Monday, September 27, 2010

Click! from Oklahoma City

I often see exhibit or interpretive elements that I like, don't like, or want to think about more.  So I've decided to do quick posts, called Click! that share those with blog readers.  I look forward to hearing your thoughts on these as well--and hope you'll alert me to other things worth seeing.  So some clicks from Oklahoma City.  

Above, a gallery at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, and below, the main label for that gallery.  I thought it was great because it was so direct.   If I had been there with children, it would have easily given me the tools to have a great conversation about the works.   At the same time, it didn't talk down to anyone.

I found intended and unintended messages at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum.  We approached the site from one direction and this is the first thing we were greeted with:

Not the friendliest.  On the other hand, as you waited for the elevator to go up to the exhibits, the museum had this screen alerting you to where you could find them online which I thought was great.

Upstairs at the museum we found it curious that the small alcoves where you could view videos from survivors and rescuers contained only one stool.   Wouldn't you want to do this with the friends or family you came with?

At the memorial part of the site, a friend and I spent a little time debating whether we could walk on the grass where the chairs honoring those who died are placed.  There was a low fence, but in one part, no fence, but no one on the grass.   We decided to step on and see what happened--and two things did.  A ranger approached and asked if we wanted additional information;  pulling out a laminated card he explained the chairs' arrangement and answered our questions.  But equally interesting, as soon as we stepped onto the grass, others began to do so as well.   There wasn't a physical barrier, but a conceptual one.

And finally, back at the art museum, just a beautiful immersive space, with a ceiling by Dale Chihuly, a reminder to use all four walls when we think about exhibits.


C said...

Thanks Linda! It was fun seeing you in Oklahoma and touring the memorial together. Great posts about that site and the art museum.Love the idea about "Click" postings.

Leslie said...

Thanks for including the Oklahoma City Museum of Art in your blog! We love bloggers! -- Leslie

rcuadra said...

Your reference to the conceptual barrier that prevented people from walking on the lawn among memorial chairs is something that I have seen played out over and over again at museums and other public places. The lawn at the Getty Center garden is so well manicured that unless visitors see someone is walking or sitting on it, they often think it's off limits. But few question the appropriateness of playing in a public fountain at the Universal CityWalk in LA or the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway in Boston. Certainly a memorial setting would make people more reticient, but it would be useful for museums to think about what they're doing (or not doing) that might be creating these kinds of behavioral barriers.

Linda Norris said...

Thanks all three of you! Connie for the thoughtful visit together; Leslie, I had such a nice visit to the art museum and happy to post about it; and rcuadra, yes, fascinating about the barriers/non-barriers in other places. When we were there, I thought about the Vietnam War memorial, where physical engagement with the memorial is built right in, as you walk along, and can touch, take rubbings, etc. I think also some intriguing issues raised about what's sacred ground--very different in different cultures. Much to think about!

Laura Roberts said...

It never occurred to me that one could walk up to the chairs! Now I wish I had. Yes, it read like a cemetery (particularly the DDay beaches) and we walk up to graves all the time. But there certainly were perceptual barriers. (I even hesitated to sit on the wall on the other side of the reflecting pool)

Also, re: the booths in the museum... I saw them more as a place to leave a memory than to share one. Admittedly, I did not have a great deal of time, but they did not invite me in. Maybe multiple stools would have helped. Or different labeling. I think it was the heavy sense of privacy that was really off-putting. Should a place like that museum become a little less hushed over time, as folks heal a bit?

Linda Norris said...

Laura---Oh interesting....we chose to break that invisible rule to see what happened! And in the museum, I think different labeling would have absolutely I recall, almost no labeling in the booths, just the screen, one stool and a box of kleenex. Not too many tools to work with to make sense of it all.

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