Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Stop 6: Museums of Spain

The last country on our Eurotour was Spain.  In a change of pattern from other countries, we actually traveled around that country a bit, rather than spending all of our time in one place.  We spent 3 days in Barcelona, 4 days in Valencia where I attended a conference, and 2 days in Madrid.  

The museums we visited included:
  • La Catedral de la Sagrada Familia (Barcelona)
  • La Pedrera (Barcelona)
  • Museu d’Historia de Catalunya (Catalan History Museum, Barcelona)
  • Poble Espanyol de Montjuic (Barcelona)
  • Museo de Historia de Valencia (Valencia)
  • MuVIM (Valencia)
  • Baroca
  • El Prado (Madrid)
  • Museo de Traje (Madrid)

Our trip to Spain.  Because it was eventful in its own right, I thought I’d share the story of our trip to Spain.  In keeping with my unique talent for devising completely impractical itineraries, we took the train from Berlin to Barcelona, a 24-hour odyssey that involves 2 train changes, a and transfer among train stations during a 5-hour layover in Paris.  The first part of the trip, from Berlin to Paris, was relatively uneventful.  It a smooth ride on the German bullet train, a free meal on the French high speed train, and plenty of work time.  I finished an article on which I had been working for 7 years.  

The situation changed when we arrived in Paris.  Although technically connected by train, the ground links at both train stations contributed to irritable moods.  Unlike the recently renovated and upbeat and upscale Gare du Nord (terminus of the Berlin train), Gare Austerlitz (starting point of the train for Barcelona) is an excuse for Zoloft.  Technically, the station is being renovated but it’s too early in the process to see anything other than a few signs of construction.  

One of the reasons that they’re remodeling the stations is so that it can handle high speed trains.  We realized this when we saw our train—something of a late 1970s, early 1980s vintage, without much updating.  

As we waited for the train, we saw some shady looking characters.  They drank a beer at the table next to us in the restaurant, and my partner took the seats across from them in the waiting room.  They looked us up and down, like “What can I take from these people?”  

At the first opportunity, we left the waiting room and waited in line for the train.  I saw the guys disappear in that general vicinity, but they didn’t seem to appear again.  

We took our seats on the train—to save money, we reserved regular seats for the overnight train.  The couchettes were more than twice the cost of a Parisian hotel.  

We were assigned to the center seats, which face another couple (even less privacy than I expected).  But, at the least, no signs of the shady looking guys I had seen earlier.  

Just before we were about to depart, the shadiest of the shady looking guys took the one open seat in the car.  No sleeping for me; I needed to make sure he didn’t take our stuff.  I was convinced he was going to rob us.  

About a half hour after we departed, the conductor collected tickets, as well as our passports.  To be honest, I don’t know why they collect them—they’re usually not needed for travel between European states.  But I would soon develop a hypothesis.  

The couple across from us, who looked like a couple of modern young Muslim newlyweds, were a little nervous about giving their passports.  After the conductor left, my partner  suggested that I say something to them, assuring them that the passports would be returned  in the morning (this is what happened when he traveled to Europe a few years earlier).  “They spoke English.”  But I was a bit reluctant to say anything without being asked, so I declined.  

Which was a good thing, because my partner could turn his attention to eaves dropping.  When the conductor asked the shady looking guy for his ticket and passport, a long exchange occurred, and ended with the guy leaving the car.  

“He didn’t have a ticket,” my partner explained.  “And they’re kicking him out at the next stop.” Marco’s native Spanish skills contributed to our safety.  

Now I can sleep, I thought.  My things are safe.

Marco was more practical.  He just wanted the now-open seat; it offered more privacy.  

Things quieted down quickly, until about 2 am.  That’s when the lights came on and a team of border guards noisily entered the train.  They went directly for the couple in front of us—the ones who were worried about their taking their passports.  

Apparently, they were worried with cause.  (Once again, my partner’s eavesdropping skills proved useful.)  The husband’s papers were fine, but hers were not.  She did not have a European residency card and had overstayed her welcome on the visa that she had.  She said that they were at home, but the guards insisted that she leave the train.  Her husband asked if he could go with her.  They said yes, but he wouldn’t be able to get back on the train later.  He left.  

I felt bad for her situation and hoped the support of her obviously loving husband would help her through.  

I might add that my partner hates to eavesdrop, and hates when I ask him to, but he knew I was a bit frightened and knew that what he learned through eavesdropping would reassure me.  

I realized I’m supported, too.   

