Showcasing the World
Representing the world has been both a cultural and a commercial pursuit for centuries. Over more than a hundred and fifty years these efforts took shape as what we would now term tourist attractions and events. The principle permanent attractions took the form of museums; with open air museums beginning attempts to reproduce parts of the world in miniature, with botanic and landscape gardens and zoological collections displaying its flora and fauna. The open air museums from the very beginning incorporated suitable plants and animals in their displays. They also showed many of the artefacts that would otherwise have been seen in glass case museums. Most of them also began to introduce activities. Early amongst these were horticulture, traditional craft work and small-scale cultural performances such as folk dancing.
The events were the large scale attempts to put together special collections of artefacts from around the globe in temporary shows which were heavily promoted and which drew in visitors both from the home country and abroad. These were and still continue as the national and international expositions staged every few years at chosen locations around the globe. At the present time exhibitions are being planned through the next decade and more, but they command far less attention internationally than they used to, perhaps on account of their frequency and the problem of making them sufficiently eye-catching.
This series of postings will look at how the microcosm idea, as I term it, evolved. They will necessarily simplify the story and leave out not only some good examples but some other cultural influences and parallel developments, for example in the work of authors, artists and photographers. They, too, were opening up new vistas of the world.
Marie Antoinette was the name given in France to the Austrian-born wife of Louis XVI. The reasons why they would both perish under the blade of the guillotine in the French Revolution in 1793 are not greatly relevant here except insofar as the yawning chasm between the life of the king and queen and their French subjects. In her childhood in Austria Maria Antonia, as she then was, lived a marginally more ordinary life dressing less formally and playing with non-royal children with access to gardens and menageries. Her 23-year marriage to Louis was neither easy nor loving with interference from people around her and numerous social and political tensions. The monarchy was based in the vast palace and estate of Versailles to the west of Paris. The queen took herself away from the palace itself into the Petit Trianon, a much smaller building a distance from the palace where she had her own apartments and chapel. There were gardens here; laid out in the English style popular in the late eighteenth century with flowing lines very different from the rigid geometry of the main gardens of Versailles.
It was here that Marie Antoinette had a theatre built where she could act in leading parts in plays like Le Roi Fermier and the Le Barbier de Séville. It was escapism from the royal life, even though it depended on that life for the resources to do it. She took the escapism as step further. She had a series of buildings constructed for her with gardens and farm fields around them. From their completion in 1787 she could live the life of the lady of her own village, dressing informally as she had when a child, supervising the planting and harvesting of small crops and even learning to be a milkmaid at least in play. The buildings included a Queens House (does not every village have one?), a fishing house, mill, dairy and barn with some cottages. This was Le Hameau de la Reine the Queens Village. Of course although it was supposed to be some kind of typical French village it was very different, being picturesque, well maintained (by her retainers) and furnished more like the abode of a queen than a peasant.
The queen had few years to play here. Six years after the village was completed the French Revolution had erupted and when the royal family attempted to escape from Paris in 1791 they were captured and brought back. In 1793 first Louis, then his queen, were executed in the Place de la Concorde.
In the last two decades of the twentieth century Le Hameau de la Reine was restored to something close to the original with repaired buildings (the barn had been demolished), crops and animals re-introduced and gardens planted. It is open to the public, a reminder of the age of Louis XVI and his queen, but also one of the earliest examples of a world in miniature that had captured the imagination of great landowners in Western Europe who were making their own attempts to show fanciful scenes of ordinary life on their own estates. A century later this was replaced by more learned efforts to represent more accurate depictions using genuine buildings and working environments in the beginnings of the open air museum movement. But these also owed much to the commercial, propagandist movement that was organising world expositions, capturing visitors by the million thanks to the new and growing tourism industries.
