Typical environments of the contemporary museum
Given that each museum reality is made up of specific characteristics linked to the place, culture and set objectives, it is possible to hypothesize a "typical structure" divided into the recurring functional areas. The first is the access area, used for welcoming the visitor and for this purpose equipped with an information counter and ticket office. In the immediate vicinity, but in an outermost area, there is the area with bookshop, cafeteria and toilet. This core is conceived as a stand-alone and can also be used in extended hours compared to the opening hours of the actual museum. Next to the entrance, there is the cloakroom and the rest area where visitors can find themselves in groups for guided tours. Sometimes this space is equipped with useful seats for waiting. Continuing, the exhibition halls take place which wind along ad hoc designed routes.
On the upper floors there are often some rooms used for different functions and necessary for the museum; these are the administrative offices, the studies for the restoration and enhancement of the works, the warehouses, while the deposits and archives are usually located in the underground floors. Sometimes there are also classrooms, libraries and conference rooms. These environments are connected to each other through paths that are divided into public and private: the former are necessary for visits and access to service points, the latter are used by museum staff and scholars. The two types must never meet but both must ensure accessibility, safety and the absence of architectural barriers.
The set-up project includes the choice of display types and explanatory panels, the lighting study and the calculation of the artificial light necessary for each environment, the colorimetry, the insertion of climatic devices, theft and fire prevention. These are complex but essential elements for the success of the entire museum and for the user's psycho-physical comfort. First of all, it is necessary to analyze the consistency of the building and the parts that compose it, that is, the floor, walls and ceilings. The floor must be resistant, ensure durability over time, easy cleaning and safety. In fact, it is necessary that the surfaces are not slippery and that there are no obstacles, in order to guarantee free use for everyone. As for the ceiling, it is good to estimate the insertion of false ceilings indispensable for the insertion of scenographic lighting. Sometimes, floors and ceilings are an integral part of the layout and help to create a specific atmosphere. In the same way, the walls and the relative openings must be considered: if on the one hand the natural light that enters the environment is of fundamental importance for achieving visual comfort, on the other it is essential to provide shielding to protect the exhibited works. The latter can find accommodation in different display types, the main ones are:
Chosen for works that do not need to be observed at 360 ° such as paintings, paintings and historical maps. The hanging therefore presupposes a front view and consists of a wall, panel and hanger (hooks, chains ...).
Unlike hanging, it allows an all-round view of the work thanks to the presence of an element that elevates it from the floor making it visible from the best point of view. The necessary equipment consists of the base, the pedestal and the platform.
Designed for all those objects that must be observed from below or from above, at 360 °. Here the space-work relationship is privileged (where the space is made up of the ceiling) and the set-up includes ropes, tie rods and hooks to hang the object.
It includes a plane on which to anchor the two or three-dimensional element; the panel can be mass-produced or handcrafted and consists of different materials such as wood, PVC and metals. There are various types of panels: simple, wall-mounted, hung from the ceiling or fixed to the floor by means of non-invasive elements. Depending on the type, the panel will consist of more or less heavy material. In addition, the set-up may include a single element, central to the environment or different pieces placed side by side and superimposed.
Necessary for works that must be preserved by external agents and possible theft. The most widespread typology is characterized by the showcase, capable of creating an environment separate from the museum and with an internal microclimate studied on the characteristics of the object contained. There are different showcase models: separate, placed side by side and built-in. This type of installation can have a horizontal or vertical distribution; in the first case there are flat or inclined (lectern) models, while in the second it consists of a base, a glass case and a hat containing the luminous devices.
Specifically designed on the work to be exhibited, it does not provide standardized equipment but tailor-made, each time different. It is frequently used in temporary exhibitions, when the artist wants to convey a unique message of its kind, combining special lighting, material and sensory effects. It is an unconventional typology.
Example of hanging and protected set-up
Example of special set-up, studied ad hoc for the specific exhibition
In addition to the distinction between the various types, it is important to specify how the set-up can be handcrafted or serial. For each of the two variants there are some pros and cons: if in fact the creation of an exhibition with handcrafted components presupposes uniqueness and total customization, it is important to be aware that these variants involve a higher cost. In fact, the serial number is cheaper and reusable, however at the expense of originality and specific business needs. The serial method is widely used in the exhibition area because it is considered optimal thanks to its lightness, simple assembly and disassembly, easy transportation, reusability and durability of its elements. What must always be kept in mind is the importance of the accessibility of the type of set-up which must provide for the possibility of observation for everyone, adults, children, the elderly and the disabled. The search for the optimal point of view is fundamental for educational and information planning aimed at everyone, without distinction.
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