Liverpool is a truly wondrous city. I make this statement with absolutely no reservations. Yes, I may have only ever been there three times, and yes two of those visits were only in order to get somewhere else, and yes one of them did involve me witnessing two rather dilapidated looking chaps injecting heroin on a rotting sofa in the middle of an unsurfaced car park near the bus station. But, this is a city that seems hard to dislike.
In fact, setting aside the limitations of a facebook style binary value judgement system for a moment, let us simply consider the vast depth of Liverpool’s cultural and industrial heritage: It was a city at the heart of Britain’s Industrial Revolution, a port that was vital to the Manchester textile industry; It is Britain’s fourth largest city, with a rich (if not always pleasant) history of multiculturalism; Liverpool’s docks are marked as a UNESCO world heritage site due to their historical significance; The city has provided us with countless great musicians, bands, writers, top flight football teams and, of course, The Beatles.
These are a few, though by no means all, of the things that make Liverpool a great and unique city. The city itself manages to, at once, impart a sense of great significance whilst also having an air of nonchalant modesty. Modernity and history are both on show, with Liverpool’s urban planners opting to retain and adapt many of its great industrial buildings alongside more modern structures, such as some of those surrounding the original Albert Dock.
Then there’s the scousers. Say what you like about their perms, moustaches and dodgy accents, but they’re a brilliant bunch as far as I can tell. Honest, proud and in possession of the kind of perspective and self aware, self effacing humour that can only come from growing up in a city that has seen such changing fortunes of prosperity and poverty. This, combined with truly dismal weather, seems to unite the Liverpudlians, Glaswegians and Mancunians in kind-of troika of hilarity and misery.
The whole thing makes me feel like Jeremy Clarkson attempting to be Bill Bryson. I am drawn ever more towards making poorly thought out arguments about the city, its history and its people as all being somehow quintessentially Liverpudlian. As though they and it are a brute fact, each brought into existence by the other.
Regardless. I “like” it.
Which, at length, brings me to my point: The Museum of Liverpool is absolutely rubbish.
It appears that someone has gone to quite extensive lengths to ensure that absolutely nothing interesting enters the building, and that such exhibits as there are, are scattered in such a cutting edge fashion, that they are quite impossible to engage with. If all this wasn’t enough, the Museum of Liverpool seems to have opted for the ever more popular approach of largely dispensing with information, insight and facts in favour of thousands of touch screens and a larger array of shiny and flashy things than I feel museum can really justify.
So incensed was I by this disappointing museum excursion, that I decided to do nothing about it other than complain to my friend Quincy who, whilst being incredibly well informed and wise in the ways of the world, has literally nothing to do with the Museum of Liverpool, and so was not the best target for my angst. His intelligent and well-considered opinions on the matter were, however, engaging, thought provoking and went a good way towards helping climb down from my incredibly high and indignant horse for long enough to form some sort of opinion on the matter.
Ultimately, I have three main problems with this sort of funky, modern and ever-so-interactive museum:
Firstly, information and education seems to be largely sacrificed in favour of shiny screens, bright colours and what I can only presume civil servants regard as wacky designs.
Secondly, I strongly disagree with the current consensus that more technology and more interactivity on all fronts is necessarily a good thing. Why do we accept that having touch screens, hubs, places to connect your phone and apps everywhere is, simply in and of itself, a good thing?
Finally, I find the whole process of think-tanking and dumbing down, to be frankly quite insulting. If we, as a people, just accept that we no longer have an attention span or any interest in things that don’t give us an interactive pat on the back every time we take a shit, then yes, this type of key-jangling effort at culture is acceptable. But if we don’t, then surely we should be asking for a little more?
I’m going to sign off from this piece for now, due to a self imposed deadline to publish something before I go away this weekend. I will, however, be back to finish what I’ve started.
As an aside, the Maritime Museum in Liverpool is great.