The Great Exhibition of 1851 was an occasion when at least three major strands of historical development touched each other. The first was the coming to prominence of industrial and cultural exhibitions. Second was the growth of tourism industries including visitor attractions and events and package operations using rail travel. Third and without which the other two would have been impossible were the changes in Britain towards being an industrial society. It is the third strand which has attracted most attention with the iron and glass, pre-fabricated exhibition building and its displays being seen rightly as products of foundries and factories. The six million visitors that it achieved owed so much to the railway system introduced only within the previous two decades, and they took part in a peaceful atmosphere of genuine fascination for what the people were seeing rather than, as some feared, the opportunity for a Chartist-led revolution. The part played by the event in the fashion for international exhibitionism is usually seen in terms of British innovation alone, leading to at least a century and a half of ever-greater shows of this kind. That is true as far as the scale of the event and its overall purpose is concerned it set in train many new innovations but it downplays earlier important exhibitions that had built up a body of enthusiastic support in France, Britain and elsewhere.
French industrial exhibitions, French museums and French landscape gardens had all been making their own influences felt. The previous posting refers to one, that of Queen Marie Antoinettes village at Versailles. The revolution which took her and hundreds of others to the guillotine also brought in new attitudes to the royal treasures, notably in the Palace of the Louvre. In 1793 it was opened as a museum with over seven hundred paintings and objects taken from the royal collections and confiscated church property. The aim was to allow the population at large to see the works on show. Later, labels were attached with details of the artist, date of completion and other information. French revolutionary armies and Napoleon Bonapartes troops would later capture hundreds more works from Europe and elsewhere to add to the show.
In 1798 the French Republic staged an industrial competition and exhibition. Prizes were given at a ceremony on the Champ de Mars, a venue that would remain the location of choice for the later Universal Expositions. Van Wesemael (2001: 63-4) described the 1798 event as a propagandistic ceremony of state which tried to imprint the population and the entrepreneurs with new ideas, values and morals regarding the economic and social ordering of society. The exhibition did lead to many more of similar nature right up to 1849. Gradually it became established as a showcase that picked out innovations and quality of work by industrial concerns, with the general public being enthused for the success of the French system and made into admirers of the new entrepreneurs. When Prince Albert, Henry Cole and Joseph Paxton led the British initiative for a Great Exhibition in 1851 they drew heavily on the French efforts. What they added in particular was the global element with objects displayed from all over the world. The London show enjoyed huge success and worldwide publicity. More shows would follow in Britain and abroad: the French Expositions became international and like all of them from then onwards they brought to public notice many of the main technological and cultural innovations of their day from giant steam engines to the electric telegraph, hospital baby incubator and popular drinks like coca-cola. By combining the rail network of the country with the tourism operations of people like Thomas Cook and the spectacular exhibition building nicknamed The Crystal Palace, and ensuring that it was publicised heavily through the print media dominant at the time, the Great Exhibition was a showcase that pushed forward huge changes in the way that people lived in the late nineteenth century.
The success of the Great Exhibition of 1851 led to more major shows in New York and Dublin (1853), Munich (1854), Paris (1855) and London again (1862) with varying success. Then in 1867 another exhibition took place in Paris that introduced highly important innovations that took world expositions onto a higher plane.
Van Wesemael (2001: see the Bibliography page) in his monumental study of national and world exhibitions as didactic and delightful events traces the growth of table à double entrée systems of classification of the artefacts on display. The basic idea was that of a two-dimensional matrix in which the rows might represent aspects of human culture and industry and the columns represented regions of the world. One of the main organisers of the London 1851 exhibition, Henry Cole, had wanted to use such a system but had been unsuccessful. Then the French Prince Napoleon reviewed the 1855 Paris event and called for such a method to be used in all future exhibitions. An English explorer and zoologist, George Maw, working with the architect Edward Payne put forward a design in The Builder magazine of 16 February 1861 for a version of it, hoping that the following years London exhibition would adopt it (see Allwood, 1977). Their proposal was too late for that event. Then in 1865 the French sociologist Frédéric LePlay established the strategies and funding for the next French event in 1867. Maw and Payne accused the French organising committee for 1867 of plagiarism, a claim that they lost when they tried to pursue it through the French legal system. What they had proposed was a rounded arrangement of the row and column proposal made by Prince Napoleon. Their refinements used a scheme shown in simple form in the diagram above left. A number of rings were to take the place of the rows dividing up aspects of culture and industry and a set of segments were to include the artefacts representing those aspects for particular world regions. However LePlay had developed his own ideas, develop them he certainly did. The rounded shape fitted well into the space of the rectangular Champs de Mars which was the venue for the 1867 exhibition, with the space between the outer rectangle and the inner rounded shape being proposed for rural or horticultural exhibitions. In the event this area was used for numerous other buildings and pavilions containing major displays.
