New Church Life March/April 2017 - Page 75

     Brian noted, “The museum seeks to encourage reflection and a sense of wonder about religious traditions around the world, past and present, through an exploration of the cultural expressions of faith. We hope to engage visitors in the ongoing dialogue about the contemporary relevance of spiritual belief and practice, leading to understanding, empathy and, ultimately, compassion and tolerance for one another in our common human endeavor to find meaning and purpose in our lives. “As a museum of religious art, we use the art and artifacts in our collections as clues to understanding the total religious experience of the people who used them. We are interested in what each object can tell us about the beliefs of its creators, and about the ways in which they expressed those beliefs in their practices. Each object is a gateway to the history of religion as it has been experienced by religious adherents in their daily lives.” Crispin Paine, a world renowned expert who has visited Glencairn Museum, said: “In the past, museums often changed the meaning of icons or statues of deities from sacred to aesthetic, or used them to declare the superiority of Western society, or simply as cultural and historical evidence. The last generation has seen . . . curators recognizing that objects can only be understood within their original religious context. In recent years there has been an explosion of interest in the role religion plays in museums, with major exhibitions highlighting the religious as well as the historical nature of objects. “Objects have a unique power to speak to people, and do so on a quite different level to words, or even to images. That is why religious objects in museums must have an exceptional role and responsibility in the great cause of helping humankind to understand human motives. "Too often, museums don't let the religious role and significance of their objects show. They treat them as art, or history, or sometimes science, and their fascinating back-story is suppressed. . . . I'm not suggesting that there's anything wrong with this – simply that it would be valuable for museums also to help visitors understand their religious meanings – as Glencairn Museum does." (Crispin Paine, world-renowned expert) 141