Upon exiting the subway station and seeing the statue of Theodore Roosevelt, I immediately became flooded with memories of seeing the outside of the Natural History Museum as a child. I was always enamored by the size of the building and excited about revisiting the space center.
Right inside, not a lot had changed.
After buying a ticket I headed toward the first exhibit.
The hall of African Mammals.
I’ve seen these diorama’s many times.
And remember thinking, as a kid, how hyper realistic the scenes were.
After the elephants, I wandered through the Hall of African Peoples.
The colorful displays were very informative with easy to read descriptions.
The diorama’s in this hall reminded me of the ones in the hall with the elephants.
Although I still didn’t read through the entire paragraph, I found it easy to read with a nice font choice on a simple white background, lit up.
To the point.
Nice description, perhaps a little too much text though.
A beautiful blue diorama.
With a nicely lit description.
Once I got to the Hall of Asian Peoples, strangely titled “The Lure of Asia”, I started noticing that the diorama’s started getting busy and cluttered with hard to read text.
Above is a picture of “The Georgians” display.
In my opinion, there is way too much text here, and the descriptions of each artifact seen at the bottom is so small and illegible against the strange green color chosen as a background.
The description didn’t even include text about what is in these little slim pockets on this shirt, which I found to be a drag.
Down the hall, things got sketchier. This window display had only half of the show lights working.
And this display features the text on the side walls, making it really hard to read.
When looking closer, it seemed like part of the ceiling fell down!
Hard to read text on the side wall.
More examples of text heavy and cluttered window design.
Oddly placed text with strange color choices.
Dense and text heavy descriptions.
Can you find the text in the window above?
Way too much text and very hard to read.
This display looks more organized but the text is hard to find in this case and they used a very hard to read color and font size.
I snapped a photo of this because I loved the way they played with perspective within the space. It’s clear and to the point with no need for much explanation.
To the left of the window above the hall looked uninviting and I wasn’t sure if I should even go down there. Exhibits were on display but the lights were off.
I don’t even know what’s happening here.
I couldn’t take a good picture without including my legs in the shot, but as you can sort of see, the blue lit up text is not lit up consistently and the text everywhere is cluttered and hard to read.
Moving on to the Eastern Woodlands Indians, which I mistook for the Hall of Northwest Coast Indians which is being renovated (perhaps that why I couldn’t find it), I noticed a few changes to the exhibit design.
An intense smell of a 1970’s basement hit my nose, and everything looked vintage.
One of the worst thing I found were these paintings of Native American’s by colonialists that seemed inappropriate because there was nothing in the exhibit that talked about all the horrible things the colonialists to them.
I stared at this one for a while. It really took me into the space.
Right around the corner, the Hall of Pacific Peoples, had a very different feel. As I began thinking about the museum as a history of exhibit design I certainly felt like this was a newer and included more information about each object.
A glimpse down the hall where everything was well lit and inviting.
With all of this in mind, and with respect to the Hall of Asian Peoples, I would certainly make some changes. There were so many wonderful things on display but too many missed opportunities to explain their relevance and describe the history behind it in a clear way. A general renovation of the space surrounding the windows allowing visitors to walk through inviting, well lit spaces would be beneficial. Including some aspects of interactivity might make it more fun for kids. I would also change the font, colors, and font sizes on almost all of the windows making it easier to obtain information about what’s in front of you. To break it down:
- Renovate the halls to allow better light for the flow of movement for visitors and to highlight each window.
- Change the color of background walls and font style, color and size.
- Add an interactivity element to engage younger visitors
- Simplify the body of texts for each window and put windows into a series together that make sense in a narrative.
Before I left, I couldn’t skip a visit to the big bang theater. The feeling of this wing was drastically different than the other exhibits I had just walked through. Everything was very “high tech” although navigating up to the theater seemed confusing to some people. There was a “no exit” sign at the bottom of the ramp down from the theater that people just flat out ignored, walking up the ramp only to be turned away from a security guard at the top.