La Catedral de la Sagrada Familia (Barcelona).  One of the hottest tourist spots in Barcelona is an unfinished cathedral in the heart of the city designed by Antoni Gaudi, who designed several other buildings in Barcelona.  In advance of our visit, I had seen photos of other Gaudi buildings and thought they just looked weird.  

But it seemed to be the place to go and my partner really wanted to see it.  After the sleepless and adventurous night on the train before, crazy night on the train, walking through a building was about all I had the brain space for.   As soon as we reached the property, I knew what the fuss was—not just about the building, but about Gaudi.  From afar, the cathedral looks like a gothic structure but close up, it is one of the most unique visions for a building I’ve ever seen.  Spires weren’t merely concrete, they were cornucopias of fruits and homages to the apostles.  This was a work of love by an architect who clearly wanted to express his deep, unwavering love of God.

One other thing became evident as we approached the building—it wasn’t finished.  It was a live construction site.   

Even though we arrived near closing time, we waited a bit in line before we could buy tickets.  They were pricey, and the audioguides were extra (on top of a high admission fee and after receiving free audioguides at most of the museums in France and Germany, the expense seemed all the more usurious). But the sign said that the fees would go towards completing the construction of the cathedral.

As we walked through the parts of the building that were complete—part of the nave of the chapel with soaring ceilings and elegant stained glass windows and a cavernous crypt below—we learned the story of the cathedral and of Gaudi.  

Gaudi was an architect who had had health problems as a child, which led to his spending lots of time in the country, where he developed an intense love for nature that became an integral part of all his work.  He integrated natural images into all his designs.  Moreover, he integrated shapes and lines from nature into his work, which led him to test the limits of engineering and materials sciences and contributed to the unique look of his buildings.   Although not explicitly stated in the exhibition at the cathedral’s work was a forerunner to that of today’s superstar architects like Gehry, Liebeskind, and de Meuron and Herzog, all of whom rely on using unusual lines and materials.  

He was not the original architect assigned to the Cathedral, but assumed responsibility for it early in his life and it quickly became his opus magnus.  Towards the end of his life, it was all he worked on.  But the planned project was so extensive and required so much craft work that it was going to take a long time to build.  Work continued for nearly a decade after he died, but was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War, when anarchists stole the plans for his building, so no one knew how to finish it.  

Eventually, experts reconstructed the plans, and resumed construction.  According to the plans, a few significant sections have barely been started and construction managers anticipate a completion date of 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s passing.  

Viewing the building inside and out, exploring the intricate craft work, soaring ceilings, unusual lines and surprising images close up, I became a major Gaudi fan.  I wanted to spend as much time exploring as possible—but couldn’t.  

It’s not just that the site closes at 6 pm, but the staff is one of those that’s anxious to leave at 6, so they start shooing out visitors at  5:45.  I wish they would leave the staff on duty until 6:30, so that they could merely close the facility to tourists at 6 and give themselves additional time afterwards to close the building.  

But afterwards, I could see Gaudi everywhere in Barcelona’s central business district.  His buildings (we would tour another), the tschatcchas in the gift shop, and even the benches and street lights on the major shopping thoroughfare, Passeig Gracia.

Museu d’Historia de Catalunya (Catalan History Museum, Barcelona). A recently restored warehouse on the Barcelona waterfront hosts this museum that provides an extensively documented history of Cataluna, the eastern most district of Spain that speaks its own language (a mixture of Spanish and French, with a number of unique words and spellings mixed in) and, with its distinct language, has its distinct identity.  In addition to recounting the history, this museum celebrates that identity.  

Since moving to Quebec, I have become increasingly sensitized to the challenges that a community faces when it is the majority within the region in which it lives, but not within the larger country in which it is located.  Part of that growing awareness is familiarization with  similar communities in other parts of the world; Cataluna is one such community.  Before coming to Barcelona, I was aware of the unique Catalan language and that Spain had recently granted the region more autonomy.  But that was really the extent of my knowledge.

This museum definitely fast-forwarded my education.  The museum is extensive; its permanent exhibition covers two entire floors of the museum—and they’re warehouse sized floors at that.  Although visitors can enter the history at any point, those who choose to start at the chronological beginning—like my partner and me—experience the full history.  The journey starts with the founding of an outpost at the edges of the Mediterranean during ancient times, continues through the early Christian, then Moorish rules, then back to Christian rule, a period of relative independence and later modernization, the Spanish Civil War, and post-Franco rule and greater autonomy.

