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Evoluon, Eindhoven, 1968

Evoluon, Eindhoven, 1968

Science and technology exhibition, Evoluon, Eindhoven, 1968
UoB Design Archives

Mural in the Furnished Room, Britain Can Make It, V&A, London, 1946
UoB Design Archives

Sketch of exhibition layout,
National Museum of Natural Science, Taiwan, 1986-88
UoB Design Archives

Tea Bar, Britain Can Make It, V&A, London, 1946
UoB Design Archives

Interior view,
National Museum of Natural Science, Taiwan, 1986-88
UoB Design Archives

Construction of exhibition space,
Britain Can Make It, V&A, London, 1946
UoB Design Archives

Interior view,
National Museum of Natural Science, Taiwan, 1986-88
UoB Design Archives

President Ford, Robert Staples, and Barbara Fahs Charles
with model of the "Levitating White House," for the Ford Museum, 1980
Staples & Charles

Sketch of Australia section,
Commonwealth Institute, London, c. 1961
UoB Design Archives

Fashions Hall, Britain Can Make It, V&A, London, 1946
UoB Design Archives

Gallery view of The Senster,
Evoluon, Eindhoven, 1968
UoB Design Archives

Installation view, Photography and the City,
Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, 1968
Staples & Charles

General view
Evoluon, Eindhoven, 1968
UoB Design Archives

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Publications

This is a live page that brings together key texts related to museum exhibition design history, some of which have been authored by contributors to this conference. If you have any additional recommendations, please let us know through the ‘Contact Us’ function.

Books and papers authored by contributors to
Museum Exhibitions Design: Histories and Futures:

Casson, Dinah. Closed on Mondays: Behind the Scenes at the Museum. Lund Humphries. November 2020.

Charles, Barbara Fahs, “Protest Ephemera: Real/Protesters: Real and Merely Realistic”, The Ephemera Journal, Vol 20, No 2, January 2018

Charles was a volunteer at the Washington DC 2017 Women’s March on Washington the day after Trump was sworn in as President of the US. Charles was on duty helping to direct people to the march from before sunrise until 2pm, then Charles went from her post near to the Capitol down into the throng of people who had come to make their feelings and voices heard. As Charles marched with them and later walked home alone after the sun had set, she found herself thinking back to her first major exhibition, “We the People,” which was designed as protests against the war in Viet Nam and against Richard Nixon were occurring every weekend.

Charles, Barbara Fahs, “Peaks of Perpetual Excitement: Exhibition-Making at the Eames Office,” Catherine Ince and Lotte Johnson, eds., The World of Charles and Ray Eames, Thames & Hudson and Barbican, London, 2015

Charles’ first experience creating exhibitions was at the Office of Charles and Ray Eames, where she worked for four years in the 1960s. At that time, exhibitions were the primary focus of the office—more than furniture or film. This essay looks at how the Eames Office approached three projects: the National Aquarium, Photography and the City and Nehru. Each was commissioned by a government agency and developed without the patronage of IBM. She worked on the first two. Her partner, Robert Staples, was a key player on all three.

Charles, Barbara Fahs, “Ephemera and Exhibition Design: Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World,” The Ephemera Journal, Vol 11, 2005

For this major traveling exhibition, Charles & Staples needed to think of engaging ways to express Franklin’s interests, creativity and wit. The media of his day was printed. Robert Staples and Barbara Fahs Charles have collected ephemera for years and have long been active in the Ephemera Society of America. A number of the exhibition concepts relied on ideas that drew from their own collections and from institutional holdings. In this article, Charles looks at some of these ideas and show how they were developed.

Charles, Barbara Fahs, “Exhibition as Dance: An Exercise in Creative Partnering,” American Studies International, Vol. XLII, June–October 2004

For most exhibitions, we, as designers, are working with a lead curator and other members of a team. These are intense relationships lasting months and sometimes years. It’s a dance and when we are really in tune with each other, the flow is terrific. What is rarely clear, when we start, is who will lead.