With the work of LePlay on the systematic arrangement of the things on show the significance of world exhibitions for educational use was well established. At a time of conflicts in many places in the world because of revolutions and wars, he wanted to heal the social rifts in society. He wanted to improve the lot of working-class people at a time when their position low down the economic scale was being recognised more and more by political commentators. LePlay hoped that visitors would move around the rings and segments of the exhibition making comparisons between different cultures and technical innovations that would educate them and enable them to support future developments as they saw fit. He thought of the show as a microcosmos or reduced representation of the cosmos the world. It was to be a world museum, a concept important not only for great exhibitions but also for the nature of museums themselves, especially the open air museums like Skansen (1891) which would develop as another, permanent kind of exhibition. As it happened, the stretched circle scheme of the 1867 exhibition world soon be abandoned. It was too rigid in its demands for all of the worlds regions to be represented using every aspect of them to fulfil the ring and segments set out. Even in 1867 it did not work completely. China, for example, declined to take part so LePlay brought in commercial interests to display something of China though not the systematic presentation of the country that the 67 structure was supposed to have. Some countries, such as Great Britain, occupied much more space than others several times that of North America, for example. Later exhibitions would have their individual criteria and priorities. But what the Paris event of 1867 did was to make clear the relationship between exhibitions and their visitors as highly important educational entertainments. Such shows were tourist attractions, and the tourists flocked in their millions to see them. The world would change rapidly as a result.
The Paris Exposition Universelle of 1889
The French government arrived at an 11-year interval between its Expositions Universelles. After 1867 therefore the next was held on the Champ de Mars in 1878. In that Exposition there were massive collections of commercially-produced objects exhibited not by individuals but large companies. Towers on the Trocadero site across the River Seine had hydraulic lifts carrying visitors to the top. From them could be seen the head of the Statue of Liberty sculpted by Bartholdi, awaiting transport to New York. Arranging for some tall landmark such as the towers had become a feature of world expositions. The 1851 London show had its Crystal Palace and every later exhibition used impressive buildings and tall structures in order to showcase the artefacts on display, attracting visitors from afar and generating excitement and anticipation. When the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle opened it had what was to become the most famous of them all for many decades the Eiffel Tower. At first hated by many it soon became the greatest icon Paris had got, thanks to its scale and design.
The Eiffel Tower helped the 1889 event attract 32 million visitors, double the number who saw the 1878 event and more than five times greater than the number who had entered the 1851 Crystal Palace. The 1889 exposition had other wonders. One was the Pontes Roulantes system, high-level platforms that moved on wheels along rails atop tall columns. Visitors queued to step onto them for a special overview of the Galeries des Machines. Transporter systems would become common in major exhibitions like these and of course part of the fun to be had in theme parks. Paris, 1900 would have three-speed moving roadways. Narrow gauge railways had been used at the Philadelphia Exhibition in 1876 as well as a cumbersome and quite short kind of monorail across a small valley.
The Paris show of 1889 was notable for putting people on show as well. Many exhibitions had displayed buildings the systematic arrangement favoured by LePlay in 1867 required them. Buildings in the style of all kinds of places around the globe surrounded the main exhibition halls of most expositions in the later nineteenth century. Some were put up by national governments as pavilions to house their showpieces. A few from various exhibitions have survived to this day, either on the original exhibition site or when moved to somewhere else. Within the exhibition halls and pavilions objects representing the cultures of different countries and peoples had been shown since the very first shows. Now, a living element was being added.
