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Q & A at the Stedelijk

Nearing the end of its first incarnation the Stedelijk Museum's Q&A design booth almost never made it onto the exhibition floor.  Funding shortages were overcome, however, and the interactive communication installation continues to keep visitors connected to the issues.

By Gabrielle Kennedy / 07-02-2013

When the Stedelijk Museum reopened in Amsterdam late last year, the design curators were adamant that a permanent interactive Q & A booth be set up for visitors.

The idea is to have an iconic piece of Dutch design on display with a media unit close by.  In it visitors can pose questions to designers, producers, curators and restorers about the displayed object.

The problem was that as the reopening date drew near, the design department ran out of cash.

“Design presentations are really expensive,” explains industrial design curator Ingeborg de Roode.  “And for the reopening we needed all new display materials so in the end we didn’t have any money left for the Q&A section or sveral other parts of the installation.”

But De Roode knew it would be a great way to really involve visitors and tear down barriers that so often make people feel confused by and ultimately alienated from museum exhibits.

There was really no time left to start approaching companies that the design curators did not know well.  Instead, they went directly to those that they had a close working relationship with.  “Designers, colleagues, producers … people that we have always worked closely with,” De Roode says.

Surprisingly and contrary to expectations, the design curators found the 150 000 euros - half in cash and half in kind and could realize their vision.  Designer Bruno Ninaber van Eyben, for example, kindly offered to design the Q&A booth.

Visitors can sit behind the booth and away form the museum traffic to direct their questions via a camera onto a screen.  The questions are directed to the relevant person and answered.

The first Q&A object is Dick van Hoff’s Tile Stove project for Royal Tichelaar Makkum.

“We get questions about how heavy it is, and chilren ask if it can be really used because of course they have not grown up with fires,” De Roode says.

Next up will be a poster where visitors are free to ask questions on everything from colour to typography.

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