Charles, Barbara Fahs, “Typography as Transmitter” in Working with Type: Exhibitions, Rotovision SA, Switzerland, 2000

In this brief essay that became the forward to the book, Charles addresses the importance of texts and typography in exhibitions and her concern that the quality of texts—both their content and their form—aren’t taken as seriously as other exhibition elements. It was written at a time when the unlimited possibilities of computer graphics were being used all too often for effect more than understanding. Fortunately, that text-on-text style has mostly abated. Her message is still valid.

Charles, Barbara Fahs, “Exhibition: Theatre of the Inanimate,” Der Milde Knabe oder Die Natur eines Berufenen: Ein wissenschaftlicher Ausblick, Oskar Pausch zum Entritt in den Ruhestand gewidmet, Mimundus 9 Österreichisches Theater Museum, Wien, 1997

Charles has loved the theatre since she was a child, she saw Mary Martin play Peter Pan live on Broadway. Later, she made theatre costumes professionally. When asked to describe the process of making exhibitions, she often responded: think of creating a cross between a scholarly book and a Broadway play. This was her contribution to the Festschrift that was published when her friend Oskar Pausch retired as director of the Österreichisches Theater Museum.

Charles, Barbara Fahs, “Exhibition as (Art) Form” in Jo Blatti, ed., Past Meets Present, Smithsonian Institution Press, 1987

This was Charles’ first time she had tried to explain exhibitions as an art and the various forms they take from object focused to idea centred, and the realm in between where we are using objects to express ideas. Much of the essay addresses such interpretive exhibitions and the layers of elements that help the viewer understand the overall message and significance of individual pieces.

Debluë, Claire-Lise, Exposer pour exporter. Culture visuelle et expansion commerciale en Suisse (1908-1939), Neuchâtel: Alphil-Presses universitaires suisses Edition, 2015, 524 p.

In the early 20th Century, exhibitions and international fairs were a favoured field for Swiss businesses that wished to conquer new territories in foreign markets. The way in which Switzerland was represented abroad challenged traditional regional construction by substituting more geometrical lines, thereby replacing the ‘chalet style’. The ‘genesis’ of the Swiss style of exhibition, between commercial expansion and modern architecture, is depicted here beyond that of a purely institutional history, providing a new perspective into its economic and artistic aspects.

Debluë, Claire-Lise, Lugon, Olivier (dir.), « Photographie et exposition », Transbordeur. Photographie, histoire, société, Paris, Macula Edition, n°2, 2018.

In the early 20th Century, exhibitions and international fairs were a favoured field for Swiss businesses that wished to conquer new territories in foreign markets. The way in which Switzerland was represented abroad challenged traditional regional construction by substituting more geometrical lines, thereby replacing the ‘chalet style’. The ‘genesis’ of the Swiss style of exhibition, between commercial expansion and modern architecture, is depicted here beyond that of a purely institutional history, providing a new perspective into its economic and artistic aspects.

Fleming, Martha. “Embodied ephemeralities: Methodologies and historiographies for investigating the display and spatialization of science and technology in the twentieth century.” History of Science- The Spatial Inscription of Science in the 20th Century (2019): 1-23.

Isble, Matthew. ‘Building and Sustaining a Culture of Collaboration’. Exhibition- A Journal of History and Practice for Museum Professionals (Spring 2010)

Kriebel, Sandra, ‘Art exhibitions as diplomatic gestures. Conflict management via cultural exchange before World War I ‘, in Conflict Management in Modern Diplomacy (1500–1914), ed. by Dorothea Nolde and Julia Gebke (London: Palgrave Macmillan, to be published in 2021).

The article discusses the diplomatic function of two collaboratively organised loan exhibitions of British and French 18th-century works of art, held at the Berlin Royal Academy in 1908 and 1910, in a time when the relationship between the German Empire and its neighbours rested on unsteady foundations. Due to various diplomatic crises, the bilateral relations with the Entente states had shifted between rivalry and rapprochement for several years. Therefore, these art shows are examined within the context of the current peace movement and as characteristic examples of intercultural exchange to help further mutual understanding among the nations. They are regarded as important diplomatic gestures at the interface of private and public spheres to help to fix the complicated political relationship between the Empire and its neighbouring states via cultural diplomacy.

