4.4 Sound/Exhibit Acoustics

In a museum setting, each sound source exists within an ecosystem of multisensory stimulation. The CMHR’s approach to sound and acoustics in exhibit spaces (exhibit soundscapes, film soundtracks, etc.) is to build in capacity for individual adjustments and then to holistically tune the spaces after installation is completed. As installations are added, removed and changed over time, we retune the spaces. It is also important to set various scenarios based on number of visitors or activity within a space. In general, we recommend having multiple default settings for the space at large to accommodate multiple scenarios. Our specific recommendations are described below.

Decibel Levels

Our target level is at the expected listening point of 70 decibels, which works well for most people.

Acoustic Treatment

We use sound-absorbent panels throughout the Museum. These sound-absorbing surfaces and materials reduce reflections, making speech more intelligible.

Our sound-absorbing surfaces also function as a means of wayfinding by drawing people into the gallery spaces through auditory means. Acoustically reflective surfaces in the Museum (such as the huge limestone walls in the group entrance) have their own acoustic identities which can act to repel people who use auditory cues for navigation. The sound-absorbing surfaces in all of our galleries counteract that effect; they give the impression of open spaces that attract and invite people to enter.