Van Andel Museum - Grand Rapids

How Museum Displays Communicate Visually

The hidden meaning behind kiosks

The Van Andel Museum in Grand Rapids, contains some really interesting exhibits. It would be hard for anyone not to find something interesting there. The variety really kept my interest level high, as I walked from exhibit to exhibit. Everything inside was well thought out. The exhibits are so different in content but somehow visually relate to each other. I really liked how they used scale and proportion throughout the museum. Large objects (whale, steam engine, mastodon skeleton, and the clock) are found along with small objects that require a closer look (coins, glass, hats and other small exhibits).

The Streets of Old Grand Rapids exhibit had doors that gave a viewer a small glimpse inside. The theme is carried throughout the. The general store used many materials to simulate its original natural environment. The use of sand as brown sugar, empty boxes, flour bags filled with paper, cheese wheel made of wax, and a pie made out of plastic. The exhibits look as though the habitants had just left and you’re peeking in.

I spent the most time in the Furniture City exhibit. It gave the history of furniture manufacturing from its early beginning. Little details like wood shavings really added to the exhibit. Lighting was very well done in this exhibit. The dark subdued lighting resembled the lighting you might encounter in a furniture workshop. Whether it was a motion censored manikin or an informational display; you received answers to your questions. It was kind of neat to see a display showcasing the posters for the Herman Miller picnic, that I remember you discussing in class.

On the third floor they had an exhibit on West Michigan Habitats. It was amazing to me how they could create such realistic environments. Leaves, trees, grass, corn stalks, and even water were created using un-natural materials. A small exhibit used scaled objects to get the viewer closer to the bottom of the forest floor. The exhibits also brought artifacts closer to the viewer by raising them off there background. For example, the butterflies had a small transparent rod that extended them outward. Fish were hung using strong fishing line that blended nicely into the background. Lighting, color, and subtle distractions help pull off the illusions in these exhibits.

After looking closer at the exhibits and how they were created, I learned how important illusions are. Also that the exhibits seemed to communicate about 90% of the material visually and the other 10% was presented in text form. This is going to be very helpful when creating the exhibit for the Eat More campaign. First, with the kiosk, my group and I need to communicate the general message visually. If our audience is interested they will read more. By presenting a visual hierarchy, we could communicate the main points of our campaign.