Period Rooms: Qs for Jo, Gabriela and Raissa
Thanks very much for giving us a sneak peek into your fascinating research – I really enjoyed the relationship and interplay between your historical analysis and professional reflections on process of displaying these complex, intriguing spaces. I thought there were some nice overlaps between your paper and those of Gabriela and Raissa, and also Kate Hill (Panel 3). It seems that the inspirations for reconstructed rooms are plural and wide-ranging.
My question is about the changing fortunes of period rooms, and public and curatorial perspectives of inauthenticity. I wonder if you have identified a change in this critique about the inauthenticity of the period room in recent years – are they becoming less controversial do you think? And if so, why might this be?
Gabriela and Raissa, thanks too for your papers, which I enjoyed very much - I wondered also about the reconstructed rooms in your research. Do you know, Gabriela, where Hollein's inspiration came from for his period room, and Raissa, your photos of the visitors to Italy: The New Domestic Landscape were incredible: did you get a sense in your research of how visitors felt about and engaged with the 'environments' that were created?
Thanks again, Claire
Dear Dr Claire Wintle, the photos of the visitors are real emblem of a specific period of the story. In the 1972 the phenomen of of design was growing and spreading in society: also we can read the environments like a “period room” of the future, because at that time, the visitors walking around the exhibition Italy: The New Domestic Landscape at MoMa with a lively interest and surprised approach. We can see how people interact with the new and strange panorama of domestic scene, a very ambitious project for the time that have leave a strong sign in the our contemporary life. The sensation is that the visitors have absorbed a new approach to future, domestic world is full of the possibilities and the exhibition has crystallized in its potentiality of innovation.
in the exhibition Dream & Reality 1985 in Vienna were several reconstructions of interiors and architectural facades. In my presentation, I showed the most ambitious project: the detailed reconstruction of Josef Hoffmann's room design for the first presentation of Gustav Klimt's Beethoven-frieze at the XIV. Secessions-exhibition in Vienna 1902. It was Hollein's idea to restore the frieze and show it to the public again after many years in storage in his original presentation context. Hollein and his team did a lot of research on this, especially on the wall colour. The basis for the reconstruction were historical photographs. If you want to know more about this: Hollein wrote an article on the reconstruction for the exhibition catalogue p. 558-565.
Greetings from Germany Gabriela
Many thanks for your question. I think visitors are often less critical of period room displays than museum professionals are. Certainly prior to the redevelopment of our Europe 1600-1815 galleries, front-end visitor research highlighted the period rooms as some of visitors' favourite objects in those galleries. I think this is because of the contrast they offer with contemporary museum design: visitors often happen upon period rooms unexpectedly, and enjoy the very different sensory experience, and often greater intimacy of space, that they offer. I also think this is because of the opportunity to project onto them: they offer a seemingly less didactic presentation, in which curatorial, design or interpretative interventions are less in evidence, and therefore greater capacity for imagination.
In terms of academic and museological critique, I think this remains strong. Perhaps they have become less controversial as museums have continued to display them, and perhaps also as they have become spaces commonly used for contemporary installations. But critique continues among design and architectural historians - in relation to specific period rooms, perhaps, rather than in general. I also think that the more recent the room, the more controversial, as decisions whether to privilege designers' intent over lived experience of inhabitants are of course much more fraught and sensitive.