Kriebel, Sandra, ‘Eine „Entente des Geschmacks“. Die Berliner Ausstellung französischer Kunst des 18. Jahrhunderts’, in Spannungsfeld Museum. Akteure, Narrative und Politik in Deutschland und Frankreich um 1900, ed. by Stephanie Marchal, Alexander Linke, Valérie Kobi (Berlin: DeGruyter, 2019) pp. 131-146

The article examines the Exhibition of French 18th century works of art, one of the very first blockbuster art shows held by the Royal Academy of Arts in Berlin in 1910. As a means to strengthen the bilateral relations between the German Empire and the French Republic, the exhibition was organised by a collaboration of several internationally acting players such as Academy President Arthur Kampf and French Ambassador Jules Cambon. The article illustrates the exhibition design as well as the sociocultural events, which were initiated in the context of the art show as an effective diplomatic gesture.

Kriebel, Sandra ‘Renaissance-Ausstellungen aus Privatbesitz in Berlin und München um 1900’ in Exhibiting the Renaissance, ed. by Angela Dressen and Susanne Gramatzki (kunsttexte.de 3.2015)

The article focusses on the presentation of works of art from the Renaissance at German loan exhibitions around 1900. It examines two art shows held in the competing art cities Berlin and Munich. While the first one was organised by an expert committee of art historians and museum staff members under the supervision of Director Wilhelm Bode, the second one was held by the Munich Secession, an association of artists originally aiming to promote a modern approach to visual art. The exhibitions and their designs are described and illustrated with the aid of photographs and historical reports. Furthermore, their cultural-political functions are being discussed, as it seems that both art shows aimed to point out the desiderata within the museum culture of the two cities and to contribute to the current debate on the German museum crisis.

Le Pape, Yannick. Fortune et infortunes du patrimoine assyrien dans la seconde moitié du XIXe siècle : la turbulente naissance des principales collections en Europe et aux États-Unis, Romantisme, 2015/1 (n° 167), pp. 101-120.

The remains of the ancient Assyrian Empire were rediscovered in the early 1840s, and the event caused a sensation in Europe, particularly when the British Museum and the Louvre opened their Assyrian galleries, only a few years later. However, scientific prints, travel reports and museum guides suggest that the creation of the first Assyrian collections and their galleries had been quite hazardous. The excavations and the transfer of the major discoveries were definitely devastating, and museums themselves, even though they managed the excavations, had some suspicions about heritage from ancient Mesopotamia. As a result, it took a long time before the exhibition displays were completed. This paper tries to connect evidence of such ambiguous attitudes, where we certainly have to identify the main features of the hidden 19th century imperialist mind.

Le Pape, Yannick “La querelle du décor : aspects et évolutions de l’architecture intérieure des musées”, Livraisons de l’histoire de l’architecture, 30 | 2015, pp. 105-115.

For the most part, items on view in museums have been removed far from their original environments. This article aims to survey the ways in which museums and critics consider the new architectural setting offered to the collections. If museum interior design has often been used as a main display principle, “antiseptic” exhibition rooms (Paul Cret) have frequently been claimed to face muggy decoration and to save collections from tasteless combinations. Mimic decoration has been popular as well, especially for archaeological collections, and museum staging was sometimes matched with collections, even if the final arrangement could then become quite confused as exhibition display tries to erase the gap with works of art. Not to mention that collections themselves, at the very end, could be exploited in a decorative purpose, as at the Kunsthistorisches Museum by the early 18th century or in the Assyrian museum (Paris) from 1847.

MacLeod, Suzanne. Reshaping Museum Space: Architecture, Design, Exhibitions. London: Routledge, 2005.

MacLeod, Suzanne. Museum Architecture: A new biography. Oxon: Routledge, 2013.

Macleod, Suzanne; Austin Tricia; Hale, Jonathan Hale; Hing-Kay, Oscar Ho, eds. The Future of Museum and Gallery Design; Purpose, Process, Perception. London: Routledge, 2018.

