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Building a rapport with communities

Let's delve deeper into the behind-the-scenes of the "Eight Perspectives on Reading Objects" exhibition.

Let’s delve deeper into the behind-the-scenes of the “Eight Perspectives on Reading Objects” exhibition. The previous step demonstrated how various embedded interactive elements embodied the “sharing” concept in the exhibition, which led to several findings. Here we highlight three key points.

1. Creating a space to bring collections together

When planning the exhibition, the first step KeMCo took was to visit the communities involved in collections with a concept sheet in hand to build a rapport with them. KeMCo made it a point to carefully ask how each collection or individual object has historically functioned within those communities and what charms the objects possessed. If community members feel that their collections are not respected, individuals might be hesitant to temporarily move their valued collections elsewhere.

Because this was the first exhibition for KeMCo to collaborate with other communities, it took time to develop understanding and trust.

Installation of "Eight Perspectives on Reading Objects" Installation of “Eight Perspectives on Reading Objects”

On the other hand, when the objects were actually displayed, there was a sort of festive atmosphere. Each community displayed their own objects. Watching people curiously glance at others’ objects, ask questions, and express surprise felt like a cultural festival of grown-ups. This kind of “genuine fun” is rare in a university setting. Not only KeMCo, but participants also found it refreshing, leading to suggestions on holding such exhibitions in formats like Triennales or Biennales.

2. Highlighting the characteristics of the community

From the perspective of autonomy in akichi, it is crucial to visualize in the exhibition site, from which community each object originates and what characteristics that community possesses. Instead of explaining through interpretative texts, KeMCo decided to display object entry forms alongside the object.

Documentation displayed in the exhibition Documentation displayed in the exhibition

Documentation scheme is a format to describe an object when accepting it in a collection. Accepting an object for research and education is common in various specialized communities, but the way it’s described and the format used differ, reflecting the traits of each community. When displaying collections from different communities together, there’s a need for a common theme. However, the acts and actions used this time, such as “accepting” and “describing”, seemed to provide a framework that easily identifies common interests even among collections of different specializations.

3. Establishing interaction between audience and the collection

An exhibition welcoming a lot of visitors is a chance to get to know the collection and open it up to new interpretations. On the other hand, in a normal exhibition, the audience just looks at the collection and there is not much feedback about the collection.
If an exhibition can create a mutual relationship between the collection and the audience, the possibility for the collection to receive new interpretations is greatly increased and the collection can be shared further.

In “Eight Perspectives on Reading Objects”, KeMCo attempted to create a deeper relationship between the audience and the objects by offering a worksheet called “Eight-perspective Piece”, designed in collaboration with designer Shunsuke Onaka.

Eight-perspective Piece Eight-perspective Piece

Through this worksheet, to deepen the relationship between audience and object, the audience is presented with two activities: 1. Decipher the expertise of each community displaying an object through its object entry form, and 2. Provide your own description of the object, from your perspective, by asking a “question” about the object. However, these activities were too complicated through a worksheet alone. For a detailed discussion on evaluating and redesigning this worksheet, please refer to the research note by Yu Homma in “The KeMCo Review 01”.

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Akichi in Collections Management: Perspectives from a Japanese University Museum

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