By MAUREEN ROSE
Gold Standard Acting Editor
“This is not your grandfather’s museum,” said Nathan Jones, a man who should know because he’s the curator of the Gen. George S. Patton Museum of Leadership on Fort Knox.
The museum is undergoing many changes and Jones said when it opens its next phase, there won’t be another museum like it in the Army, possibly in the Defense Department, or maybe even the museum industry at large.
The reason it will be unique, Jones explained, is that the Patton won’t be about artifacts or history—although those are important elements to the museum—but
that’s old school.
“We’re trying to do something very different; this museum is based on an idea, the concept of leadership,” Jones said.
Museums began moving away from static displays of things to a more interactive environment that encouraged audience engagement, he said. Some curators still prefer the didactic approach that acknowledges they are the experts about antiques, but Jones said most museums are evolving.
His job, as curator, is to know what things are and why they are important. Just because something is old doesn’t mean it’s an artifact, he explained. There has to be provenance, or a story, behind the old thing. In many ways, museums are like family homes. People may have a souvenir, furniture or other item that is precious to them because it evokes memories of their families, or experiences. Those things galvanize a family and demonstrate its values, what a family stands for.
“Our museum represents a community, too, but our community is the Army,” Jones said. “We want to represent its values. We want to galvanize that community. It’s more important than ever now because so few people have served in the armed forces.”
In addition, Jones said as an Army museum, they have a specific training responsibility to the commands they support.
“We want people to think of it as a leadership laboratory,” Jones said.
As museums become more interactive, they often become experiential, too. Jones said the Patton will re-create experiences, and provoke thinking about leadership and decision making.
“We hope visitors will leave with more questions than they came in with,” the curator said. “The ultimate question we want them to answer: Does leadership really matter?”
The Army doesn’t have a monopoly on leadership, but this museum will strive to promote critical thinking. No matter who views the exhibits, they should be able to identify leadership in its many forms and levels.
Scenarios will be created that will allow visitors to make choices, play roles and choose paths that the scenario might take. Within the augmented reality exhibits, there will be decision points where visitors will be able to see the results of their choices. The important takeaway is that people use their critical thinking skills and create a dialogue centered around the artifacts, with the people they came in with, and with Jones via the augmented reality application that will allow visitors to leave comments or ask questions.
The next phase of the Patton Museum of Leadership is expected to open in the middle of June, but that won’t be the end of improvements. According to staff at the museum, there will be artifacts on display that haven’t been seen in 50 years. None of the many Patton artifacts have been lost, but many of them had to be temporarily moved to prepare for the new exhibits. The museum intends to continue adding exhibits as technology and finances permit, so people who have visited once will still see something new everything time they return.
“Most people can’t relate to a four-star general,” Jones said. “But we make every effort to humanize those leaders so people can relate to them. Hopefully, as they play the role of decision-makers, they will be able to realize how burdensome leadership is.”
For the latest updates on the museum visit http://goo.gl/YwbZa.