Our students are working collaboratively to design an exhibition. The goal of the field trip was to provide opportunities to speak with and learn from a number of different people who are involved professionally in exhibition design, as well as see a broad range of exhibitions. The conversations and museum visits exponentially enlarged their understanding of what exhibition design means, how it happens and what is possible in the context of their own work in this course and beyond.
There were four main activities in the trip: 1) a conversation with Nigel Briggs, a senior designer at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History (NMAH), 2) a “behind-the-scenes” tour of NMAH with Pedro Colon, Director of building facilities, 3) a conversation with designers and tour of Gallagher and Associates, one of the country’s top exhibition design firms and 4) an assignment that required each student to visit, analyze and present findings to the class on an interesting exhibit in an assigned museum. The trip was immensely productive, inspiring and energizing for all of us! A few excerpts from student reflections will give you a sense :
“(The trip) immersed me in non-stop, creative and dynamic exhibits of everything from ancient human remains to cell phone bombs. By being in a place where you could walk into any building and see an amazing exhibit, I got to see more exhibit design in two days than I probably have in my entire life.”
“It is invaluable to hear firsthand the process and choices....Nigel gave us direct insight into the real-world role of an exhibit designer....it was great to see how passionate the directors of the museum were about their work.”
“We were able to see multiple layers of the museum from ideation, to fabrication, to the final exhibit. The hands-on, exploratory experience of learning in this way is priceless, we could not have gained nearly as much knowledge and understanding from this class without it.”
“It helped me realize that there are many creative careers out there that I didn’t know existed.”
“....spending so much time with each other significantly improved our cooperation as a group, brought us closer, and I found myself noticing various elements of what our (collaboration) readings considered to be positive team building.”
The DC trip was part of a research phase for a collaborative exhibition project. Our students work continues through this semester with design development, prototyping and early implementation. Full fabrication and installation of the exhibit will take place early next semester as well as other extensions of the work to promote and document the show.