The Museum of Dead Genres
Pedro Ponce

The Museum of Dead Genres is the youngest of our national treasures, but its collections are no less celebrated for their recent acquisition. Flanking the entrance are marble friezes of Abridgement and Redaction. Abridgement is shown extracting a luminous kernel from the volumes of a beleaguered scholar, his mouth slack with awe at the feathery essence of knowledge. Redaction wields an instructive finger over the open storybook on her lap. Her audience of children is too rapt to notice her other hand, which discreetly deposits the ragged pages of the imprudent and injurious within the folds of her peplos.
In the Arcade of the Ancients, vitrines preserve the epics of dead civilizations. Stone pillars yield to paladins guarding the distressed planks of the Hall of Heroes, where illuminated verse testifies to the deeds of knights and saints. Toward the center of the complex, visitors may view the masque, the closet drama, the pentameral tragedy and comedy. Most opt to follow the reflective arrows bordering the Exhibition Stage into the Age of Print.
The Father of the Printing Press is portrayed as Janus. One face regards the text on the First Page, hoisted in triumph. The other grimaces behind a blindfold etched with letters from every known language. Patrons experience the same duality as they proceed past the two-faced colossus to witness the fruits of his innovation: Ęthe pamphlet, the newspaper dispatch, the serial novel and history, the biography, the dictionary, the encyclopedia. Mechanical fingers flip pages at the rate of two per second while blinking screens tabulate the months, years, and lifetimes an average reader would need to process the separate and cumulative contents of each exhibit.
Blinded by such profligacy, visitors rest their eyes through a series of dim and increasingly illuminated corridors until they reach the Threshold of the Modern. Here, early scientists wrangle unruly pages onto recording cylinders, data tapes, and pocket discs. But portability is no match for proliferation until The Advent of Redaction, where the first entrepreneurs recognize the value of condensing. Via computer simulation, the first prototype is recreated, capable of reducing one volume to a single page in a mere 90 minutes. There is often laughter at this point in the narrated tour, as current advances have reduced the process to only a half-percent of known originals.
Visitors emerge into the botanical garden, where tableaux represent the wonders of the contemporary world. With the industry nationalized, all may benefit, from the smallest town to the largest city. Teacher and pupil sit at either end of a wireless transmitter, awaiting instructions on the most relevant parts of a lesson. Another transmitter presides over the handshake of two legislators as they avoid an impasse through the judicious delegation of fact-finding. A writer humbly extends his finished manuscript toward the Muse, visible from every corner of the indoor park, her enormous monocle poised benevolently to dispense scrutiny and discretion.
The last exhibit is a room of empty vitrines. The designers had a two-fold purpose in its inclusion. First, the cases represent those sources -- gradually but steadily decreasing -- that have yet to be quantified and processed. Second, after braving thickets of prose and verse, statistics and punditry, patrons are invited to contemplate the clarity of emptiness, a horizon we anticipate with asymptotic patience.