As I'm in Chicago for the annual MCN conference, Yesterday I took the opportunity in the afternoon to visit the Field Museum so that I could check out the National September 11 Memorial Museum's esteemed exhibition designers' project, "Ancient Americas." The Field Museum is a lot like the American Museum of Natural History, rich with collections of natural materials and Native American Artifacts. It has its share of dreary cultural halls last updated in the 60s, 70s or 80s and giant stuffed animals, contrasted with blockbuster traveling exhibits like "Darwin" and "Maps." Ancient Americas, still new having opened in March, is part of their core exhibition space, accessible with general admission.
With the amount of material to cover, from the ice age to European encounter with the Aztecs and the Incas, and the amount of artifacts available, from southwestern Pueblo pots to Moche jewelry, I knew this exhibit must have been a challenge to pull off. I was impressed from beginning to end! Each gallery began with an orientation so I never felt lost. Artifacts were presented simultaneously on a human scale and with detailed information about archeological process. Interactives were simple but genuinely fun. None of the machines were out of order. Text was simple, but didn't feel dumbed down to me. Every time I was tired of standing, there was a bench to sit on. I spent about an hour and a half in the exhibit and I saw almost everything in as much detail as I wanted to. I didn't, however, have time to see any other exhibits in the museum.
So, hats off to Thinc for co-creating a fascinating exhibit and reinvigorating artifacts that I'm sure the Field has wanted to display in an interesting way for a long time.