Structure in Exhibits

A couple of weeks ago, Facebook reminded me of what my status update was a year ago. Being the sentimental and nostalgic guy that I am, I was reminded of a trip to St. Louis, Missouri, that I took with my family at the same time last year. I decided to go back and look at the pictures to relive the good times and to see how much my hair line had changed in twelve months.

As with most of my family vacation photo files, I have more pictures of signs and exhibits than I do of my children. I get to see my children every day. I may not ever have a chance to see a great use of a complementary color palette at a museum in Missouri ever again. It also keeps your kids’ egos in check by letting them know that it is not all about them.

While browsing through the images I came across a few images that I haven’t shared before of a really cool exhibit featuring the architecture of the Gateway Arch. The exhibit is not at the arch itself but at the St. Louis Science Center.

Here are some images and thoughts.

The design of this structures exhibit was clean and architectural in nature. I love how the materials echo raw materials of a construction site. Even the justified text could represent building blocks. Of course it could have been designed by someone who likes squares, but I think it was purposeful.

These panels continue the consistent message presented on the orientation sign. The concept is expanded with the blueprint-type symbols and open-ended question approach. Of course this is enough to bore my children to death (though death by type is underrated). This was the option that really inspired them…

These pillow building blocks allow children to practice what it takes to build an arch. You will notice that Anna (in the middle) is restraining her younger brother William (the destroyer) so we could get the picture of the complete arch.

This is not related to the structure exhibit, but I just had to share it. I’m not sure what incident led up to the creation of this sign but it was warranted, trust me. Do you have any ideas?

Taking Liberty with Lady Liberty

Okay, for those really paying attention (Paul and Jeff) I said at the end of my post last week “Next week a planned impromptu stop in Mississippi.” This is not that post. I’ll have to save it for another week because there is something more current that I just couldn’t pass up writing about.

Whenever possible, I try to quote rappers. Many quote Gandhi, Mother Theresa, and past presidents. I prefer Jay-Z. Nothing says “I’m terrific!” (Kelly Farrell, 04.19.2011) like dropping a little flow into daily conversations. Z’s (that’s what I call him) Blueprint 3 is one of the most critically acclaimed hip hop albums in years. One of the signature songs, “D.O.A.” is my favorite (or as the kids say these days, the schizzle – ca. 2004).

Perhaps one of reasons I have always been drawn to rap is that I can’t sing. I mean, I can sing, just no one wants to hear it. In Jay’s (something else I call him from time to time) “D.O.A.” (Death of Auto-Tune) he takes on the over use of Auto-Tune in the music industry. For those of you who don’t know what Auto-Tune does, Wikipedia says, “Auto-Tune uses a phase vocoder to correct pitch in vocal and instrumental performances. It is used to disguise off-key inaccuracies and mistakes, and has allowed singers to perform perfectly tuned vocal tracks without needing to sing in tune.” I particularly like the song, since he is calling out several rappers/singers for “T-Paining too much.” He challenges artists to not be lazy by trying to cover their mistakes/shortcomings, and has a mad beat with a crazy clarinet that I just can’t get enough of.

I tell you that to tell you this: Sometimes you just have to own up to a mistake and not try to cover it with tracks filtered through Auto-Tune. The United States Post Office (or the USPS, as I sometime call them) made a mistake this week and have yet to fully own up to it. I’ve been responsible for publications and a logo that will go unnamed where a mistake was caught after it was printed and several hundred promotional pins and bookmarks were produced and distributed. I can relate to the Post Office’s pain somewhat—though they printed 3 billion of their mistake.

A new stamp being offered this year features the Statue of Liberty. Upon closer investigation by the folks at Linn’s Stamp News they noticed that the photo being used was not Lady Liberty of Liberty Island in New York Harbor, New York, but Lucky Lady Liberty of the New York New York Hotel and Casino of Las Vegas, Nevada. I love Linn’s Stamp News’ attention to detail and the fact that they have a website that is possibly nerdier than IBD. That’s a jab at them and they have over 40,000 subscribers. (We have 714 followers on Facebook. According to my caluculations I will be 73 before we reach 40,000.)

Linn’s noticed that the Lady Liberty of the stamp had additional sculptural features and less worn and tired eyes than the real Lady Liberty (which I have no doubt is related to the relationship between her and her prodigal baseball sons the Mets and the Yankees; I’ll leave it to you to figure out which team is which son).

The image was purchased from a stock photo agency (Getty Images) that simply labeled it “Statue of Liberty” and the USPS took it at face value (uh, sorry). They are standing by their choice. According to a USPS spokesperson, “We still love the stamp design and would have selected this photograph anyway.” They have no plans to pull it out of circulation. They also report that they like how tall black boots look with blue denim-like shorts and that dogs really are their friends.

Just because it looks good, it is a great image, and is well designed doesn’t make it authentic. If a design represents a universal concept, such as freedom in this case, all credibility is lost in the presentation by using an unrelated, though similar image. For years I have encouraged interpreters who I have worked with to take their own images of park resources to add authenticity to their programs. They may not be as good of an image at the New York, New York image, but authentic images improve the quality of their message. Interpretive sites should rely on their authenticity to bring responses out of visitors.

This is a stamp, and yes, I can’t wait to buy some now. I know most people don’t care. As interpreters, we must care about the products we produce, the messages we send, and the experiences we create. If you are representing something as important as freedom, you better get it right.

Now I’m going to go download the T-Pain app so I can read this post back as if T-Pain were singing it.

For those really paying attention (not just Paul) I have another great (0kay, that’s more than presumptuous) post on stamps coming soon.