Reading about the evolution of exhibition design it's interesting to note the evolution of the field from a natural need of the museum industry to a structured and teachable profession. The importance of thoughtful design wasn't always a top-of-mind concept, it was just a product of a good exhibition.
We've come a long way from the age of cabinets of curiosities, where items were selected and placed for maximum visual effect. However, the fascination with fully immersive and unusual environments remains, there just seems to be a better curation process.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="581"] Trader Sam's at the Disneyland Hotel[/caption]
Trader Sam's, a bar at the Disneyland hotel reminds me of the cabinets of curiosities of the past, although this example is clearly engineered to appear like a collection of interesting and random artifacts. The desire to cram as much as possible in a place has been supplanted by a careful curation in many cases. This process can provide a great experience but also can result in bare, unwelcoming and unimaginative spaces such as many areas of the Arizona Science Center. I found the experience shockingly devoid of character and immersion and not welcoming to adults, just a collection of off the shelf free standing 'science-esque' exhibitions placed in a cavernous warehouse.
Returning to the evolution of exhibition design, the influence of the Worlds Fair and the subsequent injection of design is especially interesting. The conjunction of themed storytelling and experience design is important to note. There is a significant difference between an experience designed for linear guest flow vs. non-linear storytelling (especially in the case where guests can enter from different points.) Experiences in the museum space have become more active and immersive. Likely the evolution of audience expectations influences this change. Creating something that is both educational and entertaining can be quite the challenge as the cost of fabrication for these experiences continues to grow.