Having people on show can be very controversial. Critics have referred to the human zoo approach. This stemmed from travelling fairs that for centuries might have had freak shows of deformed, unusually-featured or -sized individuals to be gawped at by fee-paying visitors. As popular magazines became able to utilise pictures in the late 1900s they were also displaying similar things. During those decades world exploration and colonisation led evermore to popular interest and knowledge about the ethnographic variety that existed around the globe. Drawings or photographs showing people from cultures contrasting with those of Europe and North America were staple items in printed media and they were being exhibited in both world expos and early theme parks by the end of the nineteenth century. Semi-naked native women were to become almost symbolic of high-minded journals like the USAs National Geographic magazine. What was being shown was difference what ethnographers and sociologists would term the other and with the warping attitudes of colonialisation this meant also the inferior. Often, these people were to be pitied at best, scorned and to be eradicated at worst, as the unfortunate products of alien, second or third rate cultures.
On the other hand there was a long tradition also of a rather more sympathetic interest in different cultural groupings. It might well still be based on feelings of superiority and a desire to change them, but some western observers could see difference and otherness as part of the worlds rich patterns. Early expositions like that of Paris in 1989 might have national pavilions staffed with people in national costume, able to speak their own language if required and often playing music or performing dances of their home countries. A powerful folk-dance and song movement was beginning in those years amongst people who knew that important traditions were being lost. They wanted to record them and show off the traditions through whatever medium they could find. World expos, open air museums and even theme parks could each have a part to play. In the illustrations above are two examples: a troupe of Javanese dancers performing and a group of Senegalese men stood in front of a huge wall map of their homeland (and French colony) in Africa. Other exhibits in this Paris exposition had costumed people demonstrating crafts and activities Turkish metal-working, Egyptian market traders, Vietnamese rickshaw operators for example. What the attitude of visitors to the show who saw them was we can guess, and in some cases read about through contemporary description. There will be little doubt that seeing them in the context of an exhibition celebrating mainly European achievements meant that they would usually appear as curiosities from backward nations. But on the other hand, showcase developments like these were the first steps towards seeing and understanding peoples from distant lands that it was essential to begin taking.
Artur Hazelius and Skansen
The nineteenth century European and North American interest in studying, presenting and being entertained by cultural history was growing strongly. Often, this was because of the recognition that industrialisation was wiping out the former historic environment of rural life in many places. Other people were interested in archaeology and ancient history. Very often the great museum collections of the world being assembled at the time concentrated on very early history. The new world expositions, followed by open air museums, were interested in the recent past but they were also keen to depict the cultural nature of their contemporary world. Each world exposition showed some of the past, a lot of the contemporary present, and many ideas about the future. Each exposition was intended to stimulate actual change through the encouragement of new ideas and in particular technological innovations. By promoting technology factory machines, new forms of transport, improved media equipment and labour-saving devices for homes and offices by showcasing them to vast numbers of visitors from around the globe, the world expositions were primary engines of change. Yet every one of them, by displaying existing cultural forms, was also raising an awareness of what was likely to be lost through those changes. It may be that most visitors thought national costumes, music, architecture and traditions would remain forever because they were expressions of national pride. But already some people were seeing the situation differently.
In Halifax, England, the owner of the Shibden Hall Estate in 1872 was John Lister who achieved prominence as a local antiquarian. In that year Lister bought and moved to his estate the first of three buildings (two houses and a barn) which were going to be lost as the thriving textile town replaced its older buildings with imposing Victorian structures. This first building was known as The Tudor House. Listers father had inherited the estate, moving north from the Isle of Wight to take up residence. His son was proud of Shibdens history and fascinated by the towns past. Saving buildings from destruction by moving them to his lands was a deliberate move to enable future generations to appreciate something of Halifaxs past.
