A blog post by Meredith Whitfield
MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies, University of Manchester
On a small peninsula in the Rhine river in Cologne, Germany, the Schokoladenmuseum perches, looking perhaps more like a futuristic ship than the Willy Wonka dreamland its name indicates, but nonetheless beckoning visitors with gigantic photographs of Lindt master chocolatiers crafting those famous foil-wrapped bonbons. In addition to a working production floor, manned by operating partner Lindt & Sprüngli, the museum is home to several floors of exhibition space, which display some of the Schokoladenmuseum’s collection of over 100,000 objects and cover the sourcing, production, manufacture, marketing, and consumption of chocolate, as well as its traditional uses, origins, and cultural impact. Throughout the museum, touch-screen displays provide pathways into ample additional reading, in German and English, about virtually every chocolatey topic imaginable, certainly an interactive to satisfy the visitor with deep choco-curiosity.
On the top floor, in the cult chocolate exhibition, the museum has found an interesting use for the ubiquitous info screens. A display of consumer products, including chocolate bars in wrapping, boxes and tins for bonbons and mints, and objects used for marketing, sees these objects arranged as if for sale in wooden and glass shop cabinets, again reminiscent of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. One of the touchscreens replicates this display digitally and illuminates a selection of objects that a visitor can press to learn more about, again, by reading interpretive text in English or German. By providing this interactive, the museum avoids cluttering the consumer context in which the objects are displayed by introducing object labels, and objects displayed on higher shelves, away from direct eyeline, can be examined in more depth. The cult chocolate exhibition in particular contained several displays of many small objects arranged in a collective, like a shelf of collectible Kinder surprise egg prizes, but adding this type of interactive to those exhibits might provide visitors more opportunity to get up close and technical with familiar consumer products.