Vitrinen in Arbeit
The Natural History Museum in Vienna was inaugurated in 1889. Its' palatial architecture, its' systematic arrangements of natural objects, and its' furnishings have remained virtually unchanged. It was not until the mid 1990's that electric light was added to the exhibition halls; until then the museum would often close as early as 2 o'clock in the afternoon during the winter months because it was no longer possible to see. However, contemporary economic circumstances and trends towards privatization in formerly state funded institutions have affected the museum which now depends heavily on visitor entrance fees for its annual budget. The exhibitions are changing to become more visitor-friendly and to conform to current educational standards in museum display.
In 2002, Kaucyila Brooke visited the museum while researching and collecting material for her photomontage novella-roman-cartoon, "Tit for Twat" (1993 ongoing), and encountered a partially disassembled room that had been the Shark exhibit. A sign indicated that the room was being remodeled and elegant braided ropes hanging from stanchions prevented visitors from entering the working area. She began photographing this process of change in the museum and continued over three years to track the progress of the full, empty and transformed interior space of the building. The resulting project shows the fullness of the collection, the traces of previous vitrines, the empty containment of changing ideas about display. It highlights the architecture and ideology of the family and colonialist era of discovery, the contrast of historic and contemporary wall décor and the emergence of the didactic exhibition. This visual index to a previous history of exhibition is seen on the surfaces of marked floors, empty vitrines and stained display boards in Vienna's Natural History Museum.