A multimedia journey full of encounters The exhibition design of Interactions: centuries of commerce, combat and creation.
The new House of European History hosts its first temporary exhibition entitled Interactions: centuries of commerce, combat and creation. The Dutch exhibition design studio Kossmann.dejong and construction company Bruns were appointed to design and create this exhibition together with Kiss the Frog (interaction design) and Shosho (audiovisual design). In a multimedia journey through narrative, themed spaces visitors are invited to learn more about the age-old history of European connections and, at the same time, new interactions between visitors are stimulated.
The House of European History is situated in the historic Eastman building from 1935, which was renovated and extended by Chaix & Morel et Associés and JSWD Architekten. The 500m² temporary exhibition occupies the first two floors, and is connected by a monumental staircase and void. The exhibition design is based on two different but interwoven museum concepts. On the first floor, the objects are the focus while on the second floor the stories form the starting point of the design.
For visual coherence both exhibition floors feature graphic walls with large photographic images and reproductions of paintings, which also set the context for the varying subthemes. The other connecting element is the void that features a large interactive map of Europe. Both during the visit and online, the public can answer questions about their personal experiences with cross-border interaction such as, ‘Where did you go on holidays’, or ‘Where does your favourite food originate?’ By visualising this input in the interactive map, this creates a collective web of European interactions. In this way, the focus lies on the connections instead of the boundaries and the visitors themselves become part of the exhibition.
While the first and second floors are visually connected, they also differ both in their design as well as narrative approach. On the first floor, different theatrical settings are created for each of the four subthemes (trade, fight, negotiate and learn). Integrated into graphic walls or placed in separate vitrines, the artefacts are complemented by personal stories and playful hands-on elements that encourage visitors to actively engage with other visitors. For example, in the maze game of the ‘negotiation’ themed space, visitors can only overcome the obstacles and finish the game through collaborating with other players.
The second floor is designed as an eclectic ‘European house’. In the intimate surrounds of a kitchen, office, living room, library, games room and bedroom visitors are challenged to find ‘The European story’ behind everyday objects. For example, after touching one of the dishes on the dining table visitors are ‘served’ an animation about the origin of that particular dish. And looking up from the four-poster-bed in the bedroom, they discover that fairy tales from different European countries share many similarities.
Through its multi-layered quality, diversity of information on offer and mix of media and communication tools, the exhibition becomes an exciting and educational journey of discovery about European interconnectivity for all visitors.