Blogging about museums is a relatively new and yet to be discovered field of museums. We got to talk to Mina Karagianni-Gkritzali, or museum.ephemera on Instagram and give us some insider tips.
Mina is an Athens-based curator and museologist that has collaborated with many important Greek museums and organisations like the Jewish Museum of Greece, Hellenic Cosmos Cultural Centre and the Municipal Gallery of Mykonos and has experience with organizing university researches in collaboration with high profile universities in Greece. In February 2016, in a family gathering in London she decided after months of planning to create the blog museum.ephemera.
This profile is “a space that museum buildings and museum events (exhibitions, shops, speeches and bazaars) are represented”. Through this account, she felt the need to share her love for Museum (as a notion, a space or a mission) and how it can be represented. She chose Instagram instead of a conventional blog due to the power of image and the combination of a short text that can inform eloquently. This is also an instagramer’s challenge; to attract potential visitors with an image and a small text. “I want to show people who do not visit museums, what they are, how they work, what they exhibit and to be informed about exhibitions that I find interesting and make them visit them”.
What is presented in museum.ephemera? Is there any criteria?
It presents exhibitions of Greek museums, of metropolitan centres and around them and exhibitions in countries that I visit, mostly European. The past years I have travelled in further places but unfortunately Instagram did not exist back then. Also, we host exhibitions that are suggested by close coworkers that we enjoy their choices. At times, we have accepted photos from people that we interact on Instagram and this shows the power of this medium. There are times that I feel the need to upload (even though I feel guilty) something different from what our followers are used to, like a beautiful landscape, a beautiful and strange building or a special item. This is the problem with accounts like mine but the feature of “stories” have solved this in a way.
Do you think that museums and cultural organisations should be open to social media?
The social media cover an important part of our everyday time and are almost the dominant medium of our information. If we disregard the extremity, it is a common sense that museums should have not only a profile but also try to use in the best way possible their features. Greek museums have started one by one to be open to social media depending on their priorities. We need to understand the great difficulties and the lack of funding especially for the Greek museums that face a harsh economic period. Additionally, the foreign museums cover this field by assigning it to someone or to a department that adopts the most innovative methods and at times allow artists or people of the social media to manage their accounts which is quite successful. Especially for Instagram, a “neighborhood” of about 500 million and more users that is developed in popularity can be understood as a possible market. Museums need to update regularly their program, share interesting topics but also take their time to read and reply to their followers’ comments. All these actions, increase their connection with the community and attract more visitors.
Your secret art venue when you seek peace and quiet
This place in a public space is the café of the main building of the Benaki Museum. It’s quiet even when it’s crowed because as a place it has succeeded in being a familiar space. I always end up in the café after having passed by specific points of the permanent exhibition and I have communicated with my favorite artifacts. Because I went to the Benaki Museum with my children when they were young, I think they loved museums because of it. There is a Benaki effect in our family.
The best food experience in an art space
In the restaurant of D’Orsay in 2000, I had an unforgettable experience not only because of the food but also of the environment. At that time, it had a gilded decoration with mirrors that looked like a palace.
Also, I consider the restaurant of the V&A museum in London with its decoration and the samples of English food.
Concerning Greek museums, I would say again the Benaki Museum with the traditional Greek dishes like the “dolmadakia” from Kasos and the amazing almond pastry.
A museum gift shop that you never leave empty handed
I am not a simple type of museum visitor. By studying about museums, I learned to have a holistic approach and appreciate and support all the parts that create a museum. For me, a museum visit concludes (and sometimes begins) through the shop and my chat with its people. I never leave the museum shop of the National Gallery of London without buying art books or exhibition catalogs from past exhibitions that usually have a discount.
From the shop of Wellcome Collection, I always get a “weird” item that only there I can find. In Athens, the Benaki museum shops provide me with jewelry by new designers. In the shop of the Museum of Cycladic Art, even though it has more specific books, I usually find things that interest me like aesthetical objects of art and jewelry.
Your museum with a wow-factor
The museums in small towns in and outside of Greece help promote the “local” culture, even though it can’t be seen by their size of the numbers of their visitors, in depth of time they create a local impact factor that notably influences their everyday life. On the other hand, I would mention the Guggenheim Bilbao effect in which I had studied as part of my M.Sc. thesis as a case study in the subject of “Mobility of Museum Collections”.
I’ve studied the needs that created it, the cultural and financial diplomacy that grew around it and the use of architecture as a mean of figuration of this plan. A small permanent collection, a loan from the original museum and an exhibition design adjusted properly have created a local development phenomenon that crossed the limits of the country and became a case study for those that study in relevant fields. This museum alongside Tate Modern and the change that can be seen in the Southbank area create a never-seen-before wow effect.
Please share with us a special personal memory related to a museum experience
I have visited many museums of different types. The Jewish museum in Berlin is the one with the most interesting overall museum experience. Before visiting I read some articles on the thoughts and designs of the architect and watched videos of the spaces. It is a case where there are many symbolisms, references and connections between the building and the subject of the museum. Despite the fact that I was prepared and maybe because of this, my experience in the museum was stunning. It is one of those examples of the blossoming museum architecture that has given us extraordinary buildings.