American Museum of Natural History

Posted: March 13, 2011 in Ramblings
Tags: ,

It’s Sunday, I’m bored and decide to go to the museum. I was super excited for a particular exhibit that I thought was free, but actually wasn’t. So I just went with general admission.

In the course of my bried (1-hour visit), I was quite disappointed. On the surface, it’s a sufficient museum that serves a quasi-educational purpose. But, as an adult, I found some deeper issues.

DESIGN
The museum was very poorly designed, and not well lit at all. The design was such that you would navigate within a floor or a section and constantly need to backtrack to see everything, as there were many dead ends in the exhibits.

I’ve been to the SF MoMa and the Chicago Art Museum, and they both lead you toward the exit/entrance. If you follow the path, you can see everything at your own pace and no doubling back.

Another issue was the layout and relation of exhibits. The Pacific peoples were tucked behind the Native Americans, but what if I don’t want to see both? There was such poor direction that people had to view maps on every single floor…whatever happened to the idea of the walking tour?

NARRATIVE
Where was it?

The museum was arranged by an artificial construct: race and continents. As a result, groups with only geography in common were grouped: Indians, Muslims and Balkans…despite the last group being isolated culturally by geography (mountains)!

It presented the major racial groups together without actually weaving the story of why they were grouped that way, what’s the message supposed to be? It would have been great if there was a chronological theme or some story that has a beginning and an end, something that unites diversity. Breaking up the museum into continents, and presenting African mammals and people together just doesn’t sit well with me.

CONTENT
The overall content was pretty interesting, but I did find the other issues to majorly detract from the content. Also, for some reason, the presentation of the animals in the cases really hit me; it feels so inauthentic and somewhat of a zoo-like display that doesn’t really contextualize so much as ‘display.’ And sadly, the displaying of the people and their culture felt the same way, which is just unfortunate.

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