Marking time in November 2015
Hints for visitors
Taking off your shoes, before you go into a room, can change your frame of mind. That simple ritual can concentrate your attention on the space you are entering.
Visitors to Mission House at Kerikeri in New Zealand are greeted by a sign that says These are New Zealand’s oldest floors. They will last longer if you take off your shoes. I was happy to comply with that polite request, and to save the floor from unnecessary wear. At the same time, my feet were sensitive to the texture of the floor, which prompted a discussion with the museum guide about the English and Māori workers who had pitsawn those boards in the early 1820s.
As a visitor to museums and historic places I enjoy experiences like this—interactions that bring the place to life in an easy and natural way.
Edward Tufte is an American academic who studies the communication of complex data. He tells this story about giving information in the best form, and at the best time, for it to be absorbed.
Whites gloves = Don’t touch
In my one-day course, I show 3 rare books: a 1570 Euclid, a 1613 Galileo, and a 1704 Newton. Then my assistant carries each book, open to the title page, around the room so people can get a close look. We had a problem with people wanting to touch the pages of the wonderful books; and a few people would sulk if told they could not touch the pages. So now my assistant pointedly wears white cloth gloves while showing the books to signal that they should not be touched.
That is, unobtrusive instructions at point of use.