Monday, September 7, 2009

Eye on the Design in the City

For the past several years Nina Simon has led a thoughtful, engaging session at AAM's conference where museum people share their perspectives on everything from book drops to ball games that can inspire us to think about museums and exhibits in new ways. For some reason I thought of those sessions as I spent a couple days in Dresden, Germany as a solitary tourist. So here's a small homage to their creative ideas.

How can a city like Dresden inspire exhibits?

Use all the senses
The sound of street musicians and church organs, the rough cobblestone streets and the smooth marble museum floors, the taste of sausage and great desserts, the over-the-top Baroque architecture, and the faint smell of the Elbe all combine together.

Make some surprising places
This square group of trees, trimmed to just above your head, made for a beautiful little shock as you entered it. On the terrace overlooking the river, you entered and it was cooler, quieter (except for the rustle of leaves) and with a totally different cast of light. It made me think about spaces in museums that provide the same quality of surprise.

Provide places for overviews and a chance to look closely at details
The walk around the top of the Zwinger Palace provided an ever-changing chance to do both.

Give visitors a behind-the-scenes look
A 2002 flood devastated Dresden and the Albertinium has been closed for renovation. A banner outside the construction site described how the renovation will build "an ark for art" to avoid future disasters. Another banner at an archaelogical site told visitors what that big hole in the ground might have been--not just what it will be in the future.

Provide different ways to make your way around
In Dresden's case, it was physically---by bike, or pedi-cab, or foot, or carriage, but this can serve as a metaphor for providing varied paths for your visitors to explore the exhibit.

Don't ignore the hard parts
Dresden's rebuilt Frauenkirche uses both the dark stones of the old cathedral destroyed in an Allied bombing during the waning days of World War II intermixed with new stones, and a new synagogue, consecrated in 2001, stands on the same site as the synagogue badly damaged during Kristallnacht and later destroyed. The new synagogue contains a Book of Remembrance documenting the thousands of members of Dresden's Jewish community killed by Nazis.

Provide us with some creative ways to see what creative thinkers have done and seen before us
Canaletto's views of Dresden reside in the Old Masters Picture Gallery here, but these red frames and a simple label make his paintings live outside the museum as we look directly at views he painted.

Have people in costume
Okay, generally I'm not a person who connects deeply to costumed interpeters. But the individually costumed tour guides and street performers somehow made a visual connection to the city itself matter.

And finally, of course, provide lots of places to sit and relax!

1 comment:

Bob Beatty said...

Linda, another great and thought-provoking blog post. I have uploaded a link to it on AASLH's Twitter

Bob Beatty