10 Commandments for Exhibition Design?

Five: Thou shall have no greater god than visitors. 
Thou shall treat visitors like royalty, but thou shall not overestimate their interest or attention span. Visitors are not as interested as we like to think they are. Like life, communications with visitors is short, but staff’s list of meaningful, critically important topics to share is long—too long. Edit them. 


Could it be possible? Ten simply put, well thought out guidelines that are the key to designing a good exhibition? Well, that’s what Don Hughes, outgoing Head of Exhibits at The Monterey Bay Aquarium, has left as his legacy for his colleagues. 

There’s some interesting thoughts in here, and while – of course – exhibitions are always going to be shaped by their physical and cultural spaces, his point about visitors in particular is worth highlighting. 

Eloquently, he sums up the ever-present tension between a visitor’s finite attention span, no matter how high their level of interest, and a curator’s desire to share everything they’re passionate about. Editing (as Don puts it) or storytelling (as I would) will forever be king in these situations.

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