Bricolage is the construction or creation of a work from a diverse range of things that happen to be available, or a work created by such a process. It involves incorporating items typically utilized for other purposes. It will inspire staff to create solutions for a problem out of immediately available objects. In today’s economic reality, the ability to creatively combine objects, materials, images, approaches and strategies will be a definite asset for the sustainability of museums, whether operations, funding or programs.
It also describes how people acquire objects from across social divisions to create new cultural identities (especially sub-cultures). Objects that possess one meaning (or no meaning) in the dominant culture are acquired and given a new, (hopefully) subversive meaning. And isn’t this part of what we, as museums, want to do? To help people see the world anew? To see it afresh?
Alternatively, it means to fiddle. To tinker. To improvise. To blend. It is a way to learn and solve problems by trying, testing, playing around. This approach to exhibitions, programs, events would lead to more playful, engaging opportunities, not to mention alleviating workplace stresses. This activity of playing and testing, and of embracing the provisional, contributes to the development of the following:
- An intimate knowledge of resources
- Careful observation and listening (looking for the best objects and ideas in the best combination)
- Increased trust in one's ideas
- Self-correcting structures (though with feedback) – asking the questions: Do these things fit? How?
Valuing “tinkering” and allowing systems and programs to evolve from the bottom-up, rather than implementing from the top-down, organizations will end up with something that is deeply rooted in the organizational culture specific to that organization, as well as the social and cultural context of that institution, and is much less easily imitated.
This will lead to and encourage more innovative and unique ideas, reflecting individual institutions’ own identity and staff and contexts, rather than simply importing various templates and merely inserting new information in the usual frameworks. This will create more buzz, more engagement, more investment in the museum’s various communities. Creativity attracts. It attracts visitors and supporters. It attracts investors.
This is, in many ways, how I imagine NextGen Canada. A place where various different and unique individuals get thrown together and, through their energy, passion and creativity explore, share and create new ways of seeing and doing museum work.