Thursday, February 14, 2008

My thoughts on the Da Vinci exhibit

Tuesday I had an opportunity to see the "Leonardo Da Vinci: Man | Inventor | Genius" exhibit at the Putnam. I'm a pretty nerdy guy, so seeing some of his assorted inventions created in the modern world, and being able to use (play with) them was pretty appealing to me.

Personally, I enjoyed it plenty, which I'll get into later. But... I had free tickets. The exhibit is $12, which to my surprise does not include admission into the rest of the museum. I didn't even realize that the Putnam had the capability to do this, but they do, and I think it actually worked quite well. You go in a separate door into the theater area, and then through there into the exhibit area. I could definitely see them doing something like this again in the future. Extra special exhibits, with an extra fee, have become pretty common at museums around the country. I paid probably around $12 extra beyond regular admission at the Phoenix Science Center to see a traveling James Bond exhibit. So was it a good deal for people paying $12?

If you're a Da Vinci fan, I would definitely say it is worth it. There are literally dozens of wooden models of some of the many things he sketched and invented. There are also a number of computer screens scattered around the exhibit with 3D animations of how those inventions, and others, would work in the real world. One of my few complaints with the exhibit itself was that the computer program didn't seem that polished, but it was pretty easy to understand, and all the screens were working. One of the complaints I had heard about the exhibit was that some of the things weren't working, which wasn't the case on my visit. All of the pieces that you could operate seemed to be working fine. There was indeed a bucket under a leak in the roof, but hey, "you go to exhibits with the museum you have." I hate when museums have broken exhibits, so I was glad that ours didn't. There were several school groups there at the time, and the kids seemed to be enjoying all the hands-on activity just fine.

The verdict? If this exhibit had been in the regular museum, it would have probably been the best exhibit they've ever had. Even doubling the museum admission price to $12 during the exhibit would have been fine by me. As a stand-alone exhibit for $12, I felt it was a bit steep. I was also disappointed that they don't offer discounts for museum members, which my sister is. Don't start chalking me up as a negative guy now, I did like the exhibit. I just hope that if the Putnam gets traveling world-renowned exhibits again, they include regular museum admission with the special ehxibit price.

13 Comments:

At 2/14/2008 8:53 AM, Blogger Matt said...

I thought it was poor all-around, and respectfully disagree on several levels. one one hand, you have the Putnam's physical/operational problems of the leaky roof, bad lighting (sometimes no lighting on panels), etcetera. but i won't dwell on those; rather, i'll nitpick the exhibit itself. i do have experience in exhibit development at a major museum, so i might drop some museum-speak here and there, but i don't mean to come off as someone thinking he's a know-it-all wth this stuff because i'm really just a novice with only about 4 years time in that role. this is more a "i can't believe this show is billed internationally as the be-all, end-all to leonardo lovers." it was FAR short of that to me — a huge fan of the man when looking at the big picture of all other renaissance artists. on the other hand... my beefs might not be fair because i'm guessing the Putnam received the "smaller model" of this traveling exhibit. has anyone seen pics from the MSI installment? quite different:
http://www.msichicago.org/scrapbook/scrapbook_exhibits/leonardo/tour/index.html

but back to ours...
starting an exhibit off with a timeline that overwhelms people with a large amount of the same size and look of text to read is both an exhibit development and graphic design nightmare. an F- in exhibit development 101. there will always be the 10 to 15% of an exhibit-going audience that enjoys the more text-heavy, "scholarly" types of exhibits, but most people retain and understand information presented like that much better if it is split up and distributed sporadically throughout the entire exhibit. a multi-faceted, layered approach. some people learn visually. some by listening. some by seeing the computer interactives. some by using the mechanical interactives. to me, the exhibit read like the most simple of outlines - A... B... C... D - where you kind of hit one type of learner once, not steadily throughout the entire space.

