Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Good Conversation

A Good Conversation

From the desk of Tim Willis, Director of Exhibitions and Visitor Experience

I can still remember the feeling of disbelief as I left the theatre. I’d just watched a two hour movie featuring two middle aged men having a conversation over dinner. One location, no action, nothing happened. Just two chaps talking. And yet, it was so completely absorbing and memorable. Do you know the movie I’m talking about? See link at end of post.

The debate about the written word in exhibitions is an old ‘chestnut.’ How many words are too much? Is the reading level too high? Do people read anymore anyway? And yet … I’ve been surprised more times than I’d care to admit by how often I’ve found visitors reading with real commitment.

We just tried something new… an exhibition - with a lot of text – and bi-lingual too! Words everywhere! The writing is not tiered, nor is it written to a particular grade level. And the surprise is that visitors are reading it avidly. They start at the start and work their way along, more or less as we’d planned.

A view of The Other Emily Exhibition
What’s different in this new exhibition, ‘The Other Emily’ is that the text is a conversation between two people – a curator and an artist – whom you ‘meet’ at the start of the show. The tone is informal, almost chatty. And it’s personal – two living people talking about artist, Emily Carr from radically different perspectives.

My guess is that visitors are responding the way most of us do when we get the chance to eavesdrop on an interesting conversation.

Tim Willis


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