First exhibition sketches
Despite my worries in an earlier post about adopting an all-inclusive approach, at this point in the process at least it seems to make sense. Because the aim of the concept development part of my thesis is not to end up with a final product, i.e. a ready-for-production web exhibition on a given topic, but rather to develop some more generally applicable guidelines or ideas, narrowing the field too much would seem like loosing out of an opportunity to explore the possibilities.
So, the plan now is to work with a modular structure, in which the various themes of the exhibition – both the content that mirrors the onsite exhibition, and some of the related topics that could add to the insight and experience – are explored and communicated through a variety of appropriate media formats. If the online exhibition was to be actually produced, this would allow for a pick’n’mix selection of modules, or perhaps an incremental process where modules were added gradually to the core exhibition. For a small institution like Diamanten, with only temporary exhibits on a wide variety of cultural topics, this continuous development may seem to be overdoing it slightly. On the other hand, since the online iteration of the exhibitions are permanent, it might be worth the effort (and money, I know) developing them as more than just a hyperlinked catalogue.
Although the themes and content of each exhibition will determine how it should be presented and what media formats would best suit the story you wish to tell, I hope to find a format for the core exhibition that would be transferable from one exhibition to the next. A template or CMS system would not only easy the workload when producing a new exhibition, but also provide some user-friendly consistency in the museum website. Also, if this core needed only tweaking, not reinventing every time, it would free up more energy for innovative and experimental approaches to future add-ons to the exhibition.
For the upcoming cartography exhibition (and perhaps as a rule of thumb?) I suggest this core be based on the content of the physical exhibition, i.e. Danmark Ekspeditionen, HJ Rink & Jakobshavn, Lauge Koch, Pearyland & the geological maps. The research done, the images selected and the text produced could be transfered into or altered to fit the online format, and extra layers of information could be added. The result would be something in between a digital catalogue and an online ressource. Seeing these maps on the screen would ofcourse not compare to seeing them in full size and splendour onsite, but putting the stories behind the maps online would allow for visitors a different opportunity to explore them in their own time.
Still, this would be not much different from the information one could find in a book, and what a waste of media potential it would be to stop there – not for media’s sake, but for the sake of allowing visitors alternative ways of engaging with the stories and problems posed by the exhibition theme.
First step could be to include multimedia from DR (Danish public service broadcasting). Already, both DR and KB are part of a trans-institutional network focused on sharing and distributing national cultural heritage, so it would seem obvious to make use of DRs archives and expertise in media production. For this exhibition, an online resource based on a TV series retracing the steps of Danmark Ekspeditionen already exists.
Another way of engaging the audience in the drama of the expeditions that produced the maps we now take for granted could be trough publishing the journals from the participants as part of the online exhibtion. I am currently looking into the potential for publishing the most famous of these diarys, that of Jørgen Brøndlund as a time&space distributed narrative, as I have an idea that the drama and cliffhanger qualities of this real life narrative would work well presented in this format across various media platforms.
Using gameplay quests and conventions to simulate the challenge of mapping a ‘terra incognita’ like North East Greenland could be interesting. However, I am not a digital gameplayer, so that whole field of design and discourse is terra incognita to me, and I fear that there be dragons.
The cartographic problem of map projections could perhaps be explained in text and images online (slong with other cartographic issues), but an interesting addition could be to let visitors get some ‘hands on’ experience with 3D/2D ‘elastic maps’ on an interactive platform, perhaps trying to manipulate a Mercator projection into a Peters projection to get a feel of the implications of the various projections. Some mashup with Google Earth might also be an option. Haven’t quite worked out exactly what or how yet, hence the wooliness of the description (still I managed to namedrop stuff I am trying to get my head around in a superficial way, thanks to great inspiration from Denis Wood’s excellent book The Power of Maps).
Finally, the question of what a map is and what it shows, and why, could be explored through a social media application online inviting visitors to participate in the making of a user generated map of Copenhagen. A handdrawn map made from the wikiprinciple could be good fun, but probably technically tricky to develop, and perhaps a bit daunting for the participants to get into. Instead, a neutral (let’s pretend such a thing exists) map, showing only the the city’s road grid, could be provided, and visitors would be encouraged to start filling in the blanks. Copenhagen already has a usergenerated cityguide, but what of all the other things one could wish to map? Users could start new categories like ‘recycling bins’, ‘beware of dog-poo’ or ‘great places for snogging’, and start tagging away.
Now, all of the above ideas are only at a first sketch stage, and will need screening and developing. I hope to be able to draw together a focusgroup/workshop team to help me with this when I’m ready.
Comments are welcome!
On second thought, the idea of letting visitors get a ‘hands on’ feel of the problematic issues of map projections might be a bit too science centre-y, and not appropriate for a museum like Den Sorte Diamant, which focuses on culture rather than natural science. That is not saying that interactive platforms and alternative ways of presenting a topic should not be considered, only that it is important to strike the right balance.