The making of a cultural historical exhibition usually involves the collaboration of two categories of professionals: the curator, in charge of the exhibition content, and the designer. From these positions, representing content and form, the team is in charge of cooperating towards a shared goal – the exhibition – which is the spatial expression of ideas.
This MA thesis is based on my work experience as a designer of cultural historical exhibitions. By means of situations where my perspective collided with that of the museum curators’, I examine our different concepts on a number of issues: the meaning of an exhibition; the process; and the perception of what our respective roles are. Since the experiences that I am concerned with were acquired some time ago, the collisions are laid out in the thesis as a dialog between me and a partly fictional colleague. Apart from my experiences of exhibition production I also link the discussion to an analysis of two exhibitions that I visited while writing the thesis: Sápmi at Nordiska Museet in Stockholm and Everything You Can Think of is True – the dish ran away with the spoon shown at the Royal Library in Copenhagen (Det Kongelige Bibliotek).
The curator and the designer often represent diverging views of the exhibition medium. In my work experience, a central aspect of these different viewpoints has been represented by the role and use of authentic artifacts in the exhibition. In the thesis I examine the use of such artifacts from the point of view of their ability to communicate to viewers and the possibilities I have as a designer to mould them into expressions in the exhibition. From this practical phenomenological design horizon and I take the museological critique of Gundula Adolfsson, Eilean Hooper-Greenhill, Camilla Mordhorst and Kitte Wagner further, and argue that the conventional use of authentic artifacts can inhibit the development of the exhibition medium. With the theoretical support of relational aesthetics in contemporary art installations I continue to discuss the concept of an exhibition as a language and a construction, and how it relates to reality.
The thesis concludes with a normative section where I, with the aid of a cultural semiotic perspective, propose a process for the two perspectives of form and content to be intertwined. I further examine what the consequences of such a convergence of interests could imply for the perspectives of both curator and designer, and for the production of exhibitions.