Present on Site:
Transforming Exhibitions and

Present on Site

The cover of the paperback.
Ingemann, Bruno (2012): Present on Site. Transforming Exhibitions and Museums, Lejre: Visual Memory Press. 396 pages, 147 illustration, printed in colour.


About the book and project

Present on Site: Transforming Exhibitions and Museums

Why are exhibitions and museums so important? What can they be used for? Who determines relevance in a transformative process?

Transforming exhibitions is not just something you do, it is something that gets better the more you do it. This book looks at the intersection of the visitor or user, who gets personal and cultural meaning from their visit and the museum as it appears in the design of the exhibition. It examines on-site communication for intentional and hidden content and messages, and reveals possible relations to the visitor, his or her world and society in general. This investigation also focuses on the processes involved in interpretation and design and takes a closer look at the practices of exhibiting rather than the objects on display. The four main themes in the book are:

• Constructions – The visitor at an exhibition
• Questions – Experience and learning processes
• Invisibles – The exhibition design processes
• Openings – Category, objects and communication

Present on site is relevant not only for students and researchers in the field of museum communication, media and design studies, but also for exhibition and museum practitioners.

As a researcher and associate professor of visual communication at Roskilde University, Denmark and as a designer and media artist in his own right, author Bruno Ingemann, PhD, also represents an intersection. A pioneer in Danish museology and in visitor reception studies, he co-edited the anthology New Danish Museology.


Present on Site brings new attention to the complex and intriguing world of interpretation in museum settings. Using a variety of compelling case studies and theories from education, media, and cultural studies, Ingemann weaves diverse perspectives to the critical issues of visitor perception and reception and the challenges involved as curators and designers attempt to mediate and influence experience. The result is a delightful and refreshingly personal exposé of key museological issues that face museum practitioners daily.

- Associate Director Karen Knutson,
University of Pittsburgh

This is an important, useful, well-designed and well-written book. Ingemann insightfully argues for the importance of inspirational places in a world mediated by television and digital technologies, by showing how museums link past and present, time and space. He takes on complex, difficult, and controversial issues, and explains them clearly. What happens when visitors become curators? What happens when the familiar meets the new, when the invisible is made visible? As he shows, it results in changing visitors’ perceptions, conversations, and confidence. Museums can change our lives, the things we make and discuss, and the world as a whole.

- Course Director Dr Kevin Walker,
Information Environments, University of the Arts London


QOverall, Ingemann’s texts remain a valuable and challenging read, replete of stimuli for further discussion and research. While the focus on the ‘persons-in-situation’ makes it difficult to draw general conclusions, it also brings the reader through diverse kinds of experiences regardless of traditional genre partitions and categories. The author’s effort to retain the perspective of the informed outsider means he is not burdened with too pragmatic issues of audience and targets. Most importantly, his long-standing engagement in building his own route through and about exhibitions, and to exposing this route while also reflecting on it, in a sort of auto-ethnographic attempt, is commendable.

- review from The Design Journal VOLUME 17, ISSUE 2, pp 314–318 written by Maddalena Dalla Mura PhD






To the reader
This book is written at the intersection between the visitor and the presenter. The museological framework and the various theoretical concepts in the field of exhibitions and museums focus on the user, on complex interaction, on communication and, thereby, on the mediation and dissemination necessary for the encounter between the visitor and the institution to be a valuable and rewarding experience in the transformational process.
Present on site is relevant for researchers and practitioners in the field of museum communication and media. Even the most practical and usable insight must be driven by theoretical perspectives that open up for viewing common knowledge from new perspectives that transforms the well-known into something new.


My interest and appreciation of openness and free access to information and research naturally led to making my book available and accessible through different channels. This means that this entire book is accessible here at www. present-on-site.net, where it can be read online. A key feature is that many of the exhibitions covered in the analysis of visitor interaction processes and designer processes often have a visual form. The book’s website has videos and various pictorial elements that provide an even broader foundation for the analysis, making the processes more concrete. The main focus however is the book, whose text and design complete the examination of meaning-making processes related to being present on site, at exhibitions, at museums.

      This project and especially the production and distribution of complex information has been inspired by Nina Simon and her project The Participatory Museum - look http://www.participatorymuseum.org