Museums play a critical role in preserving local cultures, promoting a better understanding of our collective heritage, and fostering dialogue, curiosity and self-reflection. In recent years –and largely driven by the Covid-19 pandemic– technological advances have enabled users from all over the world to visit exhibitions virtually, at any time and from the comfort of their own home. However, although online tours are a good way of increasing accessibility, there is something about the in-person museum experience that will never get old: the ability to witness, embrace and closely admire artefacts, paintings and sculptures in their true form, as well as the chance to experience the unique ambiance and essence of a traditional museum setting. Viewing the Mona Lisa virtually will never live up to appreciating it face-to-face at The Louvre, for instance.
Also related to the importance of physical exhibitions is the protection and conservation of objects, which are often invaluable due to their historical relevance, rarity or true market value. This is especially relevant when dealing with fragile objects that are prone to deteriorate and degrade over time, either because of their materials, the museum’s conditions or the number of people expected to approach them. But regardless of the item’s degree of delicacy, all works of art and artefacts must be exposed in a safe, controlled environment to ensure their indefinite preservation and, at the same time, allow the audience to appreciate each component in all its splendor.
More than glass and steel enclosures
Key to this preservation process is the use of optimally designed display cases that have a pivotal purpose: to safeguard and highlight each item, addressing both functionality and aesthetics. Considering space limitations, curatorial intentions and the distinctive nature of each object, a wide range of display methods will often be required. For example, while notebooks and papers are usually shown in table cases, sculptures may need pedestals or vertical display cases. In any case, the design of the case itself is incredibly important.
So, what precisely makes a well-designed display case? Its design and fabrication is an extremely complex specialty that calls for a great understanding of the issues, problems and needs that museum institutions face today. A good case should highlight the artwork effectively without distracting from it and should not divert attention from the overall design of the gallery or exhibition. There are different material combinations to choose from for the cases and frames, including glass, steel, wood, and even fabric. It is important to note, however, that any material that will be in contact with the displayed artefacts must be archival and hence not emit any gases that could be harmful to them. Beyond materials and components, the overall aesthetic, performance and functionality are also crucial factors to consider during the selection process.
A work of art of its own
The list of criteria is long: a minimalist design, a user-friendly product, a sturdy and durable construction, an invisible or even non-existent structure, the use of high-quality archival materials, a sealed art envelope, a budget-friendly product –to name just a few. These standards will be carefully analyzed by conservation and design teams looking to acquire new, high-quality display cases for their exhibitions. Therefore, the challenge is inevitably to find a balance between simplicity and complexity, as well as meeting the expectations of everyone involved, from architects and exhibition designers, to curators, conservators and archivists. Although their needs may not all be the same, they all have a say in choosing a well-designed display case.
Responding to current demands, Zone Display Cases has developed functional cases with a sleek, clean-line aesthetic where every detail is meticulously thought out, becoming a work of art of its own. Behind each case lies a team of artisans that collaborate in the creation of the innovative and distinctive designs for museums, archives, educational institutions and other exhibition projects. The focus is on creating unobtrusive display cases that will subtly disappear into their environment, becoming an integral part of the building and highlighting none other than the valuable object on display. In fact, these may even be considered important architectural elements that the extensive design team must specify accordingly, with every intricate detail, from the project’s initial planning stage.
An ambitious vision for “invisible” display cases
Looking ahead, the goal is to minimize the structure and refine the lines to achieve a practically invisible design that utopically fulfills its core functions (in terms of protection and conservation). Through research and development, it is possible to combine new technologies related to assembly, gluing and folding, as well as regarding opening and security mechanisms that are more compact, discreet and efficient. This enables designers to reduce, conceal or recess the steel structure and hide the mechanics to give greater importance to the glass and achieve a daring, yet simple and ultra-minimalist design.
By eliminating all distractions, objects can appear as if they are floating, giving them space to breathe and redirecting all attention towards them. All of this without compromising durability and functionality, and while increasing the product’s performance through innovative design –which is only viable with the seamless collaboration between design and manufacturing teams.
We yearn for that moment when the object on display will simply float in the void, without any visual obstruction. – Zone Display Cases