Call for Abstracts: ESHS 2020 - Designing the Visitor Experience of Postwar Science Display
Designing the Visitor Experience of Postwar Science Display
The evolution of science display in museums, at (world’s) fairs, and accompanying new institutions for involving the society with science and technology – such as the science centres – has brought about a major transformation. There occurred a turn away from the artefact, or historical object, towards the edufact, or educational object, which was designed to convey a particular scientific insight or phenomenon, rather than documenting the scientific endeavour. At the same time, the well-lit glass case gave way to set-ups of sensory and immersive experience, while the reach of the scientists and curators shrank and the exhibit and exhibition designers gained in importance. This shift of actors and agency, however, has not yet found its adequate historiographical reflection.
Although the scholarship on World’s Fairs and science and technology museums has explored a good part of this history (cf. e.g. Canadelli et al. 2018 and Mollella/Knowles 2019) the role of design and designers has not yet been discussed more thoroughly for the postwar period, neither has museum history been connected to design history. Some work on select designers of the American pre-war World’s Fairs has been done (Marchand 1991, 1992) and exhibit design in science centres has been reflected upon by some of its protagonists (Oppenheimer 1986, Humphrey/Gutwill 2005). Museum and exhibition histories have occasionally touched upon some exhibit(ion) designers, ranging, e.g. for North America, from somewhat unbeknownst John Anglim (at the Smithsonian and its Exhibit Modernization Program) and Taizo Miake (for the Ontario Science Centre) to the luminaries of Charles and Ray Eames (of the Mathematica exhibit in Los Angeles and the Science Exhibit of the Seattle World’s Fair). In addition, media history has provided much insight in the use of media and immersion also for museums (Griffiths 2008) without, however, dealing more closely with the Postwar period. And also for the largely unexplored field that pertains to the historicity of exhibit design, which may ask, e.g., How can a successful design of a user experience become outdated?, discussion remains sparse (e.g. Constantine et al. 2004), in particular frameworks to capture this historically are still outstanding.
The proposed symposium attempts to explore the history of exhibit(ion) design and visitor experience and encourages particularly the contribution of papers about specific case studies from Europe and all over the world along the following questions:
- When did designers take over in science museums, and how was this related to new conceptional, medial, cinematographical, or architectural representations of science?
- How have new media and immersive exhibits changed science display in museums and at World’s Fairs?
- How were long-standing museum departments been transformed by a new brand of designers? (Including: How does the contemporary re-designing of museum units deal with its specific history of display?)
- How did the shift from the rational and sublime to the sensory and visceral affect the (national) Postwar pictures of science?
Please send your abstracts (300 words) with a short CV (150 words) to Arne Schirrmacher by December 10, 2019.
Canadelli, Elena et. al. (ed.) 2018: Behind the Exhibit. Displaying Science and Technology at World's Fairs and Museums in the Twentieth Century, Washington.
Constantine, Wendy et. al. 2004: Summative Evaluation of "Mathematica: A World of Numbers", Boston Museum of Science (https://issuu.com/daniel_
Griffiths, Alison 2008: Shivers Down Your Spine. Cinema, Museums, and the Immersive View, New York.
Humphrey, Thomas and Joshua Gutwill: Fostering Active Prolonged Engagement, San Francisco 2005.
Marchand, Roland 1991: The Designers Go to the Fair: Walter Dorwin Teague and the Professionalization of Corporate Industrial Exhibits, 1933-1940, Design Issues, 8:1, 4-17.
Marchand, Roland 1992: The Designers Go to the Fair II: Norman Bel Geddes, The General Motors "Futurama," and the Visit to the Factory Transformed, Design Issues, 8:2, 22-40.
Molella, Arthur P. and Scott Knowles 2019: World’s Fairs in the Cold War Science, Technology, and the Culture of Progress, Pittsburgh.
Oppenheimer, Frank 1986 : Working Prototypes. Exhibit Design at the Exploratorium, San Francisco.