Storytelling Through Museum Exhibit Design

Since the very beginnings of man, storytelling has been at the heart of human existence. From the very first pictures drawn on the walls of caves to our blogs and “tweets” of today – we are & always have been storytellers. It’s how we communicate, how we learn, and how we associate with one another.

Possibly, in no other place is storytelling more prevalent than in our museums. Since the earliest “public” museums, dating back to around 530 BC (Ennigaldi-Nanna’s museum) stories and accounts of history, invention, art, and our natural world have been told through artifact collections and exhibits.

But how are the stories of history, man, and nature best communicated through the design of museum exhibits?

Museum Stories Are Best Told in a Linear Fashion

Most likely it won’t come as much of a surprise to you, that stories (whether in a museum or on cave walls) are often best told in a linear way – many times incorporating actual timelines. This is especially the case when a museum exhibit is centered around history, invention, or evolutions in our world.

Not only can exhibits be arranged in a chronological manner, with visitors being led through history, but visual cues and exhibit graphics can be used to communicate the progression of an event from beginning to end. Labels, signage, display graphics, and newer technologies all come into play when communicating the idea of an exhibit which represents the transition of time, and the events that occurred during any given period.

Museum Story Telling – Mix Broad with Focused Information

A common theme in many museum exhibits is the sense of communicating a very broad story or history within each exhibit – say, the history of pirates or the evolution of the printing press…..

Many museum exhibits utilize signage or labels to communicate short pieces of history or an explanation with dates pertaining to an exhibit item or artifact. While this is effective in telling the overall, high-level story – often the many stories within the stories are left out.

Telling in-depth, detailed stories about specific exhibit pieces, maybe a single arrowhead,  while in the context of the greater history can be an interesting way to further immerse and educate visitors. This can be achieved through the exhibit design and execution and very well could incorporate technology such as interactive kiosks or mobile applications.

Immersive Technologies in Museum Exhibit Storytelling

While the artifacts and display objects found in museums should be the main focus of any exhibit, how their actual story is told can make or break the exhibit. If an exhibit doesn’t capture the attention of visitors and makes them feel a part of history something is lost.

Today though, we have a number of technologies that can be used to help make museum storytelling more immersive.

Interactive kiosks, which incorporate video, audio, and gaming technologies, are an innovative way to tell those stories, within the stories from the previous section.

Mobile applications, which virtually lead visitors through an exhibit, supplementing the physical exhibit with virtual content is another way to deliver story elements & rich content in creative ways.

Story Telling Through Museum Graphic Design

It should go without saying, that graphic design and signage elements, used in museum exhibits are invaluable to the storyline. Imagine walking through the Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian and seeing only artifacts in glass cases…

Not much for an entertaining nor educational experience right?

Without the use of traditional graphic design and signage elements, it would be nearly impossible for a museum exhibit to tell a story. Graphic elements not only create the flow within an exhibit but are also responsible for setting much of the tone and in most cases to the actual storytelling!

Like to work with the professionals at ColorCraft to help bring your exhibit’s story to life? We have the experience and the Team. Give us a shout, we’ll tell you our story and learn yours!

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