Carl Bloch

Bringing Denmark to the People

Nicolas Perner
Jul 18, 2017 · 4 min read
Patron admire the smallest of five altar paintings by 19th century painter, Carl Bloch

Nine years of planning and logistics preceded the show Carl Bloch: The Masters Hand. Five massive Lutheran altar paintings were carefully shipped to the United States. Six months before the show opened, the Laycock Center for Creative Collaboration in the Arts was asked to enhance the museum space to create context for these impressive works of art.

The show’s docents and curators aimed to keep average patron time in the exhibit to 60 minutes. The exhibit, however, included only five paintings. With so few original works, how could we keep visitors engaged?

We needed to add context to the artwork. Ideally, helping recreate the environment of the pieces’ original environments — Danish and Swedish churches. Our efforts and media artifacts would transporting visitors to 19th century Denmark; revealing meaning through Carl Bloch’s original time, place and purpose.

I worked as a UX consultant and creative director for the project. With a small film crew and one docent we travelled to Denmark and Sweden for two weeks to understand and film the paintings’ parishes and parishioners. The footage, photography, sound, and materials we acquired would form our project’s foundation.

We designed the exhibit around a networked storytelling environment. Patrons defined their own experience and interaction with the artwork—choosing their own adventure. Media artifacts didn’t follow the a traditional linear narrative the museum was accustomed to.

Network storytelling allowed media elements to be accessed at any time. All patrons entered through a custom-built 4-wall projection theatre.

Patrons entered the show through a large-scale projection theatre. We worked with museum facilities to design and build a room to house immersive 360º footage from Denmark. The imagery and audio slowed the pace of patrons introducing a sensory framework for the art they were about to experience.

Maps, paintings, photography and video created context for the exhibit in the orientation theatre.
4-wall timelines immersed patrons in the historical context for Bloch’s paintings.

Footage and content from our Scandinavian trip was edited together to create a custom-built iPad tour. With over six hours of interview content and commentary, Patrons decided how deep to take their learning. The iPads also included 3D panoramas of the painting’s original context and detailed maps of the paintings, pointing out key symbolism details and symbolism.

Significant media times was donated to the show due to the innovative media design. Exhibit was promoted through 10-, 15-, and 30-second spots as well as an interactive website teaching exhibit content.

During the show’s 7-month run, the augmented Carl Bloch experience drew over 300,000 patrons, more than any previous exhibit in the museum’s history. The Museum logged over 90,000 iPad rentals. The average patron spent 40 minutes in the exhibition without and iPad and over 75 minutes with the iPad rental. The Museum recuperated all initial investment with a minimal $3 iPad rental fee.

Nicolas Perner

Written by

I’m a product designer, art director, and brand strategist by day; a professional jump roper, yoga instructor, and outdoorsman by night.

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