56. Lana Pajdas Trains Her ‘Fun Museums’ Lens to Croatian Heritage Sites, From The Battle of Vukovar to Over-Tourism in Dubrovnik
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Lana Pajdas is the founder of Fun Museums, a heritage and culture travel blog with a radical idea: museums are fun. It is the guiding principle of her museum marketing, consulting work, and even her photographs.
In this episode, Pajdas describes Heritage Sites in her native Croatia, from the interpretation of the 1991 Battle of Vukovar at the Vukovar Municipal Museum to the Game of Thrones-inspired Over-Tourism in Dubrovnik
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Sponsor: The Museums, Heritage, and Public History program at the University of Missouri at St. Louis
This episode of Museum Archipelago is sponsored by The Museums, Heritage, and Public History program at the University of Missouri at St. Louis.
The program is currently accepting applications for the Fall 2019 semester. They offer an MA degree as well as a Graduate Certificate. Their programs address pressing needs of museums and heritage institutions in the 21st century and prepare students for professional careers in museums, historic sites and societies, cultural agencies, and related organizations. Financial support is available for a limited number of students and applications are due on February 1st. For more information, please call 314-516-4805 or visit their website.
Topics and Links
00:40: Over-Tourism in Dubrovnik, Croatia
01:14: Lana Pajdas and the Fun Museums Blog
02:39: Disney’s America on Museum Archipelago
03:15: Vukovar Municipal Museum on the Battle of Vukovar
05:12: “Museum Procrastination”
06:14: Sustainable Tourism
07:59: Possible Solutions to Over-Tourism
09:18: Sponsor: The Museums, Heritage, and Public History program at the University of Missouri at St. Louis
10:11: Outro | Join Club Archipelago
TranscriptBelow is a transcript of Museum Archipelago episode 56. Museum Archipelago is produced for the ear and the only the audio of the episode is canonical. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, refer to the links above.
Lana Pajdas is from Croatia.
Lana Pajdas: We are a small country, and we have fewer inhabitants that some US cities. We don’t have as many fields of industry or strong economy or whatever, and tourism is maybe the most important field we have.
But in recent years, the Croatian city of Dubrovnik, due in part to being a prominent filming location of the TV series Game of Thrones, has experienced dramatic overcrowding.
Lana Pajdas: I was there last time, and it was pretty much terrible to see that people were waiting in lines to enter inside the old town, inside the walls. There were so many agencies selling Game of Thrones tours and taking people to some specific areas where it’s kind of difficult to have so many people in the same place, even for safety reasons.
Pajdas is the founder of Fun Museums, a heritage and culture travel blog.
Lana Pajdas: Okay, my name is Lana Pajdas, My blog is called Fun Museums because I like to say that visiting museums is fun above all. Visiting museums is a fun experience, and people shouldn’t think that museums are something cold, elegant, smart, intelectual. It’s just, people can have that experience in their leisure time.
Pajdas is also a museum marker and consultant. Her overall theme is that museums are fun. It is a radical idea — and it influences everything, from her philosophy on museum marketing to a way to approach overcrowding in museums and heritage sites.
Lana Pajdas: Exactly, that is my guiding principle. The way I write my articles it to say the most cool, funky stuff about each museums I visit. Sometimes museum professionals don’t like this at all, that’s why some people from museums, museum curators for instance, museum marketing professionals or education professionals, they send me messages: “could you stop saying things that way because it is in contrast to our professional values.” But then I said, okay, but that’s what people like to know. That’s what people like to hear. If you think it should be more intellectual, you have to understand that most people can’t read it that way, understand the way you want to present it to them.
But there is a real tension, because the axis isn’t just between what’s fun and what’s intellectual. In episode 17 of Museum Archipelago, I cover the spectacular failure of a Disney theme park concept called Disney's America in 1994. The park, which would open in Virginia not far from Washington DC, would showcase [quote] “the sweep of American History” within a fun theme park environment. It is particularly notable to witness the confidence and enthusiasm Disney executives had for a tightrope between entertainment and American history.
