What makes a great museum exhibit?
Answered by David Harvey
  • David Harvey

    David Harvey

  1. David Harvey Senior Vice President for Exhibition at American Museum of Natural History


    I don't think I've really been asked the question of what defines a great exhibit. I think it has a lot to do with how your view of the world is changed, temporarily, or maybe forever, how the exhibition experience enters your memory, and how it creates a new consciousness for you about a topic or about yourself and your relationship to the world. If you go to an exhibition on Cézanne, and you look at all these amazing landscapes and you walk out into Central Park, and you get it, you see it that way, you feel like you're wearing Cézanne glasses, you've really gotten into his head and you understand how he was looking at the world -- this can happen as well in our exhibitions.

    You suddenly can walk outside and understand deep time, you can understand geological time, you have a sense of biological time, who we are and where we've come from, and you may look at the world in a completely different way. You could look at a rock and understand that there are wavy lines in it and realize that that whole geological sphere has always been in motion and still is. Evolution, which may not be obvious to you on a day-to-day basis, suddenly becomes something you think about, and you start to look at the behavior of animals and their adaptations and see the world in a way that you never did before. I think that's the mark of an effective exhibition.

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