In Norway a business man, Thomas Heftye, was one of the founders of the Norwegian Tourist Association. He owned estates which he gradually opened to visitors and two of these estates were passed by him into public ownership. On one, Frognerseteren, he built houses in Norwegian traditional timber style, starting with one in 1867 that he used for tourists trekking in the Oslo area. Heftye owned a small museum collection. The five buildings did not, however, constitute a museum but rather a recreational facility with the log-built structures adding a special ambience. The principal building still stands on a rise looking down across a road to the others, smaller and more peasant-like in aspect. Thomas Heftye was really in the tradition of those who, like Marie Antoinette and many other members of royal families had been adding peasant buildings to parks and estates as decorative features. But he was ahead of the more important development of Norwegian interest in old buildings, the creation a few kilometres away near the Norwegian Royal Palace of a true open air museum, at Bygdø.
This became the Norwegian Folk Museum. Its driving force was supplied by the Royal Chamberlain, Christian Holst. Serving King Oscar II he organised the move of a farmhouse from Hove in Norway to a rectangular site on a wooded hill. The aim was to have a museum of buildings that could be studied easily by everyone who wishes to acquaint themselves with the old national architecture of our farming life (Rentzhog, 2007:49). The farmhouse was soon joined by a stave church ie one built in the Norwegian style using split logs from Gol, and other kinds of structures. All of this happened in the decade from 1881 onwards. What became the national Folk Museum would have an important influence on the man who is considered as the father of open air museums, Artur Hazelius. But he has also been deeply involved with both museum collecting and with world expositions, notably those in Vienna in 1873 and Paris in 1878.
Artur Hazelius was born in 1833, the son of an army general. He became a teacher of Scandinavian languages, a line of work which led him into an interest in the cultures of the people of Sweden, Norway and Denmark. He travelled throughout Sweden, and in the province of Dalarna saw quite starkly how older rural life was being changed by economic and social influences (Rentzhog, 2007) in the same way that John Lister was observing changes in Halifax in England. Hazelius began to collect objects illustrative of the disappearing ways. He wrote later that he considered it the duty of each private citizen to preserve for the future all that can be preserved of these and other things (Hudson, 1987:121). He staged an exhibition of them in Stockholm in 1872, the same year that Lister was rescuing the Halifax Tudor House. In the following year he began work on what would become the Nordiske meaning Nordic - Folk Museum in Stockholm. Then in 1878 Hazelius set up what he called living pictures of Swedish rural life models in folk costume placed in front of what looked like stage sets with painted backdrops, furniture and artefacts. His aim was to move away from the placing of artefacts in glass cases or on shelves amid rows of other artefacts and towards putting them in the kind of settings in which they had been used kitchen utensils in a kitchen reconstruction, for example.
At the risk of a slight diversion, visitors looked at the Hazelius displays as if looking into a picture or at a theatre production. This would become known to some specialists as the Swedish Manner. The founder of the Danish Folk Museum, Bernard Olsen, preferred an arrangement known from its Dutch origins in which visitors walked into the set, getting a stronger impression via a three-dimensional experience rather than viewing one of two dimensions from outside (see Brunvand, 1998). Hazelius developed his ideas and soon was moving towards the three-dimensional experience in showing complete houses. Besides giving visitors what Olsen had called a more emotive experience of being immersed in an exhibit, it can also be seen that entering 3D model opened up the chance of touching things (even if this would necessarily be controlled for conservation reasons), smelling the aromas of wood, food and general rural smells, and possibly even taste if foodstuffs could be sampled. To take these thought s a little further, modern museums may well use both cases of artefacts galleries along with living picture displays. In the former it is possible to compare objects with other objects to see differences and similarities, or to consider the output of craft workers from the same location or during the same era, or using similar raw materials or processes. Living pictures puts them in the context of their use. Another kind of living picture could show them in the context within which they were made for example a craft workshop with all of its equipment, perhaps with a craftsperson demonstrating the processes. The difference between contextual and comparative displays is actually well seen in that other famous Swedish creation, the IKEA store. The parallels between museums and retail stores is not a matter of the modern convergence of the two kinds of displays either, but can be traced back through many decades. That this is so is due to the function they share introducing all kinds of things to all kinds of people.
