And I suppose there are two main reasons for why the Big Ideas get lost:
1) Crafting strong Big Ideas, and testing your concepts out with visitors, is hard! It takes time to get the foundational ideas for an exhibition in place, and it takes institutional commitment to keep working at it, and trying things out to get honest responses from visitors and advisors. That doesn't mean it's not worth doing, but rushing into physical designs and exhibit concepts before you have your exhibition conceptual framework in order is either a result of inexperience, or the result of significant outside pressures. Which brings us to reason Number 2 that Big Ideas often get lost:
2) Don't let money or lack of perspective derail your exhibition narratives. Of course every exhibition benefits from, if not downright requires, outside funding and input. But something significant is lost when exhibition decisions are made to please outside funders (or community groups) rather than the end users inside the museum. At its worst, this perversion of the exhibit development process pimps out the museum and misrepresents the ideas inside the exhibition.
So what's to be done to ensure that strong Big Ideas become the foundations for equally strong exhibition experiences? Aside from buying, reading, and then implementing the ideas in Beverly Serrell's book, I'd say allying yourself with strong advisors, community leaders, and other stakeholders who put the visitor experience first is a good place to start.
There may well be some tense discussions when you push back against funders or members of the public trying to advance agendas outside the scope of a particular project, but the efforts will show in your final exhibition!
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