Whenever possible, the exhibit designers  tried to display objects (many from archeological digs) in displays that suggest their context  of use.  For example, in addition to displaying pottery, the pots might be displayed in a re-creation of a store or home, with partial walls and background paintings of relevant scenes.  Some highlights include the re-creation of a medieval church, a Moorish-designed water wheel and irrigation system, and scenes from homes in the 20th century.  The exhibit ends with a display of the various peoples of Barcelona today, intended to be a positive presentation of a modern, multi-cultural community.  Although the people photographed and their stories were real, this someone seemed a bit contrived.   Or maybe I’ve seen this display enough in the history and municipal museums of other cities that it has little effect on me.  

Labeling was extensive: each epoch of history, each gallery, each grouping of objects, and each object.  Labels, too, were multi-lingual, including Catalan and Spanish.  At times, the extent of  documentation felt overwhelming.  But upon reflection, I’m glad for it.  

The documentation filled some gaping holes in my understanding of modern history, especially regarding the Spanish Civil War, which was merely a quick blip in world history classes in high school and university.  I had no idea who was fighting for what, much less how it happened. I only knew the outcome was the long rule of Francisco Franco, and I didn’t really know that much about him or his rule.  Those holes were filled in. 

The museum also presented history from a distinct Christian, Catalan viewpoint. It presented a proud history, highlighting periods of great independence as well as great subjugation, and the rise of a new, modern Catalan identity.    That said, although this was a Catalan history museum, its primary—though not exclusive--focus is Barcelona.  

My primary complaint is time; we could have easily doubled the two and a half hours we spent here.  

La Pedrera (Barcelona).  Our visit to a second Gaudi creation, this is a tony apartment building that Gaudi designed on the equally tony Passeig Gracia.  Like Gaudi’s other work, one can only appreciate beauty of this building close-up.  Like the Catedral de la Familia Sagrada, this one incorporates Gaudi’s naturalistic vision.  

But it admittedly looks like a boulder from afar, hence its name. Pedrera comes from the word piedra  or rock.  And all I could think of the entire time I was in the museum is the Spanish name for cartoon character Fred Flintstone—Pablo Picapiedra.  

(The official name of this building is something more refined, but everyone calls it by its popular name.)  

Like la Catedral, this one charged a lot and charged for everything.  The audio guides were extra (unlike many museums in Spain).  They also caused traffic jams; the narrow, crowded passages through the building were blocked with visitors listening to their audio guides.  (I kind of felt really bad for Mr. Gaudi, who died unrecognized after languishing in a hospital after being hit by a car when crossing the street. He had no descendants, which seems to make people all the more motivated to profit from his work after death.)  

But they were also littered with tourists getting photos of everything, whether they needed the photos or not.  (There was one particularly self-absorbed family ahead of me who must have held up 50 people just to get a good shot in the bathtub.)  

If the building was overpriced and the visitors the kind who give tourists a bad name, the unique designs and craftsmanship, as well as the rooftop vistas, made the building well worth the visit, and reminded me that those hassles are just silly annoyances in the end.  One of the highlights of the building is a multi-level rooftop terrace that affords magnificent views of the city.  The attic just below it provided background on Gaudi and this particular creation of his.  

One of the apartments was open to the public, decorated as it would have been when the building opened.  The bathrooms, kitchen, and electric lights—all of the latest vintage at the time the building opened—looked a bit dated.  But a close inspection left no doubt—these were works of art as well as historical artifacts.  So were the furnishings.  

What the fixtures and furnishings possessed in style, they surprisingly lacked in color.  Perhaps that’s because the colors were somewhat faded from years of exposure.  But the original color palettes seem somewhat neutral.  

The rest of the apartments are not open to the public, because people actually live in them.  So La Pedrera itself is not a museum, just part of it.  

The two gift shops were also terrific, though apparently not coordinated.  The gift shop at the end of the visit of the apartment had some unique and wonderful items, some of which I wanted to buy for my sister.  But the small store was crowded so I thought I’d go to the more spacious shop on the ground floor—outside of the museum area—and buy the items there.  No such luck.  Although both emphasized Gaudi and design, the two stores had completely different inventories.  

After the visit, we waited for the Tour Bus to take us to our next destination. While there, we met and tried to talk with a family, whom we learned were from Montreal.  Apparently we had cooties; these people did not seem to want to engage with us when they learned we were from Montreal.  Because I’m used to people being friendly when they meet people from their home town, I was taken aback by their icy-ness.  OK—I felt hurt.   

