Designing Curatorial Ideas into Action

from Michelle Willard, Mighty Museum

You have a story to tell and now you seek to share it with others. The way in which you organize the story is crucial to the telling. In the museum world, this is where thoughtful design comes in.

Over the summer, Mighty Museum met with leaders of the Hornby Island Natural History Centre. We listened to the complex stories they wish to tell and summarized their needs and challenges as they move forward into a new space. In response, Mighty Museum designed a curatorial floor plan with exhibit zones reflecting discussed content and messaging. View the plan: 21 08 23 HNHC Proposed Layout v2

Here are five reasons why having a curatorial floor plan is useful:

1. Organizes your story

A floor plan lays out exhibit zones into areas, and identifies these zones as places where you will tell a certain part of the story. Breaking up an exhibit into zones ensures you have the space not only to tell the story through relevant interpretive text but also to place key artifacts within particular zones.

2. Improves visitor experience

A well thought-out experience lends itself to what many museum professionals refer to as visitor flow. The visitor enters the exhibit and is experiencing the story through the introduction zone, content zones and conclusion zone. If the zones are organized ahead of time, considering how a visitor will navigate through these zones and what messages should be featured, the visitor will have a much better experience.

3. Communicates workplan direction

Exhibit production requires a team of professionals with diverse skills. Curators, exhibit designers and fabricators, graphic designers, photographers, educators, academics, community partners and stakeholders are just some of the people involved. Having a floor plan communicates the workplan direction and zone content. This ensures that the many contributors understand and share the vision of what the exhibit aims to achieve, while also making clear what role they will play in accomplishing the end result.

4. Saves time and money

Forging ahead with no plan lends itself to more work later, which equals more time and more money. As a small museum, you don’t want to waste your limited resources backtracking to fix elements within the exhibit that seemed like a good idea at the time.

5. Tool for securing funding

An exhibit floor plan is your pathway to gold! Yes, you will receive more funding for exhibits with a floor plan in hand. Attaching your plan to grant proposals and providing it when you meet with prospective funders lends credibility to your request. A floor plan also helps to communicate abstract ideas to funders who want the big picture of what it is they are being asked to fund.

Like what you see? Let Mighty Museum design your curatorial ideas into action!