The one thing am sure we all agree upon is that a visitor’s museum experience depends highly on the exhibition design.
The other day while talking to a friend about what we do at the Heritage Lab – it came up from her as a visitor – that Museums severely miss storytelling. While museum exhibition design is hugely important, only a handful of museums are actually paying attention to this. This should be strange, considering visitor experience is the no.1 priority across Museums today. So how can you create a powerful exhibition design?
This one is currently on view at the Denver Museum of Art. The designers have made the museum gallery such that you feel you’re almost in Venice. Right from the flooring to the arches and even the wall colours transport you into Venice. Talk about being experiential! Read how the exhibition planning team created a space that best serves the artworks and evokes the special atmosphere of Venice by clicking on the link.
2. Place HAMPI :
This brings me to Place Hampi. I can assure you that there’s nothing quite like this one in India. As one enters the museum, the lights go off, the stars shine up through the floor and you can hear the “sounds of Hampi” – birds chirping, the Tungabhadra river flowing by, and more. That’s how they attain the first level of immersing the audience. The guide is an amazing person, well-versed with the history of the Vijaynagar Empire and the episodes of Ramayana that Hampi is known for. Even though you’re just seeing photographs on a wall, the illumination-effect is enough to make your eyes grow wide with wonder. But the best part is for the last – just before you exit, there’s a moving stage that takes you into Hampi where you can see Shiva dancing on the rocks – quite literally so, with expert animation and 3D effects. I have to do a post on this one real soon.
Speaking of design, experience and museums, one can’t leave this one out. Jaya He is the result of Rajeev Sethi’s creative vision, the hard work of many artisans and designers and of course it wouldn’t have been possible without the partnership and backing of GVK. The installations are one-of a kind, and handmade. It’s almost like India comes alive each time you visit; and each time there’s a new detail you discover. There are information kiosks next to each installation which makes it even more engaging. Whether you’re arriving or departing, you cannot miss the experience at the Mumbai Airport. Personally, I love this one because of our artisans who participated in the project!
4. V&A Hollywood Costumes :
Even though V&A has had better exhibitions, I love this one for the uniqueness of the theme. The website description of the exhibition says:”This ground-breaking exhibition included over 100 of the most iconic and unforgettable film characters from a century of Hollywood filmmaking, 1912–2012. Hollywood Costume took us on a three-gallery journey from Charlie Chaplin through the Golden Age of Hollywood to the cutting-edge design for ‘Avatar (2009, Costume Designer Mayes C Rubeo, Deborah L Scott) and ‘John Carter of Mars’ (2012, Costume Designer Mayes C Rubeo): Act 1, Deconstruction, put us in the shoes of the costume designer and illuminated the process of designing a character from script to screen; Act 2, Dialogue, examined the key collaborative role of the costume designer within the creative team; Act 3, Finale, celebrated the most beloved characters in the history of Hollywood and the ‘silver screen’.
These galleries were filled with cinema costumes that had never left the private and archival collections in California. Most of these clothes had never been publicly displayed and had never been seen beyond the secure walls of the studio archives.”
You could also listen to a podcast here where exhibition designer Gary Shelley, and Glen Adamson & Moira Gemmill from V&A discuss how they put it together – perhaps play this for your team to inspire them too!
What happens when visitors play curator? This exhibition is the result of a three-year effort of educators, game designers, media specialists, filmmakers, set designers, light & sound engineers! Phew! And we thought too many cooks spoil the broth 😉 Sounds like fun, and it is also! See the video to believe what I say.