Poble Espanyol de Montjuic (Barcelona).  Because it is a sort of living history institution, I would have wanted to see this attraction under any circumstances, but it was one of the top items my partner wanted to see in Barcelona, so that made it tops on our list, too.  The Poble Espanyol (Catalan for Spanish village) was built as an attraction for the 1929 World’s Fair and was so popular that, even when the rest of the fair  grounds were converted to other uses, this attraction remained—and remains to this day.  

It’s housed on a mountain that contains many of Barcelona’s top sporting and visitor attractions, Montjuic.  According to the tour bus, this was the Mount of Jews, where the Jewish community lived during Moorish times.  

El Poble contains a number of buildings, each fashioned after the architecture reminiscent of a particular region of Spain. The designs were prepared by university professors who toured Spain and recorded extensive notes about the local architecture, then suggested representative buildings.  In most instances, the primary significance of a given building was its exterior.  The interiors were filled with tourist shops.  Some were artisan shops with artisans occasionally demonstrating their crafts.  Others were restaurants, generally of the white table cloth variety.  

The one exception was a modern art gallery, which displayed a wide range of work from Picasso to newer artists just trying to establish their reputations.    

The only way to learn about the buildings was through the audio guide, which was narrated by a Chatty Cathy.  She provided extensive historical documentation on each building and the original after which it was fashioned.  But I left wanting for more information about the 1929 World’s Fair, which was a watershed moment for Barcelona and is known as a showplace of advanced art, architecture, design, and literature—on the eve of the Depression and the dark years of recidivism into fascism that followed.  

Museo de Historia de Valencia (Valencia).  House in a restored water cistern, this museum covers, in many ways, the same history as the Museu d’Historia de Catalunya and employs many similar presentation techniques.  But this museum does so from slightly different perspectives—solely that of Valencia rather than all of Catalunya as well was that of a region that left Catalan rule earlier than Barcelona.  Furthermore, although the museum roughly covers the same historical periods and territory, its presentation is more compact, probably limited by space.

We were welcomed to the museum by the friendliest greeter, who took the time to explain the layout of the museum to us and provided me with an English guide to the exhibits (made easy to carry because it was provided in a binder with handles—a nice usability touch).  

The museum had a central hallway, from which visitors could select any epoch in the history of Valencia to explore.  But each epoch was directly connected to the next, thus providing visitors with both free-choice and linear approaches to the exhibits.  To be honest, the floor plan probably worked better on paper than in the museum, because visitors following the linear plan would miss the introductions to new epochs, which were presented in a central atrium that visitors would not pass through under such circumstances.  

Like the Museu d’Historia de Catalunya, this museum exhibited its collection of historical objects in displays that suggest their contexts of use. On the one hand, it seemed like the exhibits contained more fabrications than original objects, but the ones that the museum displayed were handsomely showcased.   The museum also used “attract” objects, like a car that could be seen from far away and would “attract” visitors to come closer.  

Labeling was extensive and bilingual (Catalan (which is not as widely spoken in Valencia as in Barcelona, but still widely used and has historical significance all the same) and Spanish).   Curators formally introduced visitors to each epoch with a brief overview of the epoch and a timeline naming historical highlights, many of which are explored in more depth in the exhibitions.  Each section of an epoch, as well as each scenario and its objects also had their own labels, too.   

In addition to labels, the documentation of the exhibits consisted of audiovisual re-enactments of scenes reminiscent of the period, so visitors could envision the history.  Each exhibition seemed to have at least one such audiovisual station.  Professional actors performed the scenes, which visitors could hear in Catalan, Spanish, and English.  Scenes included a Roman era family discussing an upcoming communal event and Valencian leaders discussing the impact of the departure of the Jews.

The most recent sections of the exhibitions supported the conclusion from my dissertation research: displaying the most recent history is the hardest.  Although the displays aptly identified some key moments in the rule of Francisco Franco, the interpretive labels suggest that more healing is needed and that made me wonder—as I had when visiting the sections on the Inquisition and other museums during this trip—how do societies deal with the less than pleasant parts of their past?  The post Franco period receives minimal coverage but that’s probably because the history is still writing itself.  

All in all, this was a wonderful museum and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit there.  

MUVIM (Museo Valenciano de la Illustracion y la Modernidad).  When I read about it, this museum seemed like one of the most unique I had ever heard of:  it presents the history of thought through the ages.  Given both the uniqueness and ephemeral nature of the subject matter, I really wanted to see how they approached it and the museum was number one on my list of must-sees.  

