The trickster is clever and mischievous, crafty and artful, charming and entertaining. He or she lives outside established hierarchies, crosses boundaries and brings objects from one realm to the other.
This character sprang to mind as we were discussing the identity of Medical Museion. What should the role be for museums in general and how do we make the most out of being a small but lively university museum?
Research in mythology pinpointed the so-called trickster in countless myths and narratives. Loki shifts shape and both assists and annoys the Nordic Gods, the Raven steals the sun in North-west Coast American mythologies and the ancient Greek titan Prometheus takes fire from the Gods and gives it to humankind. Closer to home, Pippi Longstocking disobeys the boundaries between children and grownups and Bugs Bunny ignores the ditto between humans and animals.
Tricksters are characterized by cunning intelligence (metis in ancient Greek) that thrives in a changing world with no regularity. It is not the rational deliberation of Apollo, but the spur-of-the-moment artfulness of Odysseus. It is a form of intelligence that favours action over contemplation.
Cunning intelligence doesn’t follow rules, but it is central for success in messy arts such as warfare, hunting, crafts, politics, medicine – and hence surely also for running museums.
Medical Museion as the trickster museum? Outside the hierarchies of the medical world, both university and museum, combining art and science, controlling objects between life and death, and transforming objects from the realm of medicine to that of communication. Taking knowledge and stuff from the gods (in white coats) and giving it to man.