To the editor:
Our cultural institutions seem to be having problems with the concept of "interactive." Museums most often embrace the term and use it as an excuse to install keyboards and screens. True interaction occurs only when people bring with them an interest in learning and some knowledge of history, art, literature and other things a person experiences in their lifetime. One often hears the phrases"pushing the envelope" and "make the audience uncomfortable."
People gain the most when they bring the most knowledge with them. In the 1870s through the 1920s, the Chautauqua movement recognized this. During the summer, people would gather in tents or buildings across the country to attend popular lectures in the arts, sciences and humanities over a couple of days. The idea was for those who were used to working with their hands to think in the abstract and to encourage those who were used to working with their minds to accomplish things with their hands.
Unfortunately, many museums today are turning their institutions into places of amusement. The trademark upside-down trees are not very different from the bearded lady or the two-headed chicken at the midway of the county fair. Yes, it may be amusing, but it is not meaningful interaction, nor is there a meaningful message there.