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From exhibits to spatial culture: an exploration of performing arts collections in museums

Kali Tzortzi, Bill Hillier


In recent years, museums have have increasingly explored a style of display that emphasises the visitors’ multisensory experience of exhibits, as much as their cognitive understanding. At the same time, there has been growing acknowledgement of the significance of the intangible aspects of heritage as dimensions to be understood and nurtured. Against this background, the display of exhibits related to performing arts and the presentations of their ephemeral and intangible aspects in museums become particularly intrigu- ing. This paper seeks to explore the different ways in which performing arts collections are displayed, and how they are affected by, and affect, the spatial and architectural properties of the museum settings. Using the space syntax analysis of space types in association with the framework from the Francophone museological literature of the exhibition as a medium, and of the exhibition space as a ‘synthetic space’ (espace synthétique), we will analyse six museum settings that have clear spatial and architectural intentions with respect to performing arts collections. Their comparative analysis will bring to the surface intriguing common tendencies which relate both to the organisation of the display and to the nature of the spaces in which it is realised. These commonalities, it is suggested, can be thought of as outlining a generic spatial culture through which it is possible to create, in the museum, dimensions of the circumstances in which performances are realised, transmitting some of the living richness of their experience.


spatial culture; museum space; space types; parataxis; experience

Full Text: JOSS_7_2016_P71-86