Friday, January 15, 2010

Questions? We've got Answers!

At the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow, I was particularly struck by the very simple labels that had questions--and answers--on them.  Many of these question labels were installed in the simplest of ways--black text on a white background, no illustrations--in the in-between spaces as you passed from the center halls into galleries.

What kinds of questions were asked and answered?  The kind that museum workers take for granted and museum visitors often wonder about.  Here's some examples:

All questions that our visitors have wondered about.   And in other places, answers were provided to questions that might have been asked.  For instance:

Great, right?  How many times have you wondered why something was done a particular way in a museum?   In at least one instance, the question-asking was the frame for the exhibition itself and so had a distinct graphic quality.

 In all of these,  it's evident that the exhibition staff (educators and curators working together, it must be) care about what the visitor wants to know, not just what they, the staff know.  What kinds of questions would visitors have at your museum?


Christine said...

Of course!
When I visit museums I often wonder "why is this done like this? or "why did they do that?". I'm asking myself these question as a designer of museums, but of course—why didn't I realize—other museum visitors are asking themselves the same things.
Thank you for observing this and sharing. I think adding this simple detail to exhibits could enrich everyone's experiences.

Alli said...

I love this idea!

Museums have traditionally been places that keep information like this invisible. This leaves visitors who don't understand how the museum works feeling like they don't belong there. If we are trying to make museums accessible to all audiences, we should make visitors feel comfortable by orienting them to the museum's environment. This is especially so in a time that places great value on transparency in decision making.

My question is, did the museum poll visitors about what questions they had or did museum staff develop the questions on their own?

Linda Norris said...

Christine and Alli--
Thanks for commenting! Christine--you're right--I often wonder about things and this was a great reminder that visitors do too. Alli--I took at look at the Kelvingrove website to see if they had any info about these labels--couldn't find anything specific but they do talk about substantial community investment in the planning process--community groups, a teen advisory board, etc, so I'm guessing it might have come from those discussions. Their website overall has some great info about the process of what they do, including how their labels are written and why they are the way they are.