A. She is also a vice-president for the Chinese-Filipino organization, Kaisa Para sa Kaunlaran. And she is a board member of Bagong Kulturang Pinoy, handling its training programs for beginning readers – First Steps in Engaged Reading – and frustrated/struggling readers – Thinking While Reading. She is one of the most patient, energetic, and enthusiastic persons I have ever met.
The dynamic Ethel Villafranca is the Head of Education and Administration of the Lopez Memorial Museum and Library. She was a Fullbright Scholar at the University of Florida where she earned her master’s degree in Museum Studies specializing in education. Her undergraduate study in Philippine Arts was done at the University of the Philippines where she majored in art management. Her previous employments were at Ayala Museum and Robinsons Children’s Library. She held internship positions at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Florida Museum of Natural History, Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, and the San Diego Museum of Art. Other fellowships/scholarships were awarded by the Asian Cultural Council (an affiliate of the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation), Association of American Museums, Florida Association of Museums, MetLife Foundation, and the University of Florida.
Zero In was established in 2001 with the original group of Ateneo Art Gallery, Ayala Museum and the Lopez Memorial Museum and Library. It later included the Museo Pambata bearing in mind the importance of molding young minds and developing new audiences. The Chinese-Filipino lifestyle museum Bahay Tsinoy complements the consortium as it makes the public aware of the significance of the Chinese community on the Filipino cultural and artistic fabric.
At the seminar, one of my favorite activities was the purchasing of artifacts using play money. This tested one’s ability to size up an object, its value, and its significance to a museum’s collections. With my haggling skills, I was able to buy a pandan rooster made by the indie film director Kidlat Tahimik, a wooden crocodile crafted by Dr. Jose Rizal, two Picasso posters, and a wooden carabao carved by National Artist Guillermo Tolentino. Of course, these were all fakes but the exercise helped in developing and maintaining one’s vision for a certain institution and keeping close to the original purpose of the collection.
Many museums in Manila are worth visiting. In fact, every Filipino, at least once in his lifetime, should be exposed to our heritage and the richness of the Filipino mind when it comes to arts and culture. The impressive Ateneo Art Gallery opened my eyes to the many creative ways of displaying artwork and artifacts. One of the unusual ones there was the arrangement of molded brown and refined sugar lined up in an antique glassed-in table. The Museum Pambata housed in the 1910 Elks Club just beside the US Embassy also is a must-visit for both adults and children because it opens a world that we were once in but have left behind in adulthood. Children will have a hands-on education that is fun and non-confining, one that is pragmatic but structured. Allot half a day for a visit. The Bahay Tsinoy fully explores our strong link with the Chinese community and how the Tsinoys brought across the seas and wove into our cultural fabric their culture and made ours their own.
If one’s culture and heritage is encapsulated in an area, this should be a convenient way for the citizens to discover them. People should create a mindset of constant education and exposure to the right medium. The question is, what does it say of a nation where the people would rather spend time gawking at near-naked girls in noontime shows, and whose biggest hope is winning a talent show so that they can earn enough money to stop schooling and live The Life. Wealth without prudence is a dangerous thing. But knowledge is power.
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on October 12, 2013.