A Hinge between Library and Exhibition Space: MeLa Project’s Open Call

It often happens that common exhibition formats, which have been developed for unique, valuable objects –artworks–, create subtle barriers that prevent the public from physically accessing the exhibited objects: frames, vitrines, security distances, projections instead of originals… These exhibition display standards, however, tend to be problematic when it comes to organizing, curating and/or installing documentary exhibitions, where the exhibited objects are documents intended to be read –or, at least, leafed through–, and not just “contemplated” through the protective glass of a vitrine or a frame on the wall.

We had the chance to research and explore alternative exhibition formats with the help of external specialists when, in 2010, we were invited to take part in “MeLa: European Museums in an Age of Migrations”, a four-year research project funded by the European Commission (FP7), aimed to delineate new approaches for museums in the context of migrations of people, cultures, ideas, information and knowledge in the global world.

Within this project, at the MACBA Study Center we developed a Call for Architecture Proposals for the redesign of our exhibition space and display system. This call was addressed to postgraduate architecture students in Europe, so that, arising from this invitation, some architecture and design faculties turned our call’s requisites into course projects: in Barcelona, the Escola Superior d’Architectura de Barcelona and the Escola Eina; in Milan, the architecture department of the Polytechnic Institute; in Naples, The Faculty of Architecture. Over a period of a year, the Study Center received visits from many groups of under- and postgraduates who wanted to analyse in situ the Center’s characteristics and spaces, and the positive and negative features of its headquarters, especially of what had come to be used as an exhibition space.

At the end of the period for the submission of presentations, the Study Center had received a total of forty-one proposals from 180 students of architecture and design. This exercise of shared concerns and research with young professionals turned out to be rewarding and productive, both for the academia and for the institution. Its results, in the form of a digital publication, can be seen here.