The visitor experience, however, suggested, why bother.  Finding the building wasn’t easy; street signs were only minimally helpful.  When we finally found and entered the building, we couldn’t find any staff person to greet us, much less answer our questions.  When we did (the information desk was a couple of levels below ground), I learned that I had ignored a small piece of information in the description; that exhibit is only available by appointment, which visitors must make 24 hours in advance.  So we didn’t see it.  

Trying to make the best of our time, we did decide to see a brief exhibition on Artel, a group of crafts artisans from Europe and who had a Bauhaus-like approach to decorative arts before Bauhaus dominated that scene.  The exhibition was modestly interpreted.  The brief exhibit and gallery labels provided some orientation but none provided much of a sense of the significance of the collection on display, much less what  happened to the movement.  Did the Depression and the political turmoil of the 1930s cause it to end as they had done to similar movements?  Just as significantly, the gallery seemed physically disconnected from the rest of the MuVIM facility and getting back from the exhibit to the museum was a bit of a challenge.

In our travels through the facility, we also saw a second exhibition on something.  To be honest, it was not interpreted at all, so I have no idea what we saw, whether we started at the beginning or end.  What I did sense is that all of the objects in this exhibition are reproductions.  That makes me wonder what the point of the exhibition was.  

Baroca.  The last museum we saw was off of the itinerary; we walked by an historic church in the midst of restoration as we were leaving that day’s festivities in advance of the traditional Las Fallas celebrations.  The doors were open, beckoning visitors to see the collection of religious artifacts on display.  All we had to do was walk past a bit of scaffolding.  

We saw a large number of silver and gold chalices and similar pieces used in various church ceremonies, as well as wooden carvings in the walls that experts were trying to restore (though they looked like they might fall under the heavy layers of new paint).  

The highlight was walking up some scaffolding that was opened to the public so visitors could see the view of the sanctuary from on high.  

Minimal labels were provided, but those that were offered some insights into this church as a living institution rather than to the artistic or historical significance of the objects we viewed.  We left with the sense that the exhibition was temporary and, as soon as the restoration was complete, authorities would close the exhibition. 

El Prado (Madrid).   One of the most significant art museums in the world, el Prado is home to a collection comprising several centuries worth of Spanish masterpieces.  

Housed in a classic building that has been expanded and remodeled throughout its history, its most recent addition was in the past year or two, intended to make the museum more visitor friendly by giving it a new entryway that provides better access to the exhibitions, a large café, and a huge gift shop.  

What makes this museum most visitor friendly is its hours; it stays open until 8:30 pm.  It easily has the traffic to justify the extended hours; I just wish more major museums would follow suit. 

We started our visit in the temporary exhibition, an amazing and sumptuous exhibit on the art of armour, featuring ceremonial swords, amour, and similar objects, as well as paintings depicting royals wearing and using these pieces.  Each king had his preferred armour-er, and each armour-er, in turn, had a unique style represented in the craftwork of the piece.  They were truly works of art, and often labors of love.  

In the process of learning about the armour, I also learned about the Spanish kings, including Carlos III.  From all appearances, he bore all of the problems of inbreeding among royals and the long-term consequence was that he left no heirs, so the Spanish crown transferred to French relatives who had a distant claim to the throne.  

This separately ticketed exhibition seemed to be designed for large crowds that didn’t seem to show up, at least not when we were there (and the museum seemed rather busy).  Exhibition designers left lots of space between items so crowds could easily move without bunching up.  But as I just said, that wasn’t a problem.    

Then we ventured into the permanent collection. Although this is physically a huge museum, for its size, it works extremely well.  Art is grouped together by period and genre, and each gallery seems to have a well-defined theme.  The floor plan easily guides visitors from one gallery to the next, but if visitors need to quickly go to a part of the museum, that’s relatively easy to do.  There’s some semblance of a central hallway, although it does not provide access to each key section of the museum. 

The art itself does the Spanish people proud.  When surrounded by so many beautiful paintings and sculptures, one can easily lose sight of the mastery of them.  But the artwork in this museum constantly wows the visitor.   

One aspect of the museum that seems like a work in progress is the labeling.  Each gallery has a label but sections within each gallery—as well as entire segments within the museum—do not.  Gallery labels generally appear in Spanish and English as do those accompanying the individual works of art.  But the extent of both labeling and translation is inconsistent; some galleries have labels for the gallery and significant objects in both Spanish and English, some in one language, and some have next to no labeling.  I hypothesize that the museum is revising its labels as part of the recent renovation, but has only partially completed the project.

