Hidden Treasures: An Experiment

The exhibition Hidden Treasures: An Experiment, began with eight paintings. These particular works were chosen for conservation and further study, after years in the storage at the Detroit Institute of Art. Researchers discovered fascinating new information about the paintings. However, only a few sentences of that knowledge could appear on a museum label. That’s where Flutter & Wow came in, to design a way for museum visitors to play a role in the interpretation of the art — a safe and accessible way for visitors to vote on exhibit labels.

First, DIA faculty wrote labels about two aspects of each of the eight paintings. Flutter & Wow designed and presented these labels in custom, free-standing reader rails. Then we invited visitors to examine the paintings, juxtaposed with the two variations of label text. Using colorful, fluffy pompoms, visitors cast a vote for which label they preferred for each painting. They were asked to think about the story of each painting. Which of the two labels did they find most interesting? Which told the story of the painting the best way?

Finally, after votes were tallied, Hidden Treasures reopened as a regular exhibition. Labels featured the winning stories. Visitors were invited to comment and read arrange the comments of others on a large wall display.

This exhibit required a unique two-phase participatory experience in order to produce the final labels. Flutter & Wow worked closely with DIA to create an experience visitors of all ages could enjoy, at any point during the two-phase experiment. We also supplied gallery layout, graphic design and unique custom signage.