Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Museum Exhibit Design: The "New" Detroit Institute of Arts

As a followup to my recent posting about interactive experiences (or lack thereof) in art museums, I thought I'd share two different points of view about the "reinvention" of The Detroit Institute of Arts (or the DIA as it's known to locals.) For context, the DIA has reopened last year after completely reconfiguring its galleries and its institutional approach toward the visitor experience.

The first (immediately below) is a report from the radio show Studio 360 that details an interactive "virtual dining" experience that serves to highlight some of the DIA's decorative arts collection.

Personally, as someone who was born and raised in Detroit --- I count the DIA as one of my favorite museums --- I can't wait to get back to Detroit to see the "new" DIA. The dining interactive sounds like a wonderful way to engage visitors in a difficult, but interesting, area of the collection.

Clearly not everyone feels the same way. Enter art historian Christina Hill, who wrote this opinion piece for one of Detroit's alternative newspapers, The Metro Times.

Ms. Hill comes off as a bit of an art snob, in my opinion. As an art historian she may well have the education and experience to take away "volumes" of information from every encounter with a work of art, but I doubt that every visitor (or potential visitor) to an art museum has the same capacity. I'm at a loss to see the downside of thoughtfully integrated interactives in an art museum.

What do you think? Should art museums remain purely temples to art? Are interactives in an art museum condescending to the primary audince? Are interactives just a "cheap trick" or do they "dumb down" the primary experience? Add your own thoughts in the "Comments" section below.

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