«Policy and Practice Interpretation at The Minneapolis Institute of Arts Policy and Practice The Interdivisional Committee On Interpretation THE ...»
While any medium can be used in isolation, a combination of two or more may sometimes be appropriate. However, no particular combination should be considered obligatory. In fact, some media are distinctly incompatible. Those that encourage quiet contemplation should not be located in the same area as those that require sound or active use. For example, “A Closer Look” areas should not be linked to interactive multimedia stations. Two active formats, such as docent tours and interactive multimedia, should not be made to compete in the same space. Formats that emit sound, such as interactive media, loop video, and slide shows, might be sound-screened or have speaker-to-listener devices.
Gallery ID Function Serves as an advance organizer, establishing place, time, or subject.
Application An identification is mandatory for every gallery.
Visitor Profile Age 12 and up (all who understand historical periods) Social Unit All (solo, dyad, family, peer groups, school groups); easily read by large groups Gallery or Section Panel Function Articulates an organizing idea for a group of objects in a particular gallery and provides a context in which to consider the works of art. The text should invite critical thinking. For example, panels in chronology-based galleries could present one or two major issues of the period. In galleries organized by medium, the text might explain the mechanics and challenges of the technology. References to familiar historical events or personalities are helpful.
Application Panels are recommended whenever the majority of works in a gallery suggest common issues or topics. The text should not exceed 150 words, or 100 words if a gallery contains two panels. The panels may include relevant photos, diagrams, or maps.
Visitor Profile Age 12 and up (all who understand historical periods and can discuss social issues) Social Unit All (easily read by small groups) Object ID Label Function Identifies the object in a concise, standard form.
Maker and maker’s dates Country/culture Title or object type and date if known Purchase fund and accession number Application An object ID label is mandatory for every object on view. No object will be installed until a label has been produced for it.
Visitor Profile All visitors Social Unit One or two people; can be read at close range, silently or aloud to others Extended Object Label Function Discusses the most compelling features of a work of art or answers the visitor’s most pressing questions.
Application An extended object label consists of the five-line identifier plus two or three paragraphs. A ratio of one extended object label to every four or six objects in a gallery is recommended.
Each extended label should be about 100 to 150 words, broken into paragraphs of approximately 50 words.
Visitor Profile All visitors Social Unit One or two people; can be read at close range, silently or aloud to others Map, Timeline Function Helps visitors place the art in a temporal or geographic context. Visitors need maps and timelines for all cultures, inkling Euro-American.
Application Maps should include all sites referred to on labels and panels. For orientation, an inset map can relate a region to contemporary boundaries. Modern towns may be included for the same purpose.
Visitor Profile Age 12 and up Social Unit Individuals, small groups, and large tour groups Small Photo, Map, Diagram Function Provides context for one object or a small group of objects.
Application Photos, maps, and diagrams must be contiguous to the objects they interpret. Their captions should be limited to 30 words.
Visitor Profile Age 12 and up Social Unit Individuals and small groups Supplementary Readings I (SRIs) Function Complement other formats available in the galleries. Through brief discussions of selected works of art with a common theme (subject, purpose, type, class, significance), SRIs guide the visitor through many areas of the museum. SRIs provide a limited program achievable in a short visit. They can survey subjects (mythology, religion, medium) that embrace objects far removed from one another in time and culture, or they can focus on specific collections (Chinese jades, European porcelain, American silver). Readings may include questions that adults can ask children, provide answers to those questions, and promote critical thinking.
Application SRIs take the form of brochures, which are distributed from holders in galleries and at the Information Desk. Each section of text should be limited to about 150 words.
Visitor Profile All visitors Social Unit Individuals and small groups Supplementary Readings II (SRIIs) Function Provide in-depth information not otherwise available in the galleries.
Application SRIIs can take the form of brochures, laminated cards, portable paddles, and selected books available in reading areas. Because they contain illustrations or diagrams accompanying the text, they are an appropriate way to include related works of art or explain techniques or specialized materials.
Visitor Profile Adult visitors with some art knowledge Social Unit Individuals and small groups Audiovisual Media Interactive Multimedia Program (IMP) Function Presents information through sound and motion. IMP is an effective medium for placing works of art in historical and cultural context. Visitors are actively engaged in accessing the information, which might include footage of objects in use and techniques of manufacture, diagramed formal analysis, related documentary maps, discussions of symbolic meaning, and so on.
Application While presenting broad art historical issues, cultural contexts, or production techniques, IMPS must ultimately focus on objects in the collection. Their primary purpose is to motivate visitors to examine works of art more carefully. Each program should be structured to allow for expansion, but individual segments within a program should be kept short. Three minutes is an optimum length for an individual segment, given production constraints and visitors’ attention spans.
IMPs should be located near the works of art featured in the programs. They could also be incorporated into a separate learning center. Problems of residual noise and visual distraction must be addressed when these programs are integrated into the galleries.
Visitor Profile All ages Social Unit Individuals or groups of two or three Audio Systems Function Facilitate guided looking, allowing visitors to explore subtle visual aspects of original works of art while listening to relevant information. For the visually impaired and those who cannot read, audio systems are an important source of information. Programs in foreign languages can also be provided. Audio productions may incorporate dramatic readings of historical documents, contextual sounds, and period music. Some examples are the calls of vendors in a Moroccan marketplace, Gyuoto monks chanting, or a Dakota speaker demonstrating a storytelling tradition.
