Out the showcases of museums… PART II by Roberto Concas


    Author’s note: In dealing with this second part of the article “Out the showcases from museums…PART I”, as a “due” act, I declare the possible conflicts of personal interest having as others, designed, built and set up museum showcases.



    Having said this, a first consideration is aimed at highlighting how the theme of the museum displays in the showcase is substantially devoid of bibliography, if not really “scientific” even methodological, but there are still some examples that can be defined as technical-technological and architectural-expository display of the spaces, even valuable ones.

    The topic “showcase” is certainly better and methodologically treated for the commercial and visual merchandising aspects, where the costs-benefits become tangible, different in museums where it seems that the experience of excavation, study, research or museum management is enough to proceed with the preparation of the showcase, without too much elaboration of thought.

    In addition, two considerations to highlight that the installations take place too close to the opening of an exhibition or museum and that the designer, museologist and curator meet little or nothing, with the specifications prevailing.


    The matter becomes an interesting terrain, touching on paradoxical aspects to the point of deserving an exercise on the thread of a possible reduction ad absurdum” for which it is possible to affirm: Away with the windows from museums!

    The elaboration of the thought on the shop windows would need a small treatise, a space of its own and not already cut out or budded from other subjects, but developed in the actions of study and realization.

    The “De Vetrina“, could be the title, naturally without comparison with Lucio Vitruvio Pollione’s De Architectura.

    Beyond the divertissement we see instead an analysis of the multiple aspects that motivate the need for a better articulated study in thought.

    National Archaeological Museum of Nuoro – Regional Directorate of Sardinian Museums MIbact – Roberto Concas Project – 3D visualization Annetta Cabras


    Shall we try razing existing shop windows to the ground and guess what to do next?


    Let’s draw up a simple list of some types of showcases, however extendible:

    1. The custom windows: Designed for the display of one or more precious and unique objects to be exhibited for a very long time; they are made in a sartorial way and are distinguished by the quality of the construction materials, for the exclusively dedicated supports, for the specificity of the lights, for the strength of the glass, the safety, the microclimate, the sensors, the stability even anti-seismic, the armor, the closures and the access and cleaning methods.
    1. Showcases for museum collections: These showcases respond to the specific needs of the collections, with appropriate dimensions and shapes, although standardized in the series, while allowing the overall layout of the museum. These showcases do not always “stand out” for their quality, but for the compromise between the functional solution and the furnishing of the spaces.
    1. The showcases to qualify the architectural spaces: These are furnishings that intervene for the qualification of interior architectural spaces with weak characterizations, poor or modest quality of spatial structures and finishes. For these types we sometimes see “totalizing” fittings or representing the “good furniture” in an attempt to make you forget the rest!
    1. The museum showcases without collection or generalist: They are designed to house different goods or not defined by the client during the design process. Similar to those of the fixed collection, they differ for a minimum but functional equipment of displays, they are spacious enough to display larger pieces, such as clothes, white weapons, tools.   
    1. The transparent showcases: Showcases without frames or aligned with the walls as niches. They are showcases realized for precise museum choices or forced by other conditions, they stand out for the absence of structures, for the “fragility” of the shapes, but sometimes also for the imposing elegance.
    1. The showcases rooms: Showcase room large and functional to the reconstruction of spaces and dioramas. They are showcases of a certain and useful functionality for the abundant spaces they offer inside where it is possible to recreate environments, place supports and goods even of large dimensions.
    1. Hosting or unresolved showcases: These are the little-used showcases in a museum that are often reserved for temporary exhibitions, or intended to host a “Under construction” sign. They will always remain as “unresolved showcases” because the collection has proved insufficient or because they are placed in sacrificed architectural spaces.

    Leaving aside to go into more detail, let us now consider, using the same method, some examples of internal fittings of goods:   

    1. Exhibited in diachronic chronological order: Goods arranged by increasing dates, with risks of interruption of the sequence, offer an easy view to visitors;
    2. Grouped by homogeneous or synchronic dates: Objects that follow a similar order of dating but are subdivided into groups with different shapes, materials, styles, even different from each other;
    3. Sorted by type: Objects of the same type ordered regardless of origin, date, material or other that should be indicated;
    4. Distinguished for quality, value or historical value: Objects chosen from the collection and significant for some aspects widely and universally recognized;
    5. Sorted by visual satisfaction: Objects “collection” ordered according to a hypothetical and preliminary visual – aesthetic satisfaction;
    6. Sorted by state of preservation: Objects selected because they are intact in material and form, or the opposite also applies because they are fragmentary;
    7. Exhibited by stylistic assonance: Objects similar to each other but of which there is no precise information, for example, excavation area, stratigraphy, provenance;
    8. Sorted by size: Objects arranged in such a way that the different dimensions stand out in the comparison, whether they are single-scaled or otherwise;
    9. Sorted by material: similar objects grouped together in groups or arranged according to the construction material: wood, stone, bronze, ivory;
    10. (10)Sorted by chromatism: Exhibition of fabrics, sculptures, ceramics, equal or similar in size and construction technique, but similar or distinct in chromatism;
    11. (11)Sorted by type of shape: Objects similar in type or function (pots-tools) that vary in shape;
    12. (12)Arranged for aesthetics: Objects selected by collectors according to a personal aesthetic taste;
    13. (13)Sorted by area of origin: Similar or different objects but grouped by geographical area or archaeological excavation;
    14. (14) Arranged by notoriety: Objects that visitors require or expect to find at the museum regardless of their historical location or type;
    15. (15) Arranged for different conservation needs: Objects to be exhibited with a few lux, or with special and continuous air conditioning;
    16. (16) Arranged by weight or static stability: Objects that require sturdy display supports, special supports or other;


    In some installations, for reasons of so-called scientific completeness, works are exhibited in a certain abundance and loaded with information, an exhibition mode defined as: Horror Vacui.

    This is because the collective fruition assigns approval ratings on the quantity of the works seen, leaving the other historical, cultural or stylistic aspects in the background.


    The storytelling of the museums, but also their true soul with their real values, flows in these barely mentioned installations.

    For those who want to “read” between the lines, the showcases become an open book about the museum and its curators, from which emerges the form, the syntax, the exhibition grammar of the museum, both as masterpieces and as horrors!    

    The list is not exhaustive, but only an indicative summary for a discussion that confirms the need to deal with specialist studies, avoiding the “do-it-yourself” of home showcases, waiting at least for a technical manual: the De Vetrina.


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