Better Art Galleries? You need a Neuroscientist...

For decades, museums have sought a minimalist approach when it comes to their galleries, hanging art on clean white walls so viewers can focus intently on the work before them. But what if they’ve been doing it all wrong?

To answer that question, the Peabody Essex Museum is taking what is being hailed as an unprecedented step in the museum world: hiring a neuroscientist to help apply the tenets of modern brain science to enhance the museum-going experience.

Here’s food for thought – what if it takes the highly scientific and analytical mind of a neuroscientist to fully unlock the secrets to a truly engaging museum or gallery space? 

The Peabody Essex museum, Salem, has hired Tedi Asher to test exactly that theory – she becomes the world’s first museum ‘staff neuroscientist’. The aim is to help people move about the space with a renewed sense of discovery and exploration. 

How successful this will be in creating new ways of interacting with cultural spaces remains to be seen – but I think the intentions here are sound. One of my start points in producing any interpretative guide is always how we can help visitors engage with art or artefacts in creative and captivating ways.

I’m particularly intrigued to hear how their work with wall labels plays out (I can fully believe we only spend 2.5 seconds reading them), as well as how the incorporation of ‘the element of surprise’ features in future exhibition spaces. 

Lots of promising ideas in here, then, and I’m excited to see the results as they start coming through.  

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