To return to Artur Hazelius and his museum work. In 1891 land was bought close to Stockholms city centre. Two wooden cottages and one made of stone were re-erected there. A camp of the Sami people from northern Scandinavia was replicated and a charcoal burners encampment added. The museum thus begun was named Skansen, meaning a small fortress. The name also reflected the use of the term Scandinavia for Denmark, Norway and Sweden since the museum was to be aimed at showing life in all three countries. Perhaps the term was a good choice for a place where culture could be kept safely against the forces of change all around. 1892 saw more land bought and farm and wild animals put on display. Hazelius saw animals as an essential for anyone trying to show rural life. Rentzhog (2007) has also pointed out that the Swedish Panopticon, a waxworks exhibition, had opened in 1889 and met with great success. The suggestion is that Artur Hazelius wanted to make sure the museum world could stay ahead of the kind of attractions represented by waxwork exhibitions. Was this making the open museum more of a theme park? It was during those self same years that New Yorks Coney Island funfairs were entering the realm of what we call theme parks and world expositions were themselves adding many of the same features of displays, story-telling and entertainment.
Skansen grew over the years and was imitated widely in Scandinavia, the wider Europe, and every other continent. It did not invent every museum development. But it was a showcase not only for the Scandinavian heritage but for the ways by which museums could enthuse people about the past.
The illustrations above show scenes at Skansen photographed on a rather dull winters day in early 2001. The engraving at the top right is a late nineteenth century view of the stave church in the collection at Bygdø in Oslo.
Book references are to the Bibliography page found in the list shown to the left of this page.
Microcosms 6: Spatial Patterns
Artur Hazelius created living or picture frame displays for the 1878 Paris Exposition. The advantages of walk-through displays as Bernard Olsen pointed out soon established them as regular arrangements in folk museums. This was an obvious move anyway in the open air settings that folk museums occupied with a larger stage on which they could be set. Each building was part of a reconstructed environment. They could not be built with a whole side missing in order to let visitors view inside, so walking through a doorway was appropriate. In doing so the visitor effectively became part of the display, reacting to it as they would have reacted to the real thing decades earlier. Once museum attendants donned historic costumes and took their places inside the building or just outside in its garden or yard, perhaps handling the materials, tools and even plants and animals appropriate to the show then they became actors in a stage setting.
Its a cue for thinking about the way that attractions showcases are arranged in relation to their visitors their audiences. Some just evolved town centres for example. Others were planned like the Rome Colosseum for huge crowds, spectators at drams of life and death played out in the arena. Getting the plans right was fundamental to successful shows and experiences. There were still are, of course considerations of efficiency getting people in, through and out of each showcase while delivering the maximum visitor satisfaction. And in the case of the Colosseum, or any modern sports stadium, being able to deal with emergencies when evacuating thousands of spectators in ten to fifteen minutes might be the requirement.
For the best of entertainment and education coupled with sales (as appropriate) and the practicalities of shelter, refreshment, rest rooms, dealing with enquiries and problems (all as appropriate) skilled, professional planning by a good team of specialists is essential. To understand the basics it is useful to review some of the spatial planning, the patterns, involved. From the visitors point of view the showcases might be as diverse as a theatre, historic house or supermarket. From the management point of view there are plenty of lessons to be learnt by looking at showcases in contrasting situations like those. Here are a few examples.
In the diagrams above the attractions are shown in pink and the audience of visitors in green. Remember that the pink lines and shapes do not themselves represent walls but the exhibits, the shows and even goods on sale in each case. Being diagrams means that they are simplified to indicate the principle arrangements in each example. The blue arrows represent the direction of message transmission either one-way or two-way in nature. They dont represent the direction of gaze of the audience. Green arrow points show the possible ways in which the audience might be moving during the actual communication or when it decides to break off communication in order to move, or when the producer of the communication a museum staff member, a performer in a theatre or some kind of audiovisual device comes to the end of a presentation.
