Natural History in the Joanneum Universal Museum

Graz (Austria)/2010 – 2013

The Universal Museum Joanneum concludes its extensive phase of renovation and redesign with the realignment of the Natural History Museum. The exhibition design is defined by timeless aesthetics and a particular significance of the ambience, in order to take account of the rather high half-life of the permanent exhibition. The historical architecture of the baroque parent house of the museum was thereby the starting point. The exhibition design defers to expression and presence of the historical existence, while it tries at the same time to intensify the impact of the shown objects on the visitor. The artistic fixtures and installations are wherever possible detached from the walls and grouped as “islands” in the rooms. The islands enable the visitor to access objects, materials and models from all sides. It was especially important for the permanent exhibition of the Natural History Museum to create orientation via the ambiances of the rooms. Visitors can thus chose their own tour according to their interest while at the same time positioning themselves at any time with the help of specific artistic elements. The exhibition is in principle organised in two parts, the geological and the bioscientific section. The geological spaces are kept in a dark, seemingly black green. The bioscientific area, which emphasises current topics, is bright and luminous. The ambiance is that of a laboratory. The lighting dramaturgy intensifies the transition between the geological and the bioscientific area. In the course of historical development the spaces become gradually lighter. The Museum of National History Graz differs significantly from conventional presentation forms of scientific museums. The factual, cool, laboratory-like ambiance of the bioscientific area isolates the exhibits from their natural context and shows them in dissecting table-like display cases. This is where specific topics such as the musculoskeletal system of vertebrates are made more accessible to the visitor. Stuffed animals are shown together with their skeleton. Their movement seems frozen and is thus comprehensible. Monitors are added to the individual stagings, inviting the visitor to engage further in the movement type and physiology of various animals.