In all my life I could count how many times I have been to the museums. When I was a kid in primary and secondary schools, the museums I have been were those of town museums that we had to see, as we joined field trips of historical places in central and south Luzon. When I was in college, while I was working part time as tour guide, the museums I saw included that of the National Museum, Museo Pambata, Phillipine Science Centrum and the Wax Museum.
I worked abroad, but I got no chance to visit the Museum in Bahrain. I’ve been in and out of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas as a Subject Matter Expert training their personnel on communication, yet I never got a chance to see the Metropolitan Museum. I’ve passed Makati Avenue and Ayala so many times, yet I haven’t been inside the Ayala Museum. The last two museums I’ve been to were the Prince of Wales Museum in Mumbai, India, which I didn’t want to miss when I made my itenerary going there last August, and the Marcos Museum in Batac, Ilocos Sur.
This time, as part of Communication Environment trips, our stop was at the Yuchengco Museum. I missed the guided tour though. So I have to visit it without my classmates, but with my two nephews. Sad to say, my visits to museum were incindental, purposive and planned. It had not come naturally because of my love for the arts, culture and history. I went there because I was obliged to.
Museums are a repository of cultural and historical knowledge. This environment offers a spectacle of visually presenting human and social development as integral facets to understand history and culture. How many do go there for the purpose of learning the humanities, aesthetics and history of a culture and society? How many have that instinctive passion to preserve and present for other generations artifacts of the past and cultural wealth?
Museums are a modern day invention. But its purpose extend far from the prehistory of the cave people who carved, drew and painted in the rock and lime walls of the dark abodes of humanity’s predecessors. Museum exhibits are a spectacle. Prior to the movies, the television or the Internet, museums draw in crowds to see discoveries about the past and present. In the 19th century Paris, the Parisians were drawn to what they call the Mort or Morgue Museum.
The Morgue Museum showcased corpse, dead bodies, not for the necrophiliacs, but for educational purposes. Each corpse exhibited tell of a narrative. These stories are what the spectators so curious about as their senses are alerted in experiencing the four dimensional exhibits of human anatomy and pathology. In the present times, these bodies were replaced by manniquins and wax models to show figures of important men and women. The main spectacle in the Marcos museum was the wax-covered corpse of the late Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos.
My visit to the Yuchengco Museum was my first to see an ultra-modern exhibition. This was also the first to my nephews. The main spectacle of that museum for that month was themed around paper. The fourth and third floor of the museum were filled with a lot of art works using paper as the medium. Museums are media in their nature, and they showcase artworks using a variety of media from different historical periods.
A lot of things amazed me about the creativity of the artists in putting an ensemble of paper materials to come up with concepts. Truly, the museum showcased creativitity and imagination – which to me are demonstrations of human knowledge in the ephemerial and metaphysical form. The works of art are a product of the artisans mind, that which places the spectators into thinking and reflecting while operating in a continuum of imagining and recreating images and situations.
From the fourth floor, paper rocks were suspended. I thought they were real rock at first, but when we got to the third floor, it was Jozcef, my six-year old nephew, who learned first that it was made of paper. He read it from the monitor, and so triggered his curiousity to check whether it is paper. I think, eyes can really deceive and we need to resort to other ways of knowing to learn about things. Museums are environments that provide learning experiences. For Jozcef, he learned about collage, storm, spinning wheel, map, painting, glass sculpture, tusk, ivory: terms that a first grader will never encounter in the classroom.
At the third floor were other paper arts and priceless items from the family collection. What interested me were the ivory collections, small figurines carved in genuine ivory. Those miniature sculptured art works, demonstrate an advanced knowledge before nanotechnology has been discovered. The intricate work on the details manifest passion, labor, imagination and great knowledge about the craft. Artworks that were exhibited in that museum can be appreciated as a whole moreso down to how they put the details together. Here, one can ponder on what makes art different from mass produced items that people can buy in the market.
The second floor housed some more collections on metal artworks, designs and crafts that can aesthetically ornament a modern house. Aside from aesthetics, they are functional as well. Metallurgy is advanced in those art pieces, by bending welding, twisting and sculpting metal to turn the material into an artwork that can serve functionally. Indeed, there are artworks that can just be hang on the wall, but others can be integrated into the design of the house to serve useful functions.
The ground floor of the Yuchengco Museum keeps valuable collections of the family and its group of companies. For the second time around, my eyes laid upon the works of Fernando Amorsolo, Carlos Botong Francisco and Juan Luna. Farming was highlighted in the collections. Paintings surround the spectator, and the sofa in the center of the hall gives a homey ambiance, putting the spectator in the center of the exhibition. Coming from the fourth floor, that sofa is such a relief.
Museums are not just for the artists and those interested of the arts. Museums are for everyone. The works of artists in the first place are not mere products, they carry messages using a variety of media, as an expression of their selves, their views and their socio-historical environment. They only become meaningful when they are exhibited to the public. An artwork is not an art when it is not in the heart of other people. When they are not seen, touched, felt or experienced by others, they remain as refuse of the artist’s imagination. That doesn’t become an art until it is appreciated by the spectators.
The philanthropism of the Yuchengco family and its group of companies to give the Filipino public a chance to see their collections and to promote value and appreciation for the arts, is truly commendable. Adults and children, generations upon generations will be indebted to having been provided the chance to see those rare artworks and collections.