Over my extended vacation this past holiday, we went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to see their exhibit, Women Who Rock. I think I've said it before, some guy dig women with guns, women on motorcycles, women who like football, but for me there's very few things that can top a women in a rock and roll band. Fronting, playing guitar (of any stripe), drummers, whatever; they're damn sexy. So I totally expected this show to be fantastic.
Unfortunately it was full of fail. Not the women themselves, not even the local photographer's pictures that weren't displayed with the actual show, but 4 floors away in a side room, but the actual displays, which mostly consisted of dresses and album covers. Now, I'm sure the curation, research, and organization were just fantastic, but you really couldn't tell. See, they put the show on the top two floors (which used to be the actual Hall of Fame part, which was much better when it was there, BTW) which are the smallest spaces they have. Just one of the galleries on the lowest level hold more square footage than both top floors (the place is a pyramid, they were big when the place was designed and IM Pei was trying to redeem himself from the Louvre glass pyramid controversy). So it made for a very cramped space to hold a major show. With the number of people viewing the displays, and placing the actual informational text at the bottom of the full length displays, it was nearly impossible to read all that curation stuff. Then, because of the cramped space, objects were severely overlapped so it was difficult to see the album covers, sheet music, and other random artifacts displayed on the walls behind the dresses.
Plus, it was so cramped it was difficult to move around. Didn't you all at the Hall expect this to be well attended? I mean, you cut off half the entrance way by a pop-up scrim, which also decreased the natural light flowing into the space. And the Hall has been open for, what, over a decade now and you haven't been able to solve the heating problem on the top level? Seriously, it was broiling up there. Put in adequate ventilation, that would solve the problem. And placing the two video screens (noticeably inadequate compared to other displays) in exactly the wrong places and positions so people viewing what was on the screen blocked other people trying to view items in the display cases behind them (there was no place else for the people viewing the video to stand), fail.
And since we're talking about the physical space and traffic flows, just WTF were you thinking with the minimal spacing between the display cases in the middle of the floor? Also, I know there's another exit from the top floor that leads back down to where you now have the HoF. I couldn't find it. And I knew it was there, but I had to go back down through the display to leave. I wasn't the only one.
And then there were the display graphics. Really? Putting the major advances of women in R'nR on 12" paper "records" and pasted at different heights along the wall? Are we in grade school? Are we doing a bulletin board at the local YMCA? And did you forget that at the top of the circular stair there are no lights so you couldn't read the last few? And then there's the quotes along the stairwell wall on the top floor. They stretch too far around the circular low wall that you can't read the entire quote from one standing position, and they often run behind the standing display cases, so you can't read those. Then the sitting platform that runs around the wall was the only sitting spot in the show. When people who were tired of climbing and affected by the heat would sit down, they would block the quotes even more. People sitting on the seats obviously were often bored because they peeled off some of the letters, which again made them hard to read. And the screen on the top level slowed down the traffic circling in the cramped space which made the heat worse as well as trying to see the actual displays. Then there was the lack of indication of which way we should go to leave the exhibit.
Look, this stuff isn't hard. I know you have professionals on staff, did you let the interns run wild on this one? It was very amateurish. The flow of people in the exhibits, the design of the exhibits, the lighting, the sound space, and the access to the space - fail, fail, fail.
That's all before we get to the prize of your show, the Lady Ga Ga Meat Dress. Not impressed. Especially with painting it "to make it look fresh." It didn't. In fact it made it look completely artificial, like it was plastic. I know the drying processes darkened the meat to a jerky like appearance, but that would have been better (maybe with a photo of it "fresh").
Then we get to the general Hall flow. I appreciate that with the escalators (hey, there's 6 floors, you need to use them a lot) you wanted people to walk the long way around so visitors will look at all the exhibits or something. It kept throwing me off. I expected to get off the escalator, make a 180 turn and get on the next one going my way. Instead, while going up say, the escalator right next to the top of the escalator going up was the bottom of the escalator coming down from the floor above. Instead you need to walk the long way around to the opposite side of the escalator column to get either the next one up, or to go back down. This goes against every other escalator set up I have ever used. It's called "learned behavior" and you're screwing with it. Again, I wasn't the only one who had this problem.
That the final down escalator dumps you into the gift store really isn't a problem, although by that point it's like the final insult, instead of feeling "natural." And then lets talk about the gift store. And here let me say I know you outsource the actual running of the store to FYE (formerly Camelot, IIRC). But, it's still in your building and is allowed to represent you).
While I normally wear sold color t-shirts, I really do love a good designed t-shirt. And you had some excellent ones. Not in my size. And yet there were some t-shirts in my size (so it's not like you don't offer 4-5x sizes, just not in the t-shirts I really liked - like the lightning guitar shirt). And then I wanted a show t-shirt. Okay, you're graphics for the show weren't all that good (at this point that was the least of the fails, hey, I'm available and I'm relatively cheap), but like I said above, women in rock and roll = roawr roawr. But you didn't offer a show t-shirt for men. You only offered a princess cut t-shirt for the "Rocker Girls." Fail. Didn't you think that there are actual guys who like women rockers? Did you think only "the chickeroos" would come to the show? Fail. Fail, and did I mention, Fail. Oh, and how long ago was the Elvis show and I can still buy items for that one?
Then no postcards of the show, no mugs, no magnets either. And then when we ask a sales person, he explains that, "we had them, but we sold out, and the show only goes for another week or two." Fail. Major epic fail because at that time there were still two months of show time (so, fail because you didn't have enough stock and/or enough brains to reorder and fail because the staff don't fucking know the show went for another two months, not weeks)
I know I screwed up because at the time you were building I didn't spend the $100 to get a lifetime membership. At this point, I may be willing to pay twice that. See, at the time I was just starting my career and $100 was a bit steep (just a note to show you how much we love R'nR, my Mom bought a lifetime membership). So now every time I come to your house, I have to pay the $22 a piece. When I pay more for entrance to someplace less than an acre and that can be gone through in a few hours than I would pay for a single entree, I expect a little more. You're other displays show me you know what you're doing. Why couldn't you have come up to 50% for a Special Exhibit (ie. "come and spend your money with us again"). Display graphics are damn cheap. How about full wall size displays wallpapered to the open areas? Custom wallpaper has been available for over a decade now. How about using the head space for other information (instead, except for the top floor video display, all that space was wasted)?
As a staunch supporter of the R'nR HoF being in Cleveland (hey, NYC, if it wasn't in Cleveland it should have been in Detroit; NYC and LA don't have as strong a claim), it's really disappointing. My guess is it'll be several years before I go back.