Museums and Silent Objects: Designing Effective Exhibitions

Francesca Monti and Suzanne Keene. Ashgate, 2013. 354 pp.; 89 illustrations. ISBN: 978-1-4094-0703-4

Would you like your next exhibition to be the one where visitors stay longest, acclaimed as 'atmospheric', 'breathtaking', 'engaging' and 'informative'?1

Silent objects in the Science Museum


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Ancient Egypt was our starting point: accounts, invitations to parties, spells, invocations to the dead and more, from thousands of years ago, are often displayed. Yet visitors are largely unaware of these intriguing glimpses into past life, drawn instead to the more dramatic and iconic objects that are usually the centrepieces for exhibitions.

Our research project questioned the basics of museum display. We looked outside familiar ground in museum studies, drawing on the disciplines of architecture, design and cognitive science. We assessed and tested key concepts in famous galleries in national museums.

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1 Words volunteered by visitors to the Nebamun Tomb Chapel gallery in the British Museum.

2 Image of sculpture in the James Watt display, Science Museum: photo, S.Keene, courtesy of the Trustees of the Science Museum. [back to top]

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