Monday, August 21, 2023

Halls or Malls?

What kind of exhibition spaces (and, by extension, museum experiences) do you want to create for your visitors -- Halls or Malls?


Many large museums (like the Louvre or the American Museum of Natural History) can feel like an endless procession of hallways. You sense that the gallery themes and spaces are changing around you as you walk along, but the experience feels a bit like one long, continuous march.  It can also be difficult for first-time visitors to gauge the length of their visit and how to break their time into manageable chunks. You will often pass weary-looking tourists who seem determined to walk through every square foot of gallery space because "who knows when they will come back to this museum again?"


Other museums, even though they might be quite large -- like the Indianapolis Children's Museum, for example -- break up their exhibition spaces into discrete areas akin to the way malls are divided into different shops. It becomes easier for visitors to orient themselves and "dip into" a gallery and decide how much time to spend there before moving to the next space. These differentiated spaces also build up a physical and conceptual rhythm as part of the museum experience.

So maybe instead of overwhelming our visitors with exhibition halls, we might be better served just trying to "whelm" them with exhibit malls.

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Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

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