Detroit Institute of Arts

Merit Award

Detroit Institute of Arts Interactive Exhibits

Founded in 1885, the Detroit Institute of Arts recently underwent a $158 million renovation that took more than six years to complete and added 58,000 sq. ft. to the institution’s already impressive 600,000 sq. ft.

Like many art galleries, DIA wants to attract new generations of visitors to view and enjoy its treasures. As part of the renovation, designers worked closely with the museum’s education department to create a suite of interactive interpretive installations that help make the permanent collection more accessible to visitors through the use of technology. The installations include interactive kiosks, video projections, and immersive multimedia experiences.

For museums, book display poses a difficult accessibility challenge: how can you allow visitors to interact with the often fragile volumes? Pentagram designed three interactive, rear-projection digital book kiosks that allow visitors to “flip” through the pages of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, a 16th century Book of Hours, and Artistic Houses, a rare picture book of famous home interiors dating from 1883. The kiosks also provide translations and interpretive information about the books.

Decorative art galleries can often seem lifeless and staid to museum visitors. In an effort to bring DIA’s collection of 18th century French porcelain and silver to life, Pentagram created an interactive exhibit called “The Art of Dining.” Through an elaborate overhead video projection, visitors sit at a “dining table” onto which is projected an aristocratic dinner service. The visitors feel they are participating as three courses of historically accurate food are “served” using porcelain and silver pieces from the collection.

“Antiquities Silhouette” is a 3-minute animated film that brings the ritual of Roman wine drinking to life. Projected on a wall of the DIA’s Antiquities Gallery, the film depicts the mixing and serving of wine while it highlights the vessels on display and the purposes behind their various shapes. Other installations include “The Art of African Masquerade,” a life-sized, rear-projected film; “Dynamic Captions,” a series of changing interactive captions in the Modern galleries; and an immersive sound installation in the Kanzler Room, an 18th century drawing room.

View video.

Jury Comments: 

“An art museum’s use of technology brings historic objects to life. Gallery wall decoration based on ancient fresco fragment provides context for understanding this artwork.”

Design Firm: 

Pentagram

Client: 

Detroit Institute of Arts

Location City: 

Detroit, Michigan

Project Area: 

N/A

Open Date: 

N/A

Project Budget: 

N/A

Photo Credits: 

Peter Mauss/Esto

Design Team: 

Lisa Strausfeld (principal in charge), Nina Boesch, Jiae Kim, Kate Wolf

Consultants: 

Mark Van S. Photography (videographer), Francis Oh (video editor), Scott Lehrer Sound Design Ltd. (sound designer), Anne Ferril (food production), Richard Ellis (food styling), TacTable LLC (IR software development), ArtGuild (kiosk casework design), Detroit Institute of Arts (content)

Fabricators: 

Art Guild (casework), TacTable LLC (interactive software/hardware)

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