Prototypes and design

Prototype Testing

To test the project, I used the “Experience prototyping” method, which promotes active participation in design through subjective engagement of future exhibition visitors. I focused on my primary target group by organising five guided tours with four women and five men. It was composed of people from different professional and social backgrounds (decorator, scenographer, doctor, curator, artist, engineer, watchmaker, technician, entrepreneur) and aged between 40 and 80 years old. The aim was to find out their opinion on the contents, the scenography and their interest in the project. In each room, I presented archive images, diagrams and historical films so that the participants can imagine how the topics will be treated and how the spaces will be organised. The building (Hirsch Memorial), the instruments (Zeiss telescope etc.), the photographic archive and the historical films proved to be valuable aids. Tests on the children will be carried out once I have worked with a cultural mediation professional to develop a specific visit concept for them.

Mock-up display panel: Entrance
Simulation of a display with touch screen. The display is made of cardboard. The touch screen is represented by a few A4 pages with texts and images content. The visitor can thus imagine what he will discover.

Here are the remarks and comments of these visits.


Overall, the contents are relevant and of interest to the participants. The narration is reinforced by archive films that provide a historical atmosphere and complement the informative texts and diagrams. The lively and human side is important for the audience to be touched by the story.
In the Hirsch Memorial, try to link the topic of Art Nouveau with what exists in La Chaux-de-Fonds (rich in Art Nouveau buildings and watches, recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site) as many architecture lovers come to visit these treasures! This is an important element to communicate. This room is philosophical, with this notion of time passing, and then one plunges into the infinite, the universe.
For the “Astronomical Dome” room, one proposal is to group together on a single panel all the instruments that use the passage of the stars to measure time. Another proposal is to have a kind of projection of stars over the whole dome for daytime visits, it’ s important to feel the universe! It would be more relevant to open the exhibition on certain evenings to offer the visitor to live the 2 experiences: exhibition and sky observations. Sun observation is also possible during the day!
For the engine room, a colleague suggests adding information on the diagram of the evolution of time measurement. An inaccuracy of one minute with a clock gives a position error of 30 km, for example. We need to be able to explain to the public what impact the accuracy of time has on our lives, science, etc.

Entrance hall – Adolphe Hirsch Memorial


The use of an interactive terminal in the hall is a good solution to let this magnificent space breathe and to centralise the content to be presented. Maybe think about a vertical option so that several people can see the screen at the same time, or put 2 terminals?
The use of large information panels for large halls is very much appreciated. The mix of archive images, diagrams and texts is very suitable.
The darkroom is also very popular. The idea of arriving in a space lit in red and discovering backlit photographs is very popular. The interactive side of the spectroscopy experience is welcome to explain this complex technique.
In the Jornod space, the room is not very large, reviewing the layout of the displays on the topic of timing competitions.
In the clock room, ideally it should be possible to have a real clock, that would be the highlight of the visit. See if it is technically possible to have a burglarproof glass cage?

Interest in the project

A lot of enthusiasm and interest comes out of it. Many people find it astonishing that this heritage is unknown to the public and encourage the realisation of this exhibition. The areas that impressed visitors were the Memorial Hirsch, the astronomical dome, the darkroom, the installation with the 12:30 time signal, the clock room and the seismograph.


The comments on the improvement of the contents are relevant and allow me to make corrections, add information and modify elements of scenography.
The opening hours of the exhibition are an element to be developed because it would be interesting to offer one or more night visits once or several times a month to observe the sky and visit the exhibition. This would reinforce the originality of this project and clearly