Walking with my wife Sadie and dog Tony into the subway station.
In 2014, I was in a hotel bathtub in Venice Italy conjuring up what I wanted to say and what song I wanted to play while proposing to my girlfriend. It was October 29 and NYC was in the midst of being hit by Hurricane Sandy which we were following closely. The smell of the fresh bath soap will always remind me of this particular memory but I’ll always remember the date because of it’s unfortunate connection to the storm. The day after Venice flooded badly and we had to cancel our plans to visit Croatia next but we happily stayed Venice for a few more days.
Having succumbed to the perils of destruction from global warming, planet earth in 2118 is completely inhabitable. Some of my family was lucky enough to have their consciousness uploaded to a major server thrust into earth’s orbit, and we now live subconsciously through networks maintained by the International Space Station, but others weren’t as lucky. The graduate school program I completed in 2019 called ITP formed an environmental guerilla group, set up by its residents and faculty to organize a way of managing the inevitable collapse of society under worldwide authoritarianism. Countries no longer exist because the land on Earth is now under water and there are no known species that have outlived the multiple natural disasters that began shortly after Trump became re-elected for his second term in 2020.
Museums in 2118 are visited through certain designated ports on the network controlled human consiousness servers and are experienced as though you are walking through the buildings in augmented reality. Since people are no longer able to reproduce because we are no longer connected to any temporary, flesh-bound bodies, we are left with the avatars we created of the 3D scanned imprints that keep us the age we were at the time of the collapse of human life on earth. Our families now consist of friends and neighbors too and we rely on localized networks within the international space station that allows us to live on but in a dysphoric repetitive way that only enables us to explore an open world that we have to struggle to maintain because it’s controlled in part by a secret company Elon Musk created shortly after the 2020 elections in the States. In our idle condition, we are simply roaming an endless lobby of ports waiting in line to plug into the next virtual experience.
As we slowly work together recreate human life in a post planet atmosphere, the need for museums become essential to learning about human life on Earth. There is a massive sense of longing for places on the network where people can revisit famous landmarks and great cities. One of the most popular exhibits PWP’s (post-world people) love revisiting is The Bodies exhibit that popularly traveled the word in the early 2000’s. The families who decided to upload their children wearily port their “selves” into these exhibits and use it to inform their loved ones of the bodies they once had and the world they once lived in. It is sad for these parents, however, because their children still hold on to life on Earth and are increasingly confused by their unaging virtual selves incapable of enjoying Earthly delicacies like eating and sleeping.
ITP’s guerilla group has been trying to instantiate museums of the senses that came out of a class called Cabinets of Wonder which I was lucky enough to be a part of in 2018. Creative coders discovered a way of allowing people to experience smell again through neural networking and are on their way to developing a version of ITP so other’s can learn new ways of experiencing what it was like to be human. I decided to take my uploaded blood-related and newly found family to ITP’s Museum of Smells in 2018 to revisit an exhibit we did in class. I told them about proposing to my wife Sadie while we were in Venice but and the smell of the bathtub soap I used in the hotel while deciding where to take her to propose. She was visibly sad and shaken up while I was telling this story and I couldn’t avoid mentioning that on that day, October 29, 2014, the first of many destructive hurricanes hit NYC — Hurricane Sandy. Despite the strange way we visit museums today, children are still unable to keep full attention in this virtual museum and they long for swing sets, candy, and grassy plains to run across. For now, it’s the adults that use museums to engage their unfulfilled nostalgia. In fact, most museums are now referred to as Places of Earth’s Nostalgia.
I will update this to make it viewable on my blog. But for now it can be downloaded to view!
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.