Lana Pajdas: An example is a town on the east of Croatia, its name is Vukovar. This town was heavily destroyed in the most recent war in this part of Europe in 1991 when it was occupied. Almost all the buildings were destroyed, most of the people have to go away from there, and it was one of the most terrible stories that happened in Europe after the Second World War. And now the city has been quite well restored some people went back to live there, and the museum was completely renovated. And obviously, the visit to that museum is a nice and pleasant experience, but in recent history you really need to deal with some awful stuff that happened less than 30 years ago. It’s difficult for a person from Western Europe to understand what happened in ex-Yugoslavia. Even sometimes too complicated for people from this areas. It’s not as simple as some books like to present or some journalists like to present and there are many different opinions. So I think that museums sometimes need to take certain sides, even if some will disagree. Museums that deal with that stories needs to first of all show those emotions and to collaborate with people who suffered those emotions. Of course some emotional intelligence is very important for people who create that storytelling, who transmit emotions of certain people or people who will be just visitors, or maybe have nothing to with those areas or stories.
No matter what kind of museum you’re about to walk into, you have a sense of what you might find inside. And since that sense is partially informed by a museum’s marketing, Pajdas has made a habit of noting how people react to museums before they go.
Lana Pajdas: In most cases, it happens that people procrastinate their decisions to go to a museum. That happens more often than not. Next time I would really like to visit that museum, but today I feel a bit tired. I’m hungry, I want to go to eat to drink, I prefer to stay at home, watch a movie, I would really love to go the museum, but maybe one day. When my friends go to Paris, for instance, they say, I want to visit Louvre, I know there are other museums, but maybe another time. Because Louvre is already enough for me for these three days.
This tendency to choose the most popular museum to the exclusion of less frequently-visited ones is part of Pajdas’s interest in sustainable tourism.
Lana Pajdas: I’m parallel interested in sustainable travel and the museum thing, and these are the two areas I mentioned as my primary focus and interest. So museums and sustainable travel. Sustainability has so many faces, I’m quite interested in seeing about energy efficiency and waste management. But overtorusiim being one of my focus areas even though I don’t really pretend to know what could be a solution to that. Some attractions like the Alhombre Castle in Spain introduced online booking and you can’t just come in, buy a ticket and enter, but you have to book your spot in advance online and sometimes you can’t get a ticket if you just remember a week before you go. These are some of the solutions.
I do wonder how much of this heavily concentrated overcrowding has to do with the nature social media itself -- there’s a network effect of a geotagged photo, not just a particular heritage site, but at particular spot within that heritage site that presents the best angle for a photo or looks exactly the way it did on Game of Thrones.
Of course, there are many other factors that lead to overcrowding — the cheap flights, the increasing ability of people to travel, and the dynamic of travel as a product.
And if the Acropolis is at already capacity every single day, what it is going to look like 10 or 20 years from now? And to go back to Disney, tourism as a product already has an answer — just raise the prices. But heritage for the rich isn’t heritage anymore.
Lana Pajdas: Heritage should be accessible. Obviously, for many people around the world, it’s not really affordable to go to some places. What I want to be avoided is it becomes too expensive that only wealthy people can afford visiting those attractions. That’s what I would like to be avoided. And another thing, I would really like to encourage more people who really like to travel to visit secondary attractions, not go necessarily to the most famous places, but to visit some places around that usually also need visitors and more local people could make money for living, if they get visitors on those particular places, because more people could be employed in those places and businesses could flourish. That’s the basic thing.
And this is what ties all aspects of Pajdas (pydash)’s work together — to use the social media network effect to share the secondary attractions of a city, balancing the pressure on the most popular heritage site.
To read Pajdas (pydash)’s blog, and to learn about her consulting work, visit Funmuseums.eu. Her twitter handle is @LanaPajdas.
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