Exhbiit Design OMA

In early summer 2016, David Davis and Kerry Magruder wrote three short, one-page reports about Galileo’s World as part of the successful application process for three awards from the Oklahoma Museum Association.  The separate reports, each reproduced here, focus on Exhibit design, technology, and educational outreach. These brief reports just scratch the surface, but maybe offer a starting point to explore more deeply in discussion during docent training events.


Exhibit design

The theme of Galileo’s World is “connections.” Open August 2015 through August 2016, Galileo’s World illustrates connections between science, art, literature, music, religion, philosophy, politics, and culture in celebration of OU’s 125th anniversary. Galileo’s World is an “exhibition without walls,” comprised of more than 20 galleries at 7 different locations, as a participatory exhibit designed to bring the diverse worlds of OU together.

The exhibition featured 350 original rare books representing Galileo and his world, all of which belong to OU (none are facsimiles). For example, all 12 first editions of Galileo’s printed books were displayed, including 4 copies containing his own handwriting. These and other valuable works were distributed to the various locations, selected in order to tell stories appropriate to the mission of each exhibition partner.

Many partner locations featured joint exhibitions juxtaposing, alongside the books, their own artifacts and holdings to reinforce the stories told by the books themselves. The sub themes and stories of the exhibit are suggested by the names of the various galleries by location:

  • Bizzell Memorial Library: Music of the Spheres; Galileo, Engineer; Galileo and China; Controversy over the Comets; The New Physics; The Galileo Affair. Galileo Today: The OU Leaning Tower of Pisa; The Quest for Other Worlds.
  • National Weather Center: Copernicus and Meteorology; Galileo and Kepler; Galileo and Experimentation; Space Science after Galileo; Oklahomans and Space; Science on a Sphere.
  • Sam Noble Museum of Natural History, “Through the Eyes of the Lynx”: Galileo, Natural History, and the Americas; Galileo and Microscopy.
  • Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art: Galileo and the Telescope; Galileo and Perspective Drawing; The Moon and the Telescope; The Sky at Night.
  • Headington Hall: Galileo and Sports.
  • Bird Library, Oklahoma City: Galileo and Anatomy; Galileo and Health Care.
  • Schusterman Library, Tulsa: The Scientific Revolution.

The Galileo’s World overview contains book lists for each gallery at each location.

Galileo’s World was designed for a wide range of visitors. The primary target audience consisted first of undergraduate students at OU, such as those who participated in the Fine Arts College production of an opera influenced by Galileo’s father (whose book is on display) or the 20-plus undergraduate students in the College of Engineering who examined the Tower of Pisa during a study abroad visit to Pisa, Italy, and then created a 1/10 scale replica of the tower for display in Bizzell Library. The opera and tower projects exemplify the success of the exhibition in facilitating conversation and participation. Inspired by Nina Simon, we defined participation as the “co-creation of meaning.” Secondary audiences are as disparate as all of those who visit OU, including parents, area middle and secondary school groups, distinguished visiting scholars and scientists, and university partners around the world. Educational activities for 3rd grade through adult are available in the main Exhibit Hall and online at the Library’s repository; some of these were taken to more than 600 students in 3rd, 4th and 5th grade public school classrooms in the Norman area during the spring 2016 semester. Faculty and distinguished visiting scholars and scientists drew students and a diverse public audience to Galileo’s World events.

Events included a monthly lecture series at the National Weather Center featuring NASA scientists from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and an all-day Galileo’s World Symposium at the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History featuring internationally recognized speakers (youTube).

Captions were written at different levels appropriate to each location. For example, in Bizzell Library, captions and signage were worded for a freshman target audience. For those who wish to dive a little deeper, additional content is available from the exhibit website and from an iPad Exhibit Guide, available for download or pre-installed on iPads available for checkout at the welcome desk. The Sam Noble and Fred Jones captions were written according to their usual style. At the OU Health Sciences campus, medical vocabulary was introduced appropriate to a target audience of first year medical students. At the National Weather Center, scientific vocabulary was greatly increased, appropriate for graduate students in the natural sciences.

For several locations, the Museo Galileo in Florence provided high quality instrument replicas (for example, of Galileo’s telescope) and high resolution videos featuring animated instrument tutorials.

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