Museum Park Reflects Changing Preferences

Raleigh's North Carolina Museum of Art is redesigning its extensive grounds with an eye toward how public interaction with museums is shifting. Inclusion, sustainability, and brand development are paramount.
April 4, 2016, 7am PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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The outdoor areas next to museums and cultural institutions often feel like afterthoughts, as if to remind passers-by that the real treasures are inside. In Raleigh, the North Carolina Museum of Art wants to change that with a 17-acre, $13 million park project that will be a focal point for visitors.  

The space will function as a park rather than an outdoor gallery. "'We are dead set against overpopulating this area with works of art,' said Lawrence J. Wheeler, the museum's director. 'We are not trying to create a sculpture garden but a unifying idea of what people perceive as a museum and what they perceive as a park.'"

J. Peder Zane discusses a shift in how the public interacts with museums, away from exclusive "fine arts" and toward a more multifaceted experience. "For many museums, this means viewing everything they do — the buildings they commission, the meals they serve, the gifts they sell — as integral to their mission. Instead of treating amenities as necessary evils, the institutions see them as opportunities to develop a museum brand."

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Published on Tuesday, March 15, 2016 in The New York Times
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