First visit, May 20th, 2012Edit
My initial visit to the Noguchi Museum in Long Island City Queens was an early afternoon of many surprises. My initial shock was at the cost of entering the museum with my student id - $2.50! It is unheard of in New York City to visit a museum for so little. I quickly discovered the reason why the price of admission was so low -only the first floor of the galleries were open as the second floor was still undergoing a reinstallation of objects from the permanent gallery. My next shock at the museum was the total and complete lack of any interactivities or technology beyond the ever playing biographic documentary on Isamu Noguchi playing in a back room of the museum. There was not a single shred of an electronic device aside from the visitors' smart phones and perhaps the cash register at the gift shop. Even that might have been closer to an analogue machine than a fancy POS driven system.
Upon entering the museum and paying for my entrance, I inquired as to whether there were any audio guides to the museum. The answer was a resounding 'No'. I was informed there were laminated sheets at the entrance to each gallery or area as the variuos gallery spaces within the museum are referred.
Proceeding into the museum itself I found myself in a cool, dark space with natural light flowing into the initial exhibition areas from the slit positioned between the top of the wall and slightly raised roof. The design of the gallery with the arrangement of monumental stone sculptures is a stunning and impressive means of entering into the life's work of the artist Isamu Noguchi.
From the first exhibition area, one can either proceed into the sculpture garden which provides some shady and some sun drenched areas for visitors to sit or into the next indoor exhibition areas. As I was only able to visit the first floor of the museum - the second story being closed for reinstallation - I sat in the garden for some time simply watching museum visitors roam about with the plastic sheets of information and soak in the aesthetic experience of being amongst so many iconic scuptural works.
The galleries are arranged thematically by material on the first floor - and the medium in which Noguchi was working also generally corresponds to a particular phase or span of years of his career. The laminated sheets provided no further information than the name, date(s) and medium of the work in question. On the first floor the graphs indicating which sculpture was being refered to on the list was represented by a line drawing of the sculpture. Really these are extremely simply but effective finding and explanatory aides.
I observed many families both with grown children and older parents and those with young children and younger parents using the sheets to guide their leisurely strolls around the museum and its pleasant and peaceful garden. Some were leading tours or discussing the art objects revealed around corners and around shrubbery by using the laminated sheets. Others (two small girls in particular) were running helter skelter snapping photographs of each sculpture with a parent's iPhone and gleefully skampering off to display the resultant images to their parents.
The whole afternoon I sat in the galleries was extremely pleasant, calm and relaxing, while simultaneously feeling a little worried there were no high-tech inter-activities within the galleries. Had I chosen poorly in regards to my museum for the project? What was I going to do? I had some hope the second floor galleries would contain more inter-actives come the reinstallation but this was not to be so.
As mentioned above, there was a video playing on loop in the last room of the first floor of the museum. This was an incredibly informative albeit extremely long film. The total running time was over an hour and I sat through the entire viewing. The interviews with contemporaries, architects who had worked with Noguchi and his studio assistants was really eye opening. I had constructed an entirely false concept of who Isamu Noguchi was and his relationship to both Japanese and American cultures. The movie did much to dispel my false tropes on the subject of the artist Isamu Noguchi.
Second visit, June 9th, 2012Edit
My second visit to the Noguchi museum took place after the reopening of the second floor galleries following their reinstallation earlier in the summer of 2012. I was not surprised to find no further electronic or inter-activities made available in the galleries. One glaring difference between the second and first floor galleries is the manner in which objects were identified.
In some galleries on the second floor the now familiar laminated sheets featured photographs as opposed to the line drawings of those found on the first floor. I am not sure of why there is a stylistic difference or what this really means but they photographs were clearer and more readable than the rather abstract line drawings found on the sheets downstairs.
The second floor galleries also included a wider array of materials not only sculpture but furniture and other industrial design, objects made from a wide array of materials and some not nearly is monumental as the majority of the works on the first floor.
A second surprise after the inclusion of photographs in the gallery laminated sheets was the later galleries on the second floor featured vitrines with more traditional museum didactic labels. Some of these labels were also found on the floor in front of various large scale objects.
The Noguchi Museum contains nothing in terms of in situ inter activities for the museum visitor. This sparsity in the moment however allows for much speculation and many suggestions as to what the museum or friends or fans of the museum could accomplish using the myriad of electronic and online resources readily available even to the lay user today.
I am a fan of the minimally invasive viewing experience the current situation at the museum provides. One is simply allowed to and in fact encouraged to meet with the sculpture and be moved by the works themselves without the intrusive and pedagogical viewpoint of a curator or expert in the field and of the work. However, at times, more information is a wonderful thing! Simply knowing that I could access the online Catalogue Raissone was a settling thought. If in fact there were objects in the collection I wanted to know more about I as a now thoroughly experienced user of the Noguchi Museum website could find this information. However, what of a not nearly as indoctrinated user as myself?
The museum clearly invites those with a love of sculpture and a yen for a quite and sublime museum experience. Could technology however be used to enhance and not hinder such an experience?