Space and objects are always in your face. While they may not be a top priority for brainpower, they still affect us in many ways because we constantly perceive them. Think about your own home. In some capacity, you consider your furniture, what may or may not be hanging from your walls, lighting, knick-knacks and other things. We all do this, and we do this because it is our stuff and because our stuff represents what we value and can determine what becomes attractive to us in the contexts of certain spaces.
“It is important to analyze how powerful discriminations made at particular moments constitute the general system of objects within which valued artifacts circulate and make sense…The critical history of collecting is concerned with what from the material world specific groups of individuals choose to preserve, value, and exchange.” (Clifford 221)
Thus we pick certain objects to keep in our home and others to exchange, the same way a store might pick and place certain objects to, ideally, get you to buy something but also to have a good experience while doing so. So if we walk into a bookstore, what kind of things are we thinking? Or better yet, what kind of things are we thinking about because of the things in the store? Maybe we are looking for a specific book in this specific store, or maybe we are just strolling about and something about the storefront pulled us in. Either way we have gone into the store (in this case Women & Children First) and we are now deciding if it was worth the time. That decision will be based on our perceptions of the space and objects with the rest of W&CF.
Inside, the first thing our eyes can assess is the dark, wooden floor. Then when we look up, we can see the gray walls are covered with shelves of books. Pretty characteristic of a book store so far. To the left, directly from the entrance, we can see the register area. To the left of that, there are cards and other gifts, pulling in the occasional card-buyer or birthday-forgetter. They sell a few things besides books, but those things are kept to a small area at the front of the store.
On the occasional open space of the walls, there are lists of bestsellers for each genre. We might think about buying a bestseller, or we might keep walking. Personally, I would head towards the fiction section, but for the sake of being objective, we will go where the human eye is most likely to go, straight ahead. As we walk, to our right is the fiction section I mentioned, with a small, new-nonfiction section closer the front entrance. Women write most of the books on the small display, which makes sense since the store is named Women & Children First. It’s fair to say that this display is appealing to women. The other interesting thing about this small nonfiction display is that looks like it was made out of an old filing cabinet. Possibly trying to create a nostalgic or vintage aesthetic.
“a scheme of classification is elaborated for storing or displaying the object so that the reality of the collection itself, its coherent order, overrides specific histories of the object’s production and appropriation,” (Clifford 220)
While these are new nonfiction books, the actual shelving is aged in appearance. A visual way of saying the old can make way for the new, which might somehow appeal to older consumers, or alternately it could represent a creative and environmentally friendly store owner. This is also the only metal display.
The fiction section is made of wooden shelving. The fiction is given space priority, having three, tall shelves to house them. Further ahead, and given similar space priority, is the LGBTQ book section. Based on the fact that these two genres make up an entire wall of the store, we can assume Women & Children First prioritizes fiction and LGBTQ works. Now the shelves that house these two genres have three openings that each showcase the books to the customer. At the same time, the space is open so the customer can move freely while browsing.
At the back of the store, or the east side of the store, is the Children’s Section. While there is not a sign, it is referred to as the Children’s Section. “Naming is one of the ways space can be given meaning and become place.” (Cresswell 9) The Children’s Section is more than its name, but referring to the space as the Children’s Section creates comfort for children, and also notes that all the books in the section appeal to children. To label it anything else, like “fiction” or history” would be confusing for children. So this area is meant to be inviting in the simplest way. There are pillows, throw rugs and seating to house readings that are hosted within the space. Children can sit or even lie down and listen to a book being read. The shelving here is different, still wood, but the books are arranged to display their covers. Mostly likely to get the attention of children, who are more interested in visuals when considering their own things.
If we turn and walk to the left, putting the Children’s Section to our right, further back and past a wall on our left, there is a community space for events. In this space, there is a long, dark, rectangular table with chairs surrounding it. The arrangement implies a close, friendly atmosphere. Everyone is face-to-face and can speak directly to one another, shelves of books line the walls of the room behind the Community Space where returns can be made. Local authors can hold readings in the Community space which makes the close arrangement of furniture beneficial for a curious consumer.
On our way out, we pass a few table displays, most likely fiction if we decide to pass the cashier, maybe more new books. We realize that the store is not that large, it is not quite small either. For the amount of space dedicated to local activity, it maintains a well-stocked store with clear and comfortable browsing. Because of that, sure we might not buy something today, but we know from the way the store is arranged and labeled, that we will come back to buy something one day, we will know it will be a pleasant experience.
Cresswell, Tim. Place: A Short Introduction. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub., 2004. Print.
Clifford, On Collecting Art and Culture. Print.