Wintle, Claire. “Decolonizing the Smithsonian: Museums as Microcosms of Political Encounter.” American Historical Review 121.5 (2016): 1492-520.

Wintle, Claire. “India on Display: Nationalism, Transnationalism and Collaboration, 1964-86.” Third Text 31.2-3 (2017): 301-20.

Exhibitions are often equated with the nation, and used to design and promote national identity. After Indian independence, during the Cold War, exhibitions co-designed by US and Indian practitioners were used to bring together two different countries for mutual (but discrete) national benefit. This article interrogates these ‘national’ exhibitions, attending to their transnational nature and positioning their creators as ‘cosmopolitan patriots’ whose plural identities were forged in the making of exhibitions and the material world. Focusing on the complex professional and personal relationships between Indian and US curators and designers, this article examines three major exhibitions of India held in the US: ‘Jawaharlal Nehru: His Life and His India’ (1965, Eames Office/National Institute of Design); ‘Unknown India’ (1968, Stella Kramrisch/Haku Shah), and ‘The Costumes of Royal India’ (1986, Diana Vreeland/Martand Singh). Together they highlight both the transnational nature of Indian nationalism and the limits of exhibitions as tools of the nation.

Witcomb, Andrea. Re-imagining the Museum: Beyond the Mausoleum. London: Routledge, 2003.

Witcomb, Andrea. ‘Toward a Pedagogy of Feeling Understanding How Museums Create a Space for Cross-Cultural Encounters’ in The International Handbooks of Museum Studies: Museum Theory, ed. by Andrea Witcomb and Kylie Message (John Wiley & Sons, 2015) pp. 321-344

Witcomb, Andrea.‘Beyond sentimentality and glorification: Using a history of emotions to deal with the horror of war’ in Memory, Place and Identity: Commemoration and Remembrance of War and Conflict, ed. by Danielle Drozdzewski, Sarah De Nardi, and Emma Waterton (Oxon: Routledge, 2016) pp. 205-220

Witcomb, Andrea, and Alistair Paterson, ‘Collections without End The ghostly presences of Captain Matthew McVicker Smyth’ Museum Worlds, Vol. 6, issue 1, 2018, pp. 94-111.

Witcomb, Andrea,Xenophobia Museums, refugees and fear of the other’ The Contemporary Museum: Shaping Museums for the Global Now ed by Simon Knell,  (London: Routledge, 2018) pp. 74-87.

Contributor’s further reading recommendations:

Alberti, S. J. M. M. Nature and Culture: Objects, Disciplines and the Manchester Museum. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009.

Drozdzewski, D., De Nardi, S., & Waterton, E., Memory, Place and Identity : Commemoration and Remembrance of War and Conflict. Routledge, 2016.

Kassim, S. (2017, 15 November). “The museum will not be decolonised.” Media Diversified, from https://mediadiversified.org/2017/11/15/the-museum-will-not-be-decolonised/.

Henning, Michelle. Museums, Media and Cultural Theory. Maidenhead: Open University Press, 2006.

Klonk, Charlotte. Spaces of Experience: Art Gallery Interiors from 1800 to 2000. Newhaven: Yale University Press, 2009.

Kossmann, Herman; Mulder, Suzanne; den Oudsten, Frank; de Jonge, Pieter Kiewiet. Narrative spaces: on the art of exhibiting. Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2012.

MacDonald, Sharon; Basu, Paul, eds. Exhibition Experiments. Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2007.

National Association for Museum Exhibition, American Alliance of Museums. Exhibition Frictions, Exhibition- A Journal of History and Practice for Museum Professionals (Spring 2010) https://www.name-aam.org/exhibition_spring2010

Staniszewski, Mary Anne, The Power of Display: A History of Exhibition Installations at the Museum of Modern Art. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1998.

Tapsell, Paul. ““Aroha Mai: Whose Museum?”: The Rise of Indigenous Ethics within Museum Contexts: A Maori-Tribal Perspective.” The Routledge Companion to Museum Ethics: Redefining Ethics for the Twenty-First Century Museum. Ed. Marstine, Janet. London: Routledge, 2011.