The Roman arena is straightforward. It is the oldest form of those above, yet it was closely related to the theatre formations that came before and after it. Three typical styles of theatre are shown here. What in terms of theatre is often called a proscenium stage separates the audience from the performance. It is in many regions the dominant format so familiar to most people. It was also the format used by Hazelius for his tableaux vivants or living pictures though it happened that in exhibitions the audience, as shown above, might be moving past the show rather than seated for a long period in front of it. The apron stage was a way of breaking down the psychological barrier between the audience and the action Shakespeares Globe was closely related. Theatre in the round (often rather misnamed as each was more likely to be a square) is a modern relative of the Roman arena and the football pitch, the stage for a great deal of drama of different kinds.
Bringing theatre audiences into closer proximity to the actors on stage is the offer of both apron stages and theatre in the round. Its an interesting point that the Globe Theatre in Elizabethan times not only placed the performers with audience on three sides but often had some of the more boisterous spectators sat on the edge of the stage. Before the days of the Tudor theatre performances might have been in market squares or the courtyards of large inns with the dramatics happening virtually amongst the audience. The medieval Mystery Plays performed on a set of mobile pageant wagons also had that immersion effect. Circus performances were in the round with the potential for some players like clowns to involve front row spectators in their tomfoolery. When theatres placed the audience on one side of a picture frame and the actors on the other it had the effect of neutralising the engagement of the audience. Spectators could laugh or applaud but not a lot else. That move away from interplay seems to have been partly a way of ensuring a disciplined atmosphere. It also importantly allowed the growing use of stage scenery and effects in order to create the theatricality that brought magic to theatre. Stripping back those effects to concentrate on human performances took theatre back to apron stages and in-the-round arenas.
Open air museums, world expositions and theme parks shared spatial characteristics with each other. They also shared the movement patterns with urban centres from villages to towns and cities the schematic example top right, above. The characteristics are those of multidirectional free movement between numerous nodal points centres of interest ranging from small objects of attention to buildings to be entered. The buildings then become showcases within showcases. Some might only be viewable from outside, through windows or openings, and they are like living pictures. Others offer what might be called deep access to be explored however the visitor wishing at least within the bounds of security and safety. In that way they are similar to the wider museum-as-showcase that contains them. That raises a further important fact: that the museum is a showcase within a wider showcase a town or city. Can this Russian-doll arrangement go on forever with the city within a country, the country within a region? To the extent that a city can be promoted as a showcase for a country, perhaps yes. Every leading city is presented as a sort of showcase for its country or region for reasons of culture and economics. Think of Paris and the national prestige of France, Sydney as a showcase for Australia, Bangkok for Thailand or Rio de Janiero for Brazil. However at that level where the multiplicity of management becomes ever more complex the usefulness of the concept starts to become nebulous. People do see cities, even regions, countries, as showcases, which is why so much effort and money is poured into prestige projects. But multiple overlapping activities are not easy to analyse or to manage effectively. Will London be a successful showcase for the United Kingdom during the Olympic Games of 2012? It is a key question, but the answer is locked in so many combinations of management activity.
Microcosms 7: More Spatial Patterns
There are implications in the spatial patterns involved as people visit places. Some of these are to do with the visitors satisfaction. Do they get what they want a pleasant experience, good service, the buying of goods, discovering new things or aesthetic enjoyment? After all, visits might be for domestic or professional business as well as tourism. The order in which they visit the places within an area will be affected by their own choices and the ways in which that area was created and is being managed at the time of their visit. So the nature of buildings and what uses they offer have an obvious effect. Less obvious perhaps, but also influential, is the nature of the spaces between them. Are they attractive? Taking a pleasant route from one place to another adds to the enjoyment of the visit. Are they safe? Many people avoid underpasses and skirt around uneven footpaths. Good management will improve designs, maintain good repair, check on cleanliness and have staff members, city wardens or even police officers close by as appropriate. Free-entry places are open to everyone, which is often ideal, but that means they can be overcrowded and or antisocial elements as well.
