There are many reasons to celebrate the re-opening of the DIA’s Asian galleries on November 4. In addition to having a greatly expanded gallery space, we have incorporated modern and contemporary artworks alongside historical masterpieces to create a more dynamic presentation.

There’s also the exciting way that technology is integrated throughout the galleries, enhancing how visitors experience and relate to the objects and their stories. A less visible—yet equally defining—aspect of the Asian galleries reinstallation project is the robust inclusion of community members to help develop the galleries.

At the launch of the project three years ago, we innovated our planning process by creating new, short-term positions to be filled by members of the community. Out of 33 applicants, we hired 11 community consultants who each expressed a keen interest, commitment, and aptitude for helping shape what these new galleries could look like. The community consultants and DIA staff from the departments of interpretation, curatorial and exhibitions learned about objects in our collection, worked with content experts from various museums and universities, and developed a range of potential themes around different groups of artworks.

Our time together culminated in a presentation the DIA’s internal strategy group, who provided enthusiastic feedback. For example, DIA Director Salvador Salort-Pons commented: “Some of the [themes] have a common denominator that I like a lot… a surprising factor that’s going to catch the attention of the viewer and help with learning.”

Our intrepid and dedicated community consultants were an integral part of the multi-year process to reinstall the Asian art collection. Their ideas are reflected in labels and other interpretive elements throughout, including a dynamic response area located at the heart of the galleries, where several of their photos and perspectives are featured. We are grateful for all their contributions!

Alison Jean led the interpretive planning process for the new Asian galleries. She is an interpretive planner at the DIA.

Categories:  Behind the scenes