Mapping scenario (exhibition designer)


Danielle is a exhibition designer at the Detroit Institute of Art. For the past few years, she has been working with various staff from different departments to solidify the concepts for the Through African Eyes exhibition. Through African Eyes is a traveling exhibition that is opening at the DIA in 2010.

Pre/parallel conditions:

  • Education: Danielle has been interacting with Mary from the Education department about how this exhibition would support k-12 learners. Mary has been working on interpretive materials targeted at junior and senior level students.
  • Visitor Research: Carl from Visitor Research, who has been researching audience expectation and familiarity with African art. He has general understanding of visitor behaviour and expectations, how other exhibitions dealt with this theme, their interpretive structure, and intended audience.
  • Conservation: Danielle talks with Steve, the conservator, about the lifespan of the chosen objects. She has to plan for rotation of the objects, and other environmental considerations, including lighting and temperature.
  • Web team: Danielle has been liasing with the museum's Web contracters about how the Through African Eyes' Website can help visitors make a connection between the themes of the exhibit and the spatial organization.
  • Curator: Frank the curator has led the development of the oals and "big idea" of the exhibition. He has been doing a lot of research on the topic. He has also been developing a thematic interpretive framework, and developed sub-themes. Frank and Danielle have been having ongoing discussions about how the gallery space is planned and how the objects will be displayed in context.
  • Collections Management: Provides the list of objects and object labels (object title, artist, medium, time period, donor, etc.)


Using a photocopy of a CAD drawing from the recent renovation of the museum building, Danielle has been working with the curator discussing the display of the exhibition. In today's meeting, along with a technician, Danielle and the curator are working on the layout of a subzone of the "Settler" zone. (In previous meetings, they established how major themes such as as the "Outsider", "Trader", "Settler", "Mystic/Magician", "Teacher", "Colonizer" and "Westerner" would be mapped onto the exhibition space).

First they briefly review the curator's general goal for the overall look and feel of the exhibition, and the descriptions of themes and groupings of objects provided by the curator. Then, Danielle presents some basic layout information about the subzone, describing its dimensions and possible entry points and exit points. Frank the curator describes his goal that visitors be oriented to the "Settler" subzone when the enter the subzone, saying that visitors should be enticed to read the interpretive text and a notice an interactive kiosk. With this in mind, Danielle suggests some ways that extra walls and islands could be used to foreground the curator's goals. They also establish where entry and exit points will be. By the end of the meeting Danielle and Frank have sketched their ideas for wall, interpretive text, kiosk, and display placement on the CAD drawing.

Later that morning, Danielle scans the CAD drawing with annotations. Using illustrator, she adds a vector layer to the floorplan of the "Settler" subzone and digitalizes the annotations she and the curator added. Later that afternoon, she and Frank will be meeting with one of the artists whose work will be featured in the subzone. They'll be discussing appropriate ways to display his paintings.