Last year, at a panel discussion during the annual meeting of the American Association of Museums,[1] speakers debated the proper role of special effects—dramatic lighting, slides, video, and sound—in museum installations. Allon Schoener, a museum consultant and exhibition designer who is best known for mounting the “Harlem on My Mind” show at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1969, spoke first.

“In ‘Harlem on My Mind,’ we made use of communications technology to interpret a cultural subject,” Schoener stated. “Every space in the exhibition area had a sound track. . . and we used all of the communication equipment to pulse people as they moved through the space.”

Schoener went on to say that interpretation, rather than presentation, is the task of museums today. Epcot,...


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