In addition to the main gift shop in the new visitor entrance area of the museum, el Prado has lots of small gift shops throughout the museum.  Like La Perdrera, these smaller gift shops do not resell merchandise available in other gift shops in the museum.  For those who might be interested in buying something but not in the middle of a visit, the museum might consider selling everything in the main gift shop.  This strategy seems to be a merchandising strategy typical of European museums; we Americans are used to selling everything everywhere so if we missed it in the first gift shop, we can pick it up in the second.  I guess my American-ism shows at moments like this.    

A small trifle, to be sure.  This is an amazing and extensive museum; although we barely made a dent in seeing the collection during our three and a half hours here, I’m sure glad we had the opportunity to visit, and have a great reason to return.  

Museo de Traje (Museum of Clothing).  We went to this museum, on the edge of the newer part of Madrid and near the university, because my partner wanted to.  An admitted fashionista, he thought this museum would be interesting.  

And he was right.  

Although finding it was a bit of a challenge (there are directions in the nearest subway station, but somehow fall apart when at street level), when we finally found it, it was well worth the walk.  The seemingly simple, low, lean Mies van der Rohe-inspired home of this museum belies the subtle drama of the building and the display of clothing.  But the drama merely enhances the visitor experience, like a hidden courtyard at the entrance, and a few surprises in the permanent display.  

The heart of the museum is a permanent display of centuries of Spanish clothing for men and women (though more women’s clothing, than men).  

The exhibit follows a defined path and the building is designed so that going directly to a part of the exhibit isn’t really all that easy.  People can either go forward or in reverse chronology.  

Following the official path, the first part of the exhibition explains the challenges in preserving and displaying clothing.  I had learned this during my dissertation research, so I focused more on how they presented information rather than what they presented.  And the curators did a superb job of explaining the issues clearly and succinctly and, just as significantly, setting realistic expectations among visitors.   

My impression is that the target visitor for this museum is a first-time visitor.  The curators seem primarily interested in introducing visitors to the topic of clothing and the key themes in the subject area, and make great efforts to educate them, while avoid overwhelming them.  Each room and case has labels (providing thematic background), but no objects did.  

Instead, the curators provided two other tools to help visitors learn about individual objects.  They could pick up in-depth explanations on separate sheets of paper that visitors could pick up at various points throughout the exhibition and keep with them. Unfortunately, some of the sheets were out of stock. 

Or visitors could listen to the free audio guides, which provided in-depth descriptions of several key outfits in the exhibition.  The curators also seemed intent on attracting visitors and building their comfort with the content, as all of the explanatory materials were bilingual.  

Acknowledging that the story of clothing is also the story of accessories and shoes, the displays included these items as well. In some cases, they were displayed as objects in their own right; in other cases, the accessories and shoes completed an outfit on display.  

More than merely appreciating the clothing, the curators tried to develop visitors’ understanding of the historical contexts that gave rise to these pieces.  Rather than jamming the cases with clothes, the designers designed sparse cases that call attention to the clothes.

By including one or two props in each case—like walls of a ballroom from the 18th century, one-of-a-kind arts and crafts and pieces of furniture from the 20th century—curators also helped visitors visualize the world in which people wore these clothes.  The clothes themselves ranged from folk clothing to everyday clothing to art-worthy designer pieces.  

But the highlight of the exhibition was the end; visitors literally down a runway lined with the work of latter-day Spanish fashion designers, an appropriately dramatic close to a well-displayed collection.  

The gift shop was as spacious as the exhibitions and had an appropriately large selection of items in terms of the quality and uniqueness of the items for sale.  

I only have two minor suggestions for this museum.  One is to improve the signage from Metro stations.  The other is to include the work of global Spanish mass merchandisers in the last gallery of the exhibition.  Given the international influence of chains like Zara and Mango, I was surprised by the lack of mention for them.  

Summing Up: Future posts on this blog will explore some of the themes in this posting, themes that have particular interest to information, instructional, and experience designers: 
  • Displaying difficult stories from the history of a people 
  • Traffic design patterns in museums
  • Price gouging and sweet deals on museum admissions
  • Different ways that people learn through museum exhibits

Next posts:  Reflecting on the museum experience (you knew I had to get academic on you).  

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