DailyAfirmation (dailyafirmation) wrote,

ENG 519 Gallery Observation

Our class met at 3:00 on 02/27/05 just inside the entrance to the NC Museum of Art. While waiting for Dr. Swarts to arrive, I stood near the Information Desk, and tried to listen to the kinds of questions people asked. Unfortunately, it was difficult to hear, and I only heard one. However, this question surprised me: "Can you tell me about any trails that might be out here around the museum? My daughter and I were just in the area, and wanted to walk."

The helper talked about the grounds, and before they left asked, "Are you familiar with the cloud chamber?" I think that's what she said.

Lessons to apply to web design: People may be at your site for something tangential to your portfolio. Perhaps provide a teaser to try and draw someone into your site even if that's not where they originally intended to go.

I observed what kind of information they had on the desk. It had various peices of literature, the main one of interest being the one titled, "North Carolina Museum of Art Floor Plans." In addition to the floor plans it contains information about: the museum hours, museum store, the box office, the museum restaurant, membership and information desk, public tours, services for visitors with disabilities, art reference library, collection connection (a family-friendly activity room),and information about the grounds around the museum.

Lesson to apply to web design: This is probably good fodder for the "site map."

As soon as Dr. Swarts arrived, we dispersed into the museum.

Before heading into the museum, I asked at the information desk, "Can you tell me what gallery has the chance of having the biggest traffic going through it right now?"

"I would say, probably, the 'Objects of Desire' exhibit, because today's its last day. Other than that, maybe the European Wing." I went to the gallery that housed the "Objects of Desire" exhibit.

Here is the layout of the gallery in which I conducted my research:

I broke my observation activity into two elements as Dr. Swarts suggested in class last week.

1. How the museum's space enunciated itself:
  • The lobby contained an Infromation Desk, which contained a floor plan of the museum.
  • The entrance to the galleries announced the exhibit names.
  • There were signs at top of stairs noting what was on the lower levels.
  • There were two entrances to the gallery in which I made my observations.

    • One was clearly the "main" entrance, as its "first wall" was brightly painted orange, and announced the exhibit.

    • The other entrance seemed like a "side entrance" to me, and it appeared that most of the people who came in this way were just "circling the museum," and not specifically looking for this exhibit.

    • It seemed to me that the people who came in the side entrance would not know what this exhibit was about unless they had asked someone about it, or had been to it at another time.

  • "Title Wall" at exhibit entrance: "Objects of Desire" on the first line, "The Museum Collects: 1994 - 2004" on the second line. These were large, black, 3-D (i.e., raised) letters in the middle of an entire wall.

  • Director's Message -- a text message, poster size, on the next prominent wall, and the most likely "next see" wall in the path. The message content was, "We are exceptionally fortunate in North Carolina..." and ended with, "Objects of Desire has been made possible by a generous gift from Pauline Hayworth."

  • Placards close (beside, adjacent to, or across from) each of the art objects on display.

  • In the gallery I observed, at least, there really weren't any other signs that "guided" people one way or another.

  • In front of only one painting in the gallery, there was a makeshift railing. It was low to the ground, maybe a foot and a half off the ground, and consisted of two steel cylinders connected by a black, not very thick rope or strap. Basically it communicated: "Don't go past this line."

    • I wondered why only one in the whole gallery, and why only in front of that painting.
    • I asked a docent (not the one who reprimanded me for leaning on the wall (see below), but another docent), "Why is this rope here, in front of this painting?" He thought about it a minute, and then said, "It's to keep people back from it. So they won't go up and touch it. "But why only this painting," I asked, "you don't really want people touching any of the paintings do you? So why only put one here?" "It's just to keep people from getting to close to it, even breathe on it." (Yes, he said that.)
    • I wasn't buying this answer, and looked more at the painting. It was huge, and it had a very, very heavy looking frame on it. I thought it might have to do with safety issues.
    • Michelle walked by later and I asked her why she thought it was there. She surmised as did I, without any prompting from me, that it was about the weight and safety/insurance issues.

