Lohrey's article is both stimulating and provocative, and in my view a welcome jolt to an industry whose practitioners don't seem to engage in a great deal of critical discourse about their practice, at least not in public. The thinking in this regard may possibly be summed up as: don't rock the boat!
What I find particularly interesting are Lohrey's comments about a lack of provocation that she thinks is clearly evident in the examples to which she draws our attention. While undertaking my graduate diploma in museum studies at Deakin a few years ago, one of the key lessons I drew from it was that exhibits (and public programs in general) should not be inert. They should seek to interpret, engage and provoke the audience to an experience that helps them make new connections, to think about what they are seeing, and to contemplate the meaning of what they are being presented with. This should ideally be a form of education that involves more than the transmission of a few bits of information on provenance or descriptions about what is plainly in view.
I am not so much concerned about the fragmentariness of the exhibitions to which Lohrey draws our attention. It's not the lack of a single narrative that worries me - multiple narratives or themes should not be a problem if done well. Instead, what I found resonated with my experience is that often enough exhibitions tend to be inert - they almost seem to aim for a form of neutralisation of the potential for any kind of controversy lest the political masters (or their minions in the popular press) react in a hostile manner. I am not sure whether this is something that is limited to Australia - I suspect not. Here, I presume that the problem may have started (or progressed) during the Howard Government and which had a particularly virulent penchant for crusading against cultural enemies.
In a way, the trend seems to be drawing the big institutions closer to the kind of experience that is common in historical societies and smaller museums across the country. The emphasis is on the oldness of the artefacts, and if resources permit, some effort is made to describe or attribute provenance, but as to interpretation and leading visitors to contemplate some kind of big picture ... well who knows ... is there one? What matters more is that people come, spend some time looking at things together, and talk. Do they actually have an appetite to have the way they look at these artefacts augmented or challenged in any way?