Eric Zerrudo, the Met’s director, said that while the museums have managed to survive, they need to reinvent themselves and shape up to capture the audience.
"There is a need for museums to be more visible and accessible to deliver its message," he said.
He said museums should go beyond featuring traditional items only such as native dress but also include significant personalities and historical events.
Zerrudo is in town to attend the launching of "Dabawenyo and Proud", an installation of the Davao Museum on local personalities.
He told the Club 888 press forum Wednesday the local governments, universities, researchers, and documenters need to throw in more support to improve relevance of local museums to the public.
He said local museums should be good in capturing the realities of traditions, artifacts, among others, of a people, a place or a region.
Zerrudo explained that even if the public would get to know the culture and traditions of the indigenous peoples and other cultures in an area by visiting indigenous communities, there is no alternative to museums.
He said museums as repositories capture the identity of a people or place that gives a "sense of self".
"Communities and people evolve. Museums capture the details of their culture," he said.
Zerrudo said, however, bringing tourism to indigenous communities using tourism villages is acceptable. But he stressed that the Lumads should have been consulted and have given consent about it. He said they should also get a share of the proceeds of tourism and that their ordinary flow of life is not affected.
About 90 percent of museum audiences are students, he said, but they spend more time in "malling".
He said the consumerist, educational and entertainment appeal of malls beat the appeal of museums. "Museums should also be educational and entertaining," he said.
The museum director said if a nation loses memory of its culture and heritage, it will lose sense of identity and also direction.
He cited the example of traditional dress. He said a Bagobo dress when flashed in a wide screen would automatically evoke it is from Davao.
"But if you flash an image of a Levi's jeans, what does that tell you? You can't identify that to be of this people or that as it is used around the world," he said.
Universities and local stakeholders, he said, should keep tab of the state of museums because of their role as "custodian of heritage".
Zerrudo said local universities, through their pool of researchers, documenters among other personnel, could develop researches on local history to improve public knowledge on cultural identity.
He said no other researchers would be as much interested to work on local history aside from its local professionals.
He stressed that generally, museums have to continuously improve not only on presentation, but research, too.