Nothing to see here…or is there? [Updated]

by Joey deVilla on March 31, 2015

Nothing to see here…

Photo: Schoolchildren sitting on a bench in a museum, engrossed in their smartphones, completely ignoring the large masterpiece hanging on the wall in the background.

Click the sad scene to see it at full size.

As my friend Lisa Goldman (who pointed me to this photo) put it, I hope that they’re Googling some facts about the baroque masterpiece that they appear to be ignoring. In case you’re wondering, it’s Rembrandt’s The Night Watch.

…or is there? [An update]

Photo montage: Kids at same museum writing notes, reading field guides, looking at the art

Matthias Bauer pointed me to this article in The Uncatalogued Museum, which asks what we see in the picture at the top of this article. Its author, Linda Norris, posted photos taken the same day, showing the kids also absorbed in the art, takes notes on paper, and reading field study guides and other material on the art in the museum. If the kids had their noses in books instead of smartphones, she asks, would we be so quick to roll our eyes?

Yes, smartphones are wonderful devices for entertainment and chit-chat, but as tiny bundles of computing power, networking capability, and all kinds of sensors, they’re also tools for learning, creativity, and getting stuff done. As I said earlier, there’s always a chance that the kids were looking up information on the things they were seeing in the museum. They may have been using their phones as notepads (I do this all the time, as I can back it up, and in the long run, it’s far more portable than a paper notebook). Some of them may have taken photos of pieces they liked, perhaps to enjoy later as “desktop wallpaper”; I myself did this during my last trip to the nearby Dali Museum.

Of course, they may have been chatting with friends or playing the game du jour — and I’d bet good money that at least some of them were. And hey, as a middle-aged force of darkness (it sounds so much more badassed than “person of color”), it’s my right to rant about “kids today”, and especially first-world white kids who get to see some of the world’s most famous chef d’oeuvres on a school field trip.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Liron March 31, 2015 at 12:16 pm

Actually, it looks like they’re using the Rijksmuseum app. I’ve been there several times, it’s usually full of school kids running around with the free app, listening to the guided tour. Two of the children in the photo appear to have the explainer cards on their lap, which have more detailed information about the painting and are available next to the painting itself.

Even if they aren’t using the app, the Rijksmuseum is absolutely huge (seriously) and is full of benches with people sitting around, using their mobile phones, posting instagram pictures, etc. You could have just as easily taken a photo of me at the same spot a few months ago with my nose buried in my phone – and I’m a HUGE art fan and Rembrandt is one of my favorite artists 🙂

Linda Norris April 1, 2015 at 4:03 pm

Thanks for the update and shout-out to the blog. Just to clarify, I took those four photos on a single day, but not the day those other kids were there. But I suspect you can find the same any day of the week at the Rijksmuseum. Just a reminder to check our own prejudices at the door.

emma gomez May 31, 2015 at 2:42 pm

It seems like the students of college or school, not interested to see about the art pieces.
Ohhh.. this is the age where kids give more preference to modern gadgets like playing games on mobile rather than to know about masterpiece kept in the museum.

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