of an Exhibition

by Paul Orselli

Published on April 13, 2007

  • Description:

    Like much of The City Museum, in St. Louis, this exhibition on the history of toasters(!)
    is an interesting admixture of elements. For history/technology/industrial design buffs there are chronologically arranged displays of toasters that help give one the sense of this ubiquitous appliance. For breakfast food buffs, there is is the wonderful addition of a volunteer surrounded by working toasters and a big loaf of bread, offering to make you a piece of toast. Because of this, even before you see the exhibition entrance you keep thinking, “Is that toast I smell?”

Latest Comments (3)

I propose a toast...

by Daniel Spock - March 28, 2008

…to Toasters! I saw this exhibit and, like Paul, I was completely smitten. Even in the super innovative, high energy context of the City Museum, it really shone for all of its modest wit. In particular, I liked the simplicity of the conception and design and the use of real toasting and the delicious toasty aromas. The approach has influenced a couple of offerings at the MN History Center including an exhibit we did a few years back on action figures — specifically the idea of taking a really simple, commonplace thing and doing the hell out of it in an exhibit. Also, when we did Mill City Museum, we wanted a place that smelled good, a sensory feature that usually gets utterly ignored by museums, so we added a baking kitchen. The place smells like cake!

don't knock it

by Eric Siegel - June 24, 2008

When I went to City Museum during AAM some years past, I was similarly, quietly, blown away by their exhibition on door knockers. A couple of hundred door knockers were arrayed across the wall, and their variety, ingenuity, and modest beauty was well displayed. But the revelatory thing was a cartoon strip, maybe 15 frames long, which was the only exhibit “text.” It showed the process that the “curator” went through to get his hands on these fabulous knockers (sorry). Whenever he saw a great knocker, he would go to the door and ask the owner if he could borrow it for an exhibition. The owners were surprised and generally willing to lend their unnoticed ornament.

It was a totally unexpected and welcome view into the making of an exhibition, presented unpretentiously and engagingly.

How do they do it?


What DOESN'T happen at The City Museum

by Paul Orselli - June 24, 2008

I’m sure an exhibition on door knockers at a museum with a history and/or architectural focus would not have been nearly as interesting as The City Museum’s version.

I would commend to your attention an interview in NAME’s journal, The Exhibitionist, several years back with the founder behind The City Museum, entitled, “I Just Want To Make Stuff.”

His disdain for what many museum professionals consider “crucial elements” of the exhibit development process was both scary and exhilarating - sort of like The City Museum itself.

I’d say that the conspicuous absence of planning committees, grant money, and evaluation experts has a lot to do with it, too.

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