Making objects more accessible in this way has its own complications, of course — not least in that they become quite literally tangible! Not all objects can stand up to a curious visitor's stroking finger or spontaneous sneeze. Precisely this problem was debated between the curators (who wanted the case gone) and conservators (who were concerned about protecting the object) at The Metropolitan Museum, when Navina Haidar hoped to remove the vitrine from around a fabulous incense burner in the shape of a lion. In both that instance and the one pictured above, in the Neues Museum in Berlin, a large base below the object resolved some of the difficulty. The oversized base keeps people from approaching too closely while still allowing them to experience the object "up close and personal."
In addition to the caselessness, two more factors add enormously to the Neues Museum's display of two Bronze-Age trumpets. One is that the base serves doubly as an audio station: by pressing a button on the front, the visitor is treated to a haunting chorus of blaring trumpets. Hearing the tones they would have emitted feels like a substitute for holding them and playing them yourself; it is a wonderful sensory experience.
The second notable factor is that the trumpets are suspended rather than mounted to the base. Their twisting shapes lend themselves perfectly to such an ethereal effect, as if they were being propelled into the air by their bronze flagella. Many of the displays in the Neues Museum's newly-renovated galleries were conceived with a vertical rather than horizontal format in mind, which is not only space-saving but visually arresting. A future post will explore some of the other creative designs.