Museum Tea Party: Content, Design and Museums

Exhibitions are not dead, they just smell funny …
Karl Stocker

On Wednesday, November 4th 2015, we connected the two main museum projects in Slovenia: EMEE – EuroVision: Museums Exhibiting Europe and Accessibility of cultural heritage to vulnerable groups; and organized the first museum tea party, hosted at the National Museum of Contemporary History of Slovenia. In a pleasant Eurovision Lab. exhibition space – The Time Capsule – we hosted four most interesting guests: a historian, who is also a museum professional and a designer, as well as a lecturer at the FH Joanneum – Dr Karl Stocker; Erika Thümmel, also coming from Austria, a restoration specialist, a designer and a lecturer at the FH Joanneum; and the two guests from Slovenia: dean of the Academy of Fine Arts, Boštjan Botas Kenda; and director of the National Museum of Contemporary History of Slovenia, Dr Kaja Širok.

The purpose of the first museum tea party was to share the experiences, ideas and suggestions about the role of design in museums. With our guests we’ve talked about effective, thus interesting museum content presentation. Karl Stocker, who due to the demands of his work frequently visits museums, commented that museums are mostly boring. With a provocative statement that the “exhibitions are not dead, they just smell funny”, he wanted to point out that many of them still are extremely traditional. Since the museum exhibitions have primarily a schooling effect, rather than comfortable and fun environment for gaining of new knowledge, they are often perceived as tedious and without the connection to a wider social context. Museums should be more geared towards the environment in which they operate, their work should constantly be evaluated and upgraded, as well as in Stocker’s opinion the curators should take more risks and also experiment sometimes. The most impressive exhibitions for him are those, who manage to offer him an experience he did not expect.

We also touched the relationship between the curator and designer, which often seems to represent a problem in the Slovenian environment. Both designers have claimed that the most essential thing in the museums represents the content, and not the design. The content is a bridge that connects the museums and visitors, whereas design is its subordinate. They also identified the information design, which involves in transformation of the desired messages into clear information to effectively reach the target group. Karl Stocker substantiated his thinking with visual examples of good practice and innovative approaches.

All of you, who crave for more of the happening at the tea party, are invited to listen and watch  an event video in two parts.

Part one

Part two

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