In my last post, I explained that for the last several weeks we have been flying panel-less in the museum as we overhaul our permanent and special exhibition spaces. It’s been very interesting to have the art on display with little to no information around it. We asked our visitors for their reactions and to let us know what content they would like to see in our interpretive panels when they are reinstalled. We just tallied the results (thanks, Sofia!) and they were definitely enlightening. I want to take a few moments to talk about some of the most recurring themes and how we’re addressing them.
1. Questions about materials were the most prevalent (behind people very nicely expressing enjoying the museum). This ranged from general questions, like “What materials are used?” to the very popular “What type of stone is used?”. Each of our individual object labels include the medium of the work, but they’re fairly general (like “stone” or “ivory”). A number of our new changes will actually help to answer these questions more fully. For example, we just installed a narwhal tusk as an interactive, touchable element to the permanent exhibition so visitors can get a better sense of what the material is actually like. Additionally, we will be addressing this in the interpretive panels more clearly, especially in our regional diversity case. Working with the local land claim governments and co-operatives, we’re compiling quarry maps to show where major stone deposits are located – so look for that soon.
2. Emphasis on diversity. A number of visitors suggested changes that relate to diversity, such as wanting different kinds of artwork displayed (like more prints or beadwork) or wanting to see more about regional diversity. This is one of our top goals (which is really another post for another time): we are retooling all of our individual object labels to get to these questions more clearly. I am also the most excited to see us install a section in our regional diversity cases for art from Nunatsiavut (more on that later, too). There are some practical limits, though, that we have to contend with. Light sensitive materials, like prints and beads, can only be placed in certain parts of the museum so we’re working on more creative solutions to this as well.
3. Questions about subject matter and artistic intention. Another frequent request was for information directly related to Inuit culture and beliefs and how they relate to the artwork and/or artistic intention. We’re working on a longer-term solution to this, as well as some short-term ones. One thing we’re very aware of is that we’re not an anthropological museum, but an art museum and so a major focus of the renovation has been to try to create opportunities for the art to be considered as artwork. That said, cultural context is hugely important and so is integrating the artists’ voices into the displays. Look for many more direct quotes next to works, or even videos and audio recordings for select works.
4. Accessibility concerns. You’ve told us that our existing labels are too hard to read, and we agree. That’s why we’re gradually rolling out all new ones that will be larger and have higher contrast so no one needs to strain to read the information.
There’s still time to send us your input on what you’d like to see addressed in our exhibition spaces, so please let us know!
-Posted by: Alysa Procida, MIA’s Curator