How Jay-Z's new exhibition opens up new ways to engage

Jay-Z has notched up yet another hit. But not in the way you may expect.

‘The Book of HOV’ is a new exhibition sharing the story and career of one of Brooklyn’s most famous sons.

Alongside all the amazing artifacts inside, I noticed a few interesting things about the experience…

1. Meet people where they are

Jay-Z and team could have done this at a fancy museum, gallery, or even a hotel. Instead the venue is Brooklyn Central library. It’s at the center of the borough, free to access, a spot that everyone knows. The library is very much open to all.

2. Shift perceptions

The library entrance looks like an open book. So they covered it in scripture - lyrics by the man himself. But some don’t see hip hop as literature, nor libraries as cultural hot spots. How about a statement 100ft high?

3. Recognise constraints

The library isn’t designed as an exhibition space, so people can’t move chronologically through the exhibit. The library also needs to be usable throughout (including during the build phase). Tricky. So the exhibit is designed in modular, thematic chapters that can be viewed in any order, without disruption to other visitors

4. Bring it to life

Some of Jay-Z’s most memorable work was recorded at Baseline Studios. To give you a taste of what it’s like to be in the room, they’ve rebuilt a full recording studio inside the library, complete with vocal booth, mixing desk and soundproofing.

5. Mix up the formats

The story is told across all kinds of different formats: ticket stubs; tapes; drum machines; clothes, videos, sketch pads. Mixed formats plus thematic chapters offer a bunch of ways to learn and engage.

6. Curators matter

There are turntables set up with a stack of records to check out - plus a curator on hand to help you pick out what resonates and learn more about the artists and music. This curator skill set is so valuable - and not just in music…

7. Smart rewards

A lovely woman let my +1 listen to one of the records she was playing. She told us she’d come every day opening - because each day had its own limited edition Jay-Z library card.

8. Leverage the archive

There’s so much potential for brands and creatives to use their legacy assets in new ways. You can reward super fans; increase awareness; or inspire and activate your community (and even, like Jay-Z, do all three at once)

There’s a whole load more here, but I’m running out of space. Turns out this isn't a (99?) problem for Jay-Z: he never writes lyrics - they all come from memory.

P.S. My +1 was my 2 year old son. Definitely a different experience to going solo…

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