Twenty-Sixth Annual Excellence in Exhibitions 2014

This year’s winners were all given Special Distinction awards for their ability to embrace a key aspect of exhibition development and execute it boldly with commitment and passion.

Design for the Modern Child, Philadelphia Museum of Art
Special Distinction: Imaginative Design and Interpretation
The temporary exhibition Design for the Modern Child at the Philadelphia Art Museum was designed for children ages three to ten and their caregivers. The exhibition incorporated interactives and a wide range of objects designed especially for kids including toys, textiles, a video game, furniture, and eating utensils. The goal of the exhibition was to challenge visitors to think differently about the objects they use in their daily lives. Design for the Modern Child embraced children’s inventive potential and the particular notion that children can be creative problem solvers. The exhibition was on display from May to October, 2013.

First Peoples, Museum Victoria
Special Distinction: Innovative Integration of Design and Content
The 13,358 sq ft permanent exhibition, First Peoples, tells the story of Victoria’s Native Peoples from the time of Creation to today. It celebrates the history, culture, achievements, and survival of Victoria’s Aboriginal People—more than 40 Aboriginal language and cultural groups that are still thriving today. The exhibition was developed collaboratively and co-curated with museum staff and a group of cultural and language experts from across Victoria. This group provided cultural leadership, advocacy, support, and access to the wealth of knowledge embedded in traditional communities.
The exhibition attempts to illustrate the complexity of Aboriginal Australia before Europeans arrived. This challenged many visitors’ beliefs about Aboriginal cultures. The exhibition team’s goal was to create a space that was accessible, dynamic, and exciting, and where all visitors could feel welcome to come and share in the stories of Victoria’s First Peoples.

Jungle Trails, Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden
Special Distinction: Exemplary Model of Creating Experiences for Social Engagement
Jungle Trails aims to engage families in meaningful shared experiences and to foster learning about how primates survive in the tropical forest. Family focus groups revealed that people like to compare themselves to animals and to connect personally with individual animals. Kids crave active play, and adults want to engage in that physical play along with the kids. These were among visitor findings that strongly informed the exhibition design. Jungle Trails winds visitors through a two acre path of jungle-type landscape, featuring African and Asian primates, including Sumatran orangutans, gibbons, and bonobos. Jungle Trails is a permanent exhibition at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden.

Nature Lab, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles
Special Distinction: Outstanding Connections Between Design, Content and Community Context
Museum scientists and researchers worked with exhibit developers to identify the key stories to highlight why Los Angeles is a biodiversity hot spot. Animal stories invite visitors to explore the exhibition in fun and unexpected ways. The exhibition’s goal is to surprise visitors with the discovery that nature in L.A. is rich and diverse—and that there’s much more of it than meets the eye. The Excellence in Exhibition Competition chose to give Nature Lab an award of special distinction for its engaging content and design which juxtaposes nature and urban life in creative and open ended ways. Its use of collections and animal stories introduces visitors to a specialized form of museum research— urban biodiversity—in a relevant and personal manner.
Nature Lab is a permanent 6,500 sq ft hands-on gallery with over 200 specimens, live animals, interactives, media, and scientist demonstrations for visitors of all ages.

Shop Life at the Lower Eastside Tenement Museum, New York City
Honorable Mention