Visitor attractions that work by communication such as an exhibition or a historic house have to manage in more or less degree the sequence by which people experience them. It might be important to have people look at museum objects with their interpretive panels in a certain order. They often have to tell a story or explain a subject by using a narrative in which the beginning, middle and end must be read in the correct sequence. This wont usually be the case in, for example, a garden, and a zoo or country park. Nor will it be necessary in a historic house. There, the more restricted spaces rooms with relatively small spaces for visitors, besides narrow corridors and stairways mean that practicalities might impose a route without it mattering which order the exhibits and labels are read. Wherever possible, visitors are given as much flexibility as can be allowed within the confines of the spaces available. Even IKEA, once notorious for forcing a procession-like tour of every one of its departments in exact sequence, has begun to give some short cuts.
The examples show some of the patterns that have been, or are now being, used. Top left is the Free Grid, close to the village-town-city pattern shown in the previous set of figures. It is set out here as a row and column arrangement, but irregular spaces and directions are often found, in open air museums and country parks for example. People have plenty of freedom to go where they want in any direction. LePlays Paris Exposition layout (bottom left) was a variation, but it had the potential advantage of giving a central point visible along any of several radiating routes, that could be used as a starting point. What I have called the mark-and-wedge pattern built on that approach. When Walt Disney opened his first theme park in 1955 he used this idea. A fixed entry point where tickets were sold and visitor facilities were sited opened onto Main Street, an idealised representation of small town America. Looking along it the visitors could see the tall landmark of the Fairy Castle. It was natural to head in that direction. From the central point they could then see the segments radiating out with their different themes Frontierland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland etc. It was easy to spend time in one and then return to the centre to choose the next. Disney also followed the logical example of the Worlds Fairs from the late nineteenth century onwards, by arranging a railroad to move visitors around. By starting at the entrance and running around the periphery the customers could get a leisurely view of everything first before walking along Main Street. Railroads, monorails and even varieties of canals are almost always found in theme parks now and make a popular attraction in themselves anyway.
I show the Weighted Grid next to the Free Grid because it is a variation of it and is often an example of a very rigid row and column layout. This is the typical supermarket layout of display shelves and aisles. Shoppers can go where they like, as they like, though they often have a well-planned route between their favourite items, at least until a canny management moves things round to expose them to other goods. There are powerful incentives to get customers all round the store and along as many aisles as possible. These include the placing of essentials like bread, milk, meat and the like at the back of the store, drawing people through. There are other good reasons for placing them there, though fast turnover of baked-in-store items can be handled well close to preparation zones. Customers can be served directly by staff from displays here such as delicatessens and fresh fish counters. Alcoholic drinks might be placed strategically where they will draw shoppers in (many tipplers now buy from shops for home consumption). Positioning of goods depends nowadays on many factors and may change over time for the sake of freshening up the shopping experience. The other two patterns should now be self-explanatory and illustrate points made above.
Whoever manages a visited space takes decisions on routes and route flexibility, signposting, the positioning of toilets, refreshment areas, information points and shops. They also have to consider and plan whatever visitor interpretation schemes need to be devised as and when they are appropriate, including what media to use and how it is made available. Good managers walk the possible routes not only during the planning stage but from time to time afterwards. They take in the views, sounds and other sensations the visitors experience, making sure they are appropriate and at their best. The best managers see, hear, touch, smell and if necessary! taste the things the visitors taste as closely as they can, perceiving them as the visitor will. So is that visit to the loo right at the start of the trip an olfactory delight with everything looking clean and tidy? Does the approach to the main attraction build up a sense of excitement and the interest to come? If you sit at a restaurant table and touch the underside of it, will a lump of sticky chewing gum be discovered? When the visitor stops to admire a particularly interesting site, will there be the right kind and level of information on hand to help explain all about it or should it be left alone to speak for itself?