Through Pokot Lens

Re-Contextualizing "Man in Africa" Hall in AMNH to Craft New Narratives that Make Problematic Histories Visible

Museums are now tasked with more meanings in the context of historical entanglements with racism, colonialism, homophobia, and other forms of oppression. Through this purposefully-designed exhibition redesign project, focusing on re-contextualizing "Man In Africa" Hall in American Museum of Natural History, my group has identified a way to show that tradition and technology can coexist alongside one another in Pokot, Kenya, and go hand-in-hand on a daily basis.

Project Type

    1. Group Project partnered with American Museum of Natural History (AMNH)

    Timeline & Role

    1. 2022 Q1(8 weeks)

    1. Research, Concept Facilitation, and Digital Design

    Group Members

    1. Leeann Wei

    2. Hongming Li

    Tools Used

    1. Runway ML

    2. Garage Band

    3. Magenta Studio

    Project Value

    African people have continued to show that tradition and technology can coexist alongside one another and go hand-in-hand on a daily basis. Social media and the internet have allowed and provided deeper first-person connections that move these static objects beyond the eyes.

    Re-Contextualization of Historical Narration

    Globally, museums are increasingly tasked with re-contextualizing themselves and their historical entanglements with racism, colonialism, homophobia, and other forms of oppression. As museums try to craft new narratives, they must wrestle with the question: What happens when the museum itself becomes an artifact? How can problematic histories be made visible, and how might justice be served? What new narratives can be crafted, and to what ends? What could they be? What forms do they take? This project partners with the American Museum of Natural History in New York City to explore these questions. Focusing on the existing "Man in Africa" Hall, which opened to the public in 1968, we will prototype ways to contextualize and understand the hall. How might visitors to this now 60-year-old space participate in a range of questions and narratives about the people and places that created the hall, those who the hall depicts, and larger questions about museums more generally? Moving beyond typical questions of exhibition design, this studio will draw from archival documents, current collections, and the hall itself, to explore design techniques of the "meta:" re-contextualizing existing material by adding visual layers, leveraging technology, crafting commentary, and curating slices, rather than starting from scratch.

    And our project is adding to the Pokot Diorama experience by bringing the flat diorama to life through the addition of two side screens as well as a projection with an audio experience. We are focusing on showing the blend of technology and how it can add new experiences to the diorama.

    Content Creation

    We would like to create co-curated content with the local community to show the peoples' perspectives about what Pokot in Kenya looks like today. Those co-curations will be featured in the filtered social media experience. We are collaborating with the famous Pokot athlete Tegla Loroupe as well as the Pokot Community Center. And the experience will be shown alongside in our designs.

    P1. Tegla Loroupe

    P2. Pokot Community Center

    Exhibition Research

    The diorama in context is on the second floor in the AMNH African People Hall.

    P3. Current Installation

    P4. Floor Plan

    Introducing The Brand New Pokot Diorama

    Our design proposal has depicted a meta-layer experience in the middle diorama while providing other visitors the option to see how tradition and technology coexist from the Pokot people's perspectives. Both digital showcase and physical mockup are explained.

    Exhibition Design
    Design Details

    Left Screen: Data Visualization

    01 | Showcase

    02 | Keyframes

    Central Screen: Diorama Experience

    01 | Showcase

    02 | Keyframes

    The buttons would have real-life pictures as well as more descriptive text for the audiences that want to deep dive into the educative portion of the narration. The buttons control the audio reflected, and users will not be able to exit until the narration is done playing. 

    03 | Narration

    The script will be in co-creation. We decided to go with the narration being projected into texts from the back. What landed us on this design through usability testing was that this version was more accessible for our audience to see and absorb the content.

    Boy: I can’t believe today is the day of my Sapana ceremony! I am so excited to finally become a man! During my sapana ceremony I must choose an ox to sacrifice. But don’t worry ox I will not choose you. You are like family to me.

    Adult: Don’t worry boy, the ox chosen will not be wasted. The ox to us are very important and mean a lot to us as they are symbols of wealth and status. So to be able to even have an ox to sacrifice means a lot. No part of the ox will be wasted. Actually, I had my Sapana ceremony at 30 because my family could not afford an ox.

    Right Screen: Co-curation Media Posts

    01 | Showcase

    02 | Keyframes

    Outcome & Impact

    1. The project is posted on the Official Instagram account of ArtCenter, with a cover image of our physical diorama mockup.

    2. By removing oppressive elements, historical exhibitions could create a more accurate and nuanced representation of the historical period and cultural context being presented, leading to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the subject matter.

    3. Learned to understand diverse perspectives and engaged in ongoing dialogue to ensure that the redesign is equitable.

    Let's work together!