- an exhibit of the materials used by the first scientist to discover microbes
- a video that zooms in on visitors and seamlessly continues into animations of microbes that would be found on their bodies
- a row of microscopes (perhaps the most obvious solution to this display challenge!)
- a "heart-shaped red platform, the Kiss-o-Meter, which told [a kissing couple] how many bacteria they had just exchanged" (its clever tag line: "Kissing is never just between the two of you")
- and, perhaps my favorite of all, "a wall of backlit agar plates, some of them with mold or bacteria colonies that traced the contours of the places where they had first begun to grow: keys, phones, computer mice, remote controls, toothbrushes, doorknobs, a euro bill. There were orange dots of Klebsiella, blue mats of Enterococcus, and gray pencil shadings of Staphylococcus—contamination made beautiful."
A recent New Yorker article raises an interesting question of display: How can you fill a whole museum with exhibits exclusively about something microscopic? This is the task of Amsterdam's Micropia, a museum devoted to "invisible life"—that is, microbes. Among Micropia's solutions to this challenge are (as reported by the New Yorker, although the author does not focus on the display challenge in particular):
This post has been a long time in coming, insofar as this particular display idea was one of the motivations to create this blog in the first place: that's how beautiful, simple, and effective I think it is. With it, the wonderful Airborne Museum Hartenstein in Arnhem (the Netherlands) has tackled the difficult problem of making primary-source documents approachable — in this case, eye-witness accounts of life in Arnhem during World War 2. The Dokumentationszentrum Berliner Mauer addressed this problem in a different but also very effective way. Still, for simplicity, this arrangement takes the prize. Aesthetically it's quite nice too, as if presenting the visitor with a bouquet of flowers that happen to be written on; it does attract a person's attention, far more than texts set flat on a wall. Although the metal stems are permanently fixed to the metal "blossoms" of text, I can imagine a variation on this idea that would allow the texts to be switched out periodically — perhaps even replaced with the occasional object, a hands-on addition to the textual bouquet.
Ideas on Display
A humble space to reflect on concepts of museum display as enacted across a wide range of subjects, countries, and approaches.