The Art of Exhibition Telling

I remember standing in the schoolyard trying to tell a joke to my sister and her friend. It was winter and we shivered with cold in our anoraks and pink-coloured mittens. I knew the joke by heart, I had practised it well, I loved the payoff – and to this day I have strong memories of their faces full of expectation. But I confused the plot hopelessly, and even before I battled my way to the end, the two of them took each other by the hand and hopped laughingly away.

Inspired by the Museumsakademie Museion21, I recently wrote my leadership values statement. My idea was to formulate as clearly as possible how I aim at influencing – thus I understand leadership – the museum world. However, what was meant as a reflection about my beliefs and principles turned out to be a formula, my formula for exhibition stories. I should not have been so surprised. Storytelling is the core of my motivation for my work – it is the heart. So the formula which I will present here bit by bit over the next days, is a lot about stories, a lot more about exhibitions and a good deal about me.


Exhibition stories = Structure + Emotion + Attitude + Magic

This formula explains my understanding of exhibitions and therefore my self-understanding as exhibition dramaturge. Like stories, exhibitions should not only consists of information but also emotions, otherwise they resemble prosaic reports. The concept of an exhibition can, like the concept of a story, be planned up to a certain point (important!) but cannot be controlled from this point on (magic!). The audience is no factor of its own in my formula because as addressees of the stories they are contained in every aspect, they are the most important entity. The most significant challenge of my work and my central responsibility is to make the stories so comprehensible and attractive that the audience can easily and willingly grasp them.

Next time: Structure!