Application Access to audio programs should be through speaker-to-ear types of apparatus, which limit the sound to one person. Some devices are portable, and visitors can use them while moving throughout the museum. Others are anchored, for use with nearby artworks. The technology allows visitors to set their own pace, but individual segments within each program should be kept short.
Visitor Profile All ages Social Unit Individuals Slide Program Function Presents visual information in linear form, with or without narration. Slides provide superior optical resolution and can be projected to a large size. Slide programs are well suited to examining the details of artistic technique and conservation procedures.
Juxtaposed images can show comparisons, the relationship of parts to a whole, stages of production, and so on.
Application Timed, automatic slide programming is appropriate for accommodating large numbers of visitors.
Visitor Profile All ages Social Unit Depends on presentation format Continuous Loop Video Program Function Presents visual information in linear form, using motion, with or without narration.
Application A portable system can be temporarily installed near works of art or in a small viewing room. Continuous loop video programs are appropriate for accommodating large numbers of visitors.
Visitor Profile All ages Social Unit Depends on presentation format
Function Provide information, stressing cultural context, on selected works of art connected by a unifying topic or theme. On tours, visitors can engage in dialogue and ask questions.
Application Tours are designed to address the specific interests of the group. Regularly scheduled public tours are given daily; group tours can be arranged by appointment. Specialized tours for persons with disabilities are also available by appointment.
Visitor Profile All ages Social Unit Groups of 15 to 20; one-on-one (tours for visually impaired visitors); groups of five or six (tours for visitors with physical disabilities) Label-Writing Guidelines
Many art museum visitors do not know enough about art to have a plan for their visit.
About 80 percent report that they wander through a museum until something "catches their eye.”1 Their questions are likely to be limited to what things are, how they were used, what the artworks meant to their makers, and why such works are in a museum. Most visitors want their questions answered immediately and will not seek out information, because they consider museum-going a pleasurable leisure-time activity, not a goaloriented learning experience.2 Most have had little or no specialized training in looking at art objects or learning from them. They need help to understand what they see.
The object label is the most common informational format in art museums and is located closest to works of art. Thus it is the principal source of information for most visitors. Labels should therefore address the broadest possible audience.
If object labels are to serve their purpose, visitors must read, understand, and remember them. This section of the book summarizes current research about how people learn in museums and outlines how labels can be written to help them learn. Sample labels illustrate concepts and formats. Although presented as an aid to preparing labels for works of art in the permanent collection, these principles may also be applied to labels for temporary exhibitions.
Who Is The Audience This handbook addresses the needs of visitors with moderate to high interest in art but little or no formal background in art or art history. A profile of these "general visitors" is given in an NEA-funded study by the Denver Art Museum. 3 General visitors commonly expect Works of art they find pleasing • A social experience (most come in groups, often with one person as the • reader/interpreter for the others4 A personal association with the works of art • Help in understanding the art they are viewing • They are offended or intimidated by The implication that their feelings or opinions are wrong • Incomprehensible jargon and foreign languages • Inadequate or inappropriate information about artworks • Interpretation is most effective when it focuses on what visitors can see, understand, and respond to based on their own experiences. People learn by relating new ideas, information, or experiences to old ones. At each stage in the learning process they need to feel a sense of satisfaction, accomplishment, and control before they can proceed. 5 Questions Visitors Often Ask The following questions were compiled from evaluations conducted by The Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Denver Art Museum.6
Memory Three types of memory are important for learning and recall of written information.7 Visual Information Store (VIS) VIS refers to images stored on the retina of the eye. The amount of information that can enter VIS is large — whatever is in the visual field. Information can be quickly absorbed into and retrieved from VIS. However, it is retained in VIS only one or two seconds; then it is superseded by new information and is lost.
Short-Term Memory (STM)
Information in VIS can be processed into STM. Input and retrieval are fast, but the capacity of STM is small — on average, only seven chunks.
The term chunk is used by developmental psychologists who study the learning process. For good readers, the sentence "I went out and danced all night" is seven chunks, since they immediately recognize each word as an entity. But for poor readers, "danced" is six chunks in itself, because they need to recognize each letter in order to comprehend the word. So, although the number of chunks that STM can hold is small, the amount of information in each chunk increases as reading ability improves and knowledge of the subject expands.
Without rehearsal (such as rereading or recapitulation), a single chunk of information is retained in STM for no more than 20 seconds. When memory load is increased to three chunks, average survival time without rehearsal falls to 3 seconds. Thus a single chunk has between 3 and 20 seconds to reach Long-Term Memory (LTM). The ideal label facilitates the transfer of information from STM to LTM by limiting the amount of information and providing opportunities for rehearsal.
Long-Term Memory (LTM)
Entry of information into LTM is slow and requires considerable rehearsal. Once stored, however, the information is normally retained for life within the vast storage capacity of LTM.
Nothing enters LTM from STM unless it can be related, however tangentially, to something already in LTM. Label writers must remember this and try to connect objects and artistic concepts to visitors' experience and knowledge. Knowledgeable museum visitors can process larger new chunks than beginners: they have more chunks already stored in LTM to which the new information can be attached.
Attention is the mental effort —looking, reading, listening, thinking, understanding, learning, and recalling- — necessary for processing information. If the information is new (as label information is for many museum visitors), then focused attention is required, first to decode the information and then to comprehend it. Too much information diffuses attention and thereby inhibits learning.
Barriers to Learning and Memory