Monday, October 10, 2011

History in the News- The V&A

My husband came across an article recently that was of interest to me, and which I thought might interest others as well. How the Victoria and Albert Museum Dealt With the Dying of Christianity.

That's a lengthy title, but fairly straightforward. The museum, largely considered to be one of the best in the world, was surprised to find that people are posessed of very little relative knowledge about the history, doctrine, and stories of the Church and the Medieval and Renaissance eras in general. Of course it is nearly impossible to discuss any aspect of these time periods without mentioning Christianity, which was at the time in Europe very pervasive.

Having been raised Catholic, and attended Catholic schools and religious education classes during much of my childhood, I had always assumed that I had a better understanding of the background and ritual of Christianity than non-Catholics, just as I am ignorant of the tenants and history of other religions (though I am learning). Two things surprised me, however; how much I didn't know, and how few people are actually practicing Christians of any sort.

I had always thought of certain countries as being enclaves of staunch Catholic adherence, but even in Italy only 36.6% of people are practicing Catholics, versus the 87.6% who claim it as their religion. How then, was the museum to help its patrons fully understand the intended meaning and history of its objects, when they had little or no specific knowledge base on which to build? The article tells the story of how the V&A strove to solve this problem, and what they learned along the way.

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