Twenty-Forth Annual Excellence in Exhibitions 2012

The Excellence in Exhibitions Competition recognizes exhibitions for overall excellence or for stretching the limits of exhibition content and design through innovation. Entries are peer reviewed based on criteria in seven major categories: audience awareness; content and education; curatorship and collections; evaluation; interpretation and communication; design and production; and human comfort and accessibility. Awards are sponsored by four of AAM's Professional Networks including the Committee on Audience Research and Evaluation (CARE), Curators Committee (CurCom), Education Committee (EdCom) and National Association of Museum Exhibition (NAME). Elizabeth Kunz Kollmann, the 2012 Excellence in Exhibitions Competition coordinator, said of this year’s entries, “I was really impressed with the 18 entries that we received for the Excellence in Exhibitions competition this year. Not only did they represent a broad range of topics from  rock and roll music to folk art to state history, they also showed a commitment of these museums to exceptional design, addressing visitor needs, providing extraordinary educational opportunities, and tackling tough content.”

2012 Awards

Overall Excellence: Detroit Institute of Arts, Through African Eyes: The European in African Art, 1500 to the Present

This temporary exhibition examined works of art created over 500 years that serve as a visual record of diverse, evolving relationships between Africans and Westerners. The core intent of the show was to present Africans’ perspectives on a range of topics, including pre-existing beliefs about whiteness, trade and settlement, slavery and colonization, assimilation and resistance, and contemporary economic, political, and cultural globalization. The Excellence in Exhibitions Competition chose this exhibition as its overall winner because of the project’s excellent integration of visitor research and evaluation, inventive design, and clear presentation of challenging content.

Special Distinction – Eloquent Presentation of Topic: Heart Mountain Interpretive Learning Center, Across the Wire: Voices from Heart Mountain

This permanent exhibition explores the stories of World War II internment camps in the United States. Exhibits and displays reveal how rights were denied to Japanese Americans during WWII. Visitors are prompted to think about the relevance of the Heart Mountain experience to current events and the debate about the balance between freedom and national security. The Excellence in Exhibitions Competition chose this exhibition for an award of special distinction because of its sensitive and eloquent presentation of a difficult topic.

Special Distinction – Innovative Reframing of Collections: Natural History Museum, Los Angeles County, Dinosaur Hall

This permanent exhibition brings science to life in ways that are relevant and interesting to audiences and highlights the latest discoveries and the process of scientific discovery about dinosaurs. The exhibition is organized around the major questions that drive scientific research on dinosaurs today such as: “What are dinosaurs?” “What was their world like?” “What were they like as living animals?” and “What happened to them?” The Excellence in Exhibitions Competition chose this exhibition for an award of special distinction because of its inventive and inspired framing of an often-told museum topic.

Special Distinction – Exemplary Inclusion of Community Voices: Oakland Museum of California, Coming to California

This permanent exhibition provides a history of California’s people from pre-contact Native cultures to today. The overall goal of the exhibition is to provide a new type of public space within the museum—an inclusive place of inquiry, reflection, and public conversation about the history of California, with room for ongoing contributions by the museum’s communities over time. The Excellence in Exhibitions Competition chose this exhibition for an award of special distinction because of its strong commitment to addressing community needs and including community voices.

Honorable Mention: The New York Public Library, Three Faiths: Judaism, Christianity, Islam

This temporary exhibition highlighted the New York Public Library’s collection of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic materials with the goal of sharing information about the histories, connections, and differences between the three Abrahamic religions; fostering appreciation for the creation of these materials; and engaging diverse audiences. The Excellence in Exhibitions Competition chose this exhibition for an honorable mention award because of its topical significance, beautiful design, and inclusion of an interactive exhibit space.