Museum Design Gets Interactive - Design Bureau

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Inside Gallery One, Cleveland Museum of Art. “With a professional, creative staff of project managers, estimators, researchers, graphic technicians, builders, artisans, and installers, we are dedicated to producing state-of-the-art museum exhibit experiences,” says 1220 Exhibits senior vice president Craig Dunn. The Nashville-based fabricator has worked with Gallagher & Associates on numerous design-build projects. Images Courtesy of Local Projects (above and two below)

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National World War II Museum, the U.S. Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center. Photo by Carl Rhodes, Gallagher & Associates

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Vault of the Secret Formula, World of Coca-Cola. Photos by Second Story Interactive Studios (above and below)

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Museum Design Gets Interactive

Monday, August 12th, 2013

By Jordan Mainzer

Four-dimensional theater displays and interactive touch screens... these kinds of engaging elements are part of museum design and planning firm Gallagher & Associates’ efforts to usher museums into the digital age. Firm principal Patrick Gallagher shares how his team leverages technology to attract a new generation of museumgoers.

JM: How has museum design, and museums in general, evolved?
Patrick Gallagher: Modern museums are becoming a more intergenerational experience. This means museums are becoming a place for discussion, debate, and interaction. If children have questions or concepts they want to discuss with their parents or grandparents about something they experienced in an exhibition, there needs to be a way to interact and communicate. This is when a designer must consider the layering of content and experiences to keep the dynamic and always be a part of the conversation.

JM: What are today’s museumgoers looking for in an exhibit?
PG: What viewers are looking for in museums today is an authentic experience. Whether it’s the scholarship of the content or the entertainment value of an experience it must always support the authentic nature of the storyline. We can consider the addition of interactivity and media to enhance the authenticity and engagement. Visitors today have limited free time and if they are choosing to spend some of that time at a museum, as designers, we want to be sure it is a rich and fulfilling experience. 

JM: How do you strike a balance between entertainment and education?
PG: Of course the designer must be very careful in balancing scholarship with entertainment and interactivity. At the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, we created a 4-D theater experience of WWII. The techniques are big and sweeping, bringing the visitor into the emotion and drama of the storyline. At one moment it literally snows on the visitor. There is an entertainment factor to how we tell this story, but we also want to invite the viewer to take part in the story on an emotional level, to not just tell them what happened, but use it as a lens into their lives.

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