Published on January 7, 2008
Break This GlassSome Suggested Changes to the African and Asian Mammal Halls atThe American Museum of Natural History in New York: Break This Glass Some Suggested Changes to the African and Asian Mammal Halls at The American Museum of Natural History in New York Cabinets of Wonder: Final Assignment Jack Chang and Christina Goodness Slide2: Is the AMNH a collection of things past? Is the AMNH a collection of things present? Which Museum Exactly are We Talking About? Slide3: Which Museum Exactly are We Talking About? Is education the primary mission of the AMNH? Who are the paying customers? Slide4: Which Museum Exactly are We Talking About? Are humans part of natural history? Slide5: Which Museum Exactly are We Talking About? When should a display be real? Is the artful display important? Is mention of time important? Which Museum Exactly are We Talking About?: If it’s a collection of things past, then no current information needs to be displayed If it’s a collection of things present, then there is an opportunity to introduce systems to the museum which could make data very immediate and current Which Museum Exactly are We Talking About? Design Assumptions: Design Assumptions A Side Note: A Side Note The interpretation of current human history is too big of a topic to discuss within the context of this project It remains to be decided whether and how current human history even belongs in a museum of natural history The Main Challenge Right Now: The Main Challenge Right Now Particular sections of the AMNH are under-appreciated, under-trafficked and are due for re-thinking The African and Asian Mammals Halls fall in this group There is great potential for positive change there The Mammals Halls: A Review: The Mammals Halls: A Review African Mammals Hall is beautiful, timeless, dead, mausoleum-like and totally integrated in the building structure, which is high value real estate Asian Mammals is similar but in disrepair Both Halls are classical glassed-in dioramas, populated by stuffed animals The art direction level is high There is a sense of idealism in the displayed environments African Mammals Hall : Current: African Mammals Hall : Current The Hall is old, cold, marble, quiet, the cabinets dedicated to single animals. Low traffic, very quiet inside, nothing moves. Animals are set up very artistically, with a small part of their natural environment enclosed in a glass box. Very small printed text appears on a card to the side and their names and likenesses are inscripted above and below the windows in beautiful bronze base-relief sculptures. The information seems not very current and the habitats displayed seem very idealized and from the past. Asian Mammals Hall: Current: Asian Mammals Hall: Current Current Situation: Very similar to African Mammal Hall, but physically worse – badly kept up, looks ignored and dingy. The tiles on the floor are coming up. Mammals Halls: The Solution: Mammals Halls: The Solution Renovation of both Mammals Halls Integration of current scientific information and/or sense of living process 3 levels of potential solutions: Low-cost solution: Breathe Life into the Artful Display Moderate solution: The Database-Driven Museum Expensive solution: The Museum of Cyclical Life The Low Cost Solution:Breathe Life into the Artful Display: The Low Cost Solution: Breathe Life into the Artful Display Add movement by using video projections on the back of each glass cabinet Add audio recordings of environmental sounds Add display at entrances for further research and places on website to visit to learn more Add table space for teachers or museum guides to conduct activities with children or for storytellers to sit with visitors. Video of environmental background elephants desktop more information more information entrance entrance Moderate Cost Solution: The Database-Driven Museum: Moderate Cost Solution: The Database-Driven Museum Modular panels in dead space and low-level tables in front of glass cabinets Panels have embedded computer displays connected to a database driven publishing system that allows curators to update information in easy to use templates on the fly Panels can display network-available information such as weather or metaphorical representations of data like warfare, disease. Panels incorporate human knowledge of animals: folklore and ways humans have understood the animals besides species and kill date Panels have other interactive elements such as sound recordings, bas-reliefs of paw prints, etc. Elements from Solution #1 would also be included. Structural integrity of room perfectly retained Break the Glass: Break the Glass To really get at a potential way forward to those larger questions, we need to break the glass. help me get out of here, there’s a poacher on my ass High Cost Solution: The Museum of Cyclical Life: High Cost Solution: The Museum of Cyclical Life Floor plan is redesigned: divided into continental ecosystem zones Each ecosystem zone shows animals that live in it and how they relate to other animals, humans, weather and geographical elements Each ecosystem shows freestanding animals, representative plants, and animals at different stages of life. The small rooms are dedicated to elements special to the animals within that ecosystem in their lifecycle (Cave where a lion gives birth, etc.) Visitors can walk into the rooms, breaking through the “glass” Database-driven applications embedded throughout room, along with other interactive elements. (Solutions #1 and #2) Integrity of floor plan redesigned and stair added, but with small rooms off main room retained. Total experience is designed to be immersive, with the visitor journeying through space as a walker might journey through the wilderness with different fellow humans as guides. The Solutions And What They Address: The Solutions And What They Address Isolated animal specimens reveal little about natural systems: We place the animals within representations of the natural systems that they survive in. Lack of current information presents false ideal of environment in which animals live: We aim to present at least some information about the current state of shrinking environments. Lack of human-related information decontextualizes animals, as if humans were not part of the natural cycle: Human act as narrators to the experience, explicitly describing their relationship to the animals and natural elements. Spooky haunted dead feeling: We aim to add moving elements, towards the aim of suggesting a depth of knowledge about the subject and an breadth of observable facts about the environments. Big Questions: Big Questions Thank you And now for discussion…..