What a great concept Des, lets use MANexus for some fiesty debate and discussion! I have already gained much from reading the replies and although I have not read the article I'm gong to venture forth and say I think I agree with many of the issues raised by Amanda Lohrey.
I am a manager of a small suburban facility in Western Sydney, I've come up against a number of these challenges. My backgound is cultural tourism and I am amazed at how many times I've come across museum and heritage professionals who seem to have forgotten that these places exist for the people, not just the collections. Otherwise, we could all just be climate controlled storage warehouses right? Theres a reason why Powerhouse turned its offsite stroage into a publically accessible Disovery Centre.
Many exhibitions seem to "preach to the converted", those who will come in and engage with anything we put up, whose passion and awe of heritage is on par, if not exceeding that of the staff. However, exhibitions are a public space and we should be aiming to reach those who do not see themselves as museum goers or history buffs.
In the digital age, where the democratisation of knowledge is running full force, the tradional style of exhibition with objects as its focus and the profiessional as the "expert" providing instructive information will not engage the majority of audiences. People like to share knowledge and be involved in equitable discussions, not didatic presentations.
Sure the authentic might provide momentary novelty value, but unless it connects to a person's greater story (as the example of the moon rock shows) it will hardly hold someones interest for the duration fo their visit, much less when they leave our facilities.
For these audiences, the idea that an object has inherent value is not engaging. Trivia buffs might memorise the date and material of an object to astound their friends, but unless it connects to story they can recount around a dinner table, the communcation and significance is lost.
People visit to gain an experience. Our institutions need to look at what kind of expereince they are providing and keep in mind that we exist, not for our own interests (or only the collection's interest), but for the interests and experience of the public. Visitor experience should come first, and places like the Powerhouse, Australian Museum and organisations like Gillian's are making some effort in this regard.