The EmptyCube Museum is a website dedicated to bridging the gap between objects and their original cultural contexts.
Many objects were detached from their original homes, transported to modern Western museums, and then placed in sterilized white cubes. They were given new names (accession numbers) by museums to make them easier to be documented and maintained, and they were organized and categorized in modern archaeological ways to be displayed in enclosures. Separated from their original cultural contexts, the narratives they carry are hidden, their functions and significance are erased and they end up as pure artworks and a few bunches of data in museums’ enormous databases.
Through the exhibitions and the archive, the EmptyCube Museum aims to encourage appreciating the objects in their original cultural contexts, rather than just seeing them as artworks.
The website mimics the structure of physical museums, with the landing page as the ground floor and the exhibitions on the first and second floors. On the ground floor, there is an archive room, an information desk(about page introducing the whole project and the visual logic/language of the website), and an admission desk(map visualizing all selected object’s journeys from the homes to the museums).
Five objects are selected for each exhibition hall. These objects all came from different cultures and locations. They are now displayed in different Western museums. The gray blocks symbolize the enclosures or cubes displaying these objects. You can only see the gradient shape of the object by hovering on the block. This interaction reflects the behavior in physical museums, where we have to look through an enclosure or a cube to see the objects inside. The names of these objects are the accession numbers or inventory numbers given by the museums, rather than the names given by their original communities.
The page detailing the object is divided into two parts. The top part in red is the Museum Side, in this case, the British Museum. The bottom part in yellow is the Original Side, in this case, Nigeria. The gradient shape became an actual image on the Original Side. Scrolling up to the Museum Side, It turned back to the gradient shape. This tradition implies its journey from the original home to the museum. The three keywords on each side reveal the gap between the object and its original social context. It’s treated as an artwork that needs to be displayed and documented on the Museum Side, while on the Original Side, It’s treated more like something functional or meaningful. The names of the two locations are links to a Google Maps page that indicates the geographical relationship of the two locations. The keywords are links to the Wikipedia pages.
These exhibitions are regularly updated and replaced by new ones, while the old ones will be moved to the archive. Objects are represented by gradient/abstract shapes for two reasons: 1) The EmptyCube Museum does not encourage people to see objects as mere artworks, so it places more emphasis on the connection between objects and their original contexts than on their physical appearances. 2) The EmptyCube Museum considers these objects displayed in white cubes incomplete since they are separated from their original cultural contexts.