The spirit room at the Origins Centre.

After helping clients explore and express their vision Totem begins to integrate the following design principles into that vision as part of the process of designing the exhibition: 

  • move away from colonial representations of culture;
  • offer critical views of history, culture and identity;
  • explore diverse viewpoints rather than ideologically narrow, pre-designed messages;
  • layer information in a dynamic way that allows visitors to make their own decisions about which layers to focus on;
  • include a layer of content that reflects on and critically engages the process of developing the exhibition itself – reflecting on the design in a transparent way, deconstructing ‘the authoritative voice’;
  • use interactive digital technologies to support the content – not the other way around;               

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  • allow ongoing public participation in the creation of some dynamic exhibits;
  • make links to the national education curriculum and develop teaching materials;
  • represent local issues in the context of the region;
  • actively network with other projects, archives, museums, heritage sites and educational institutions;
  • be a part of the international discourse on heritage and museums;
  • an integrated, long-term evaluation strategy;
  • strategic thinking around sustainability.

A part of Pippa Skotnes' marvellous installation at the Origins Centre, remembering the contribution of San painters imprisoned at Cape Town to our knowledge of San cultural history. Above right: Visitors to the Origins Centre view our distant ancestors.

Over many years Totem has built relationships with a pool of top researchers, writers, artists, designers, architects, audio-visual and interactive media experts; as well as people with expertise in marketing and tourism. This enables Totem to offer the following services in its exhibition design and implementation:
  • scoping the project and carrying out a feasibility study that ensures the sustainability of the project;
  • development of an integrated narrative or storyline;
  • exhibition design, development and execution;
  • interactive media design, development and execution;
  • film and other media production;
  • project management of the entire enterprise;
  • suggestions around ongoing event management;
  • marketing and advertising advice and co-ordination;
  • post opening curatorial services to ensure smooth operational and exhibition functionality.


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