As some of you might know, we installed one of our newest exhibits, Body Beautiful, in April 2013. The exhibit explores how society’s changing views on beauty have influenced women from the mid-nineteenth century until today, examining topics such as fashion, fitness, hair care, and cosmetics all the way up to more recent beauty trends such as piercings, tattoos and plastic surgery. The exhibit came out great and has been a wonderful addition to the temporary rotating exhibits that we offer to our visitors.
Although the content of the exhibit is wonderful, the lighting in the space has always seemed too harsh. There are rows upon rows of fluorescent lights beating down on visitors and artifacts alike (with a layer of UV film to protect the artifacts as much as possible, of course). The space just has a different feel than when you walk into one of our other temporary exhibit spaces that has soft LED track lighting which seems to highlight the items on display rather than overpower them. As a regular museum-goer myself, I have always personally enjoyed the look and overall atmosphere that track lighting can lend to a space.
“When you realize that people only see what the lighting reveals, it turns exhibit design upside down. You can have the most beautiful objects in the world, but only light transmits beauty to a viewer. When you walk into a museum, you experience just the lighting. It is the only communication link between the objects and the people. If colors are not present in the illumination, or if they are too strong or out of balance, it distorts that communication link. Poor lighting always creates poor exhibits! Ignoring good lighting design, glare and reflection can make even wonderful artifacts difficult to see. Bad lighting will make artwork or exhibits dull, lifeless, or distorted. The bottom line is that any exhibit is only as good as what the visitor sees. And the visitor only sees the light you provide.”
– “Musem Lighting – Pure and Simple”
Jack V. Miller and Ruth Ellen Miller
With the duration of the exhibit coming to a close, planning began last year to replace this exhibit with a new one, Vice and Virtue: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. It was the dream of the Curator to be able to not only install a new exhibit but to also install new track lighting in order to really capture the feeling associated with the theme of the new exhibition. Initially, the cost of the track lighting was built into the overall budget for the exhibit but, as a museum and non-profit, we are nothing if not practical and budget conscious! We knew we already had countless tracks and fixtures in place in our Main Room which are hardly ever used so it was decided to reuse those tracks and fixtures (not to mention the incredibly expensive LED bulbs already in those fixtures) and install everything in the Body Beautiful exhibit space. Better late than never, right? And done for less than $100!
We still have some more work to do including taking out the remaining fluorescent lights in the center of the room and figuring out some electrical work but the majority is done and the results are incredibly satisfactory. There is one more exhibit space in the museum that needs this lighting update and now that we have one room under our belt, it will be that much easier to install the proper lighting in the other exhibit space. How does exhibit lighting affect your experience when you go to a museum? Is it something that you pay attention to?
Body Beautiful will be up until the beginning of February, at which time we will be closing off the exhibit space in preparation for the new exhibit to be installed there. Don’t miss your last chance to get out to BNHV to see it before it’s gone! The new exhibit, Vice and Virtue: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition will open April 24th and we hope you will join us at the museum from 6PM to 9PM to celebrate!