  • I tried to detect some "arrangement" (or sort, if you will) of the paintings:

    • I checked to see if they were hung "in order" (though it's not totally clear that an order could even be determined) by date of the paintings. No
    • Next I checked by artist. No
    • Then I checked by country. (This is why I've noted on the drawing the countries of origin.) No
    • I then thought, "Maybe they are in some "artistic" (in an interior-decorator sense) arrangement, that I'll have no hope of recognizing. I looked to see if "bright ones" were clumped or distributed in some way. I couldn't discern anything like that.
    • I finally decided that they are either up there randomly or the arrangement is not so important as to make its schema obvious.

2. How the people interacted with the museum's artifacts:
  • Toward the beginning of my people-watching and note-taking, I leaned against the wall and watched people. I was asked by a docent to not lean against the walls.

  • I would say about 50% of the people came in using the main entrance to the gallery and 50% came in the side entrance.

  • Most people read at the beginning of the placards, which started off with the name of the piece, the artist, and the date. Very few people read all of it, and the more they moved around the gallery, the less of the placards they seem to read.

  • People would stand at various distances from the art. People started close, moved back, turned their heads partly sideways sometimes, and tilted their heads back (presumably those with bifocals).

  • Entering through the main entrance, my inclination was to cross through the intersection with the side entrance to the right, and walk straight back to where the video art piece was. I observed Dr. Swarts do the same thing, and stopped him to ask him if it was a deliberate move, or if not, if he any feel for what made him go straight instead of turning any other way. He responded, that he felt like he was just getting an "overview" of the area, moving along the "outside," but after a few more seconds of thinking said, "It might also be that the video art caught my attention, and that made me move in that direction."

  • I observed several people at this intersection:

    • The first couple went straight across as did Dr. Swarts and I. The next couple stopped there and looked in each direction, presumably for some indicator to go one way versus another. They ended up turning left, and walked up to the first glass case in the middle of the room.

    • The next person, a single man, went striaght across, back to the video art.

  • Some people at this intersection turned left, and moved around the gallery in a clockwise manner. Others went straight as I did, and Dr. Swarts did, and traveled counter-clockwise. This was interesting to me, as making a left just after coming in the main entrance, and traveling clockwise felt so foreign to me.

  • I stopped several patrons, "Excuse me, please, I'm observing how people move through the museum; would you mind if I ask you a real quick question?" The first man I asked could not speak English very well. He put his hands up like a "halt" motion, and walked away. (I'm kind of surprised another docent didn't come after me at this point. But I digress.)

  • I asked this question to two people who made that left turn and traveled around clockwise, "Can you tell me why you decided to turn left here, and move around the gallery in this direction? Here are the answers I received:

    • "Oh, I just always go to the left. It's a habit, I guess."

    • "Well, I'm most interested in that large painting over there (she motioned toward the huge one with that rope in front of it), and I wanted to see it from a distance first."

  • I also asked a few patrons who came in the side entrance why they did that instead of coming in the main entrance. Their responses:

    • "I travel around the museum like I drive a car, always staying to the right. Following the hall from the lobby lead me right here."

    • "I was just following a group of people who were having an interesting conversation."

  • Time observations

    • Most people spent 20 minutes or less going through the entire gallery.

    • People stayed the longest in front of the video art piece.

    • Generally, people spent longer time looking at abstract art.

    • Generally, the larger a painting was on the wall, the quiker people seemed to move past it. It was almost like there wasn't enough room to take it in, so people just passed by it.
    • One couple spent an inordinate amount of time in front of one piece. I asked them why:
      • We were just studying it. We're not art aficionado or anything; there's just a lot in it, and certain paintings, like this one, just strike me.

  • Bench usage
    • The bench was beside the video art piece.

    • I saw it used my adults exclusively for the purpose of watching the slow moving video, usually after a period of standing in front of it.

    • I saw one child sit down there, just to sit down; he wasn't looking at the video.

  • Other observations

    • Two different families came through with a child in a stroller. Both kids were noisy, one actually screaming the entire time through.

I'm thinking about the "lessons learned" from these observations and how that can be applied to the design of my ME Gallery.

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