Dr. Frankenstein's Busy Making the Perfect Human. NBD.

Curator: Isabella Bruno
date: October 29, 2014
Categories: Entertainment Design, Environmental Design
Tags: exhibition, history
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The chalkboard that says it all.

In the lead-up to Halloween, I’ve selected five projects to scare, provoke and stimulate the designer’s brain. These aren’t all ghosts and goblins, but each has something special to offer.

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Eugenics. Not your typical exhibition topic. Or conversation for that matter. At NYU’s Asian/Pacific/American Institute gallery, visitors are immersed in this difficult subject in a recreated Eugenics Record Office, inspired by a eugenicist’s office on Long Island, circa 1910. Compare the mundanity of the office with the frightening implications of every file and medical instrument. The diverse diagrams, maps and codes make digging in the files particularly enjoyable for data-vis lovers (with the caveat of disturbing content). 

A set design company created the atmospheric environment (à la Sleep No More) in the main gallery, with the majority of educational information in a separate Resource Room. An interesting choice when dealing with complex subject matter, leaving plenty for a visitor to explore…but also to potentially miss. It's definitely worth a visit if you're in New York City. Otherwise see pictures, below.

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Someone’s family tree… anthropomorphized.

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A post-it left by a visitor reads: “Do mutants have rights? The modern era of our political culture rages on…”

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An inviting, lone file drawer.

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Correspondence, research papers, and records for days.

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The center diagram is titled: “Relative Social Inadequacy of the Several Nativity Groups and Immigrant Races in the United States”

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Madison Grant’s name is mentioned multiple times in the exhibition. He is known for his work as a eugenicist and conservationist, having a large role in the office referenced in the exhibition, as well as being good friends with Theodore Roosevelt.

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You can take a seat if you like.

Assorted printed material to look through and pour over.

And pretty maps that will make you cringe.

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