"here's the timeline of leonardo's life. here's a really awful live performance by some guy with a beard, talking like Super Mario (well... maybe it was good for children, i don't know). now enjoy some interactives... but wait! - even though everything is presented in the same manner and looks the same, you can only touch half of these things, people! and now we'll throw in some computer interactives."

i would have much better enjoyed a cross-layering of all these facets - all these components. a smaller, introductory bio and/or timeline that educates on his early life. more images. and hey - add in some of his artworks throughout the ages, so inventions that might not be so well-known are now placed into a context that far more people know - "at about the time leanoardo painted the Mona Lisa (large image), he was working on X (interactive model with supplemental computer station)... after the completion of the Last Supper (large image), he focused now on Y and Z more (interactive models with supplemental computer stations). you get my drift.

i won't get into details because i'm totally blogwhoring this and writing in a hurry. but i did want to add one more thing - the flow of the exhibit was incredibly awful. NO ONE makes you go through a linear exhibit like that, filled with blocked off doors, and makes you walk all the way out what you've already seen when you are finished. or if you need the bathroom. or if you're a senior who'd like to sit down for a break, away from everyone.

 
At 2/14/2008 9:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where did you get the free tickets, Image?

 
At 2/14/2008 11:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a member of the Putnam you are also granted entry to other museums around the US free of charge like the Field Museum and Science & Industry in Chicago. I have use my membershipto attend these museums free of charge. However, I have also paid to see special exhibits. It is very costly to obtain outside exhibits. I did enjoy the exhibit and all of the hands on and computer were in working order. For a cold January day it was a great place for the three of us to spend time.

 
At 2/14/2008 12:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would have liked to take my family to see the exhibit, but the price is to steep.

 
At 2/14/2008 4:34 PM, Blogger QuadCityImages said...

I actually won the tickets in the "Contests and More" section of the QCTimes website. (Insert your conspiracy theory here)

According to my sister, she would get discounted admission into special exhibits at the St. Louis museum with her Putnam membership, but didn't at ours. I thought that was kind of strange. If they'd gone with $12 for the museum/exhibit together, they could have let people out at the end instead of making them walk back through the exhibit. Then they could have just charged members the difference between the normal admission and the "Admission+Da Vinci" price.

 
At 2/14/2008 6:54 PM, Blogger pioneer98 said...

I thought it was a neat exhibit, but it was pretty small, especially for the price tag and the international billing. Remember that the "Last Supper" and the other paintings were supposed to be part of it, but were down at the Figge due to space constaints.

So, unless you were a member or won tix like QCI, technically you'd have to pay $19 to see the whole thing. Maybe they should have done something where you could show your ticket from one museum to get a discount (or free admission) at the other. They really didn't cross-promote like that at all. In fact, I'd like to see them cross-promote each other even when they aren't sharing exhibits. I think they could benefit from each other.

 
At 2/14/2008 8:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I brought my children to both the Figge and the Putnam. I paid a really crazy amount of money for the exhibit and the museums in general. Like - a lot. My children love the Putnam and begged me to take them to both. So I did, to my regret. The Vinci was a bust for the price. My suggestion is to go on the Internet read about the guy and them go play with wood.

 
At 2/15/2008 9:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If one wants to see an unboring local blog go to daytrotter. Images just reads the Quad City Times and pisses their dumbo into the snow. Yellow. uncreative and boring. That is why bbIkes slated him for recognition.

 
At 2/15/2008 10:48 AM, Blogger Matt said...

9:32 - kind of apples and oranges, isn't it? indie rock/folk studio sessions versus local development/politics/events?

also, sean's "blogosphere" section links to other authors' writings/reviews. am i missing something? i haven't been there in a few weeks.

 
At 2/15/2008 5:57 PM, Blogger QuadCityImages said...

Feel free to take a 100% refund on your membership fee, 9:32. And don't let the blog door hit you on the way out.

 
At 2/15/2008 6:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

QCi is a yes man. Sorry buddy. YOu are the Bob McGivern of the blog world. Yes sir, no sir. And all that....

 
At 2/15/2008 10:25 PM, Blogger pioneer98 said...

6:03 and 9:32 - Why do you guys read this blog? I think people actually enjoy complaining sometimes.

 
At 2/18/2008 8:38 PM, Blogger Michele said...

The exhibit was okay. Interesting enough. But the price was way too steep (for just two adults) and I was not pleased that the regular museum exhibits were not included. I can't imagine if we'd had a couple older kids... ours is only one so we didn't have to pay for him.

I was considering buying a family membership to the putnam, but may rethink that if they do not give discounts to the special exhibits. That was the main reason I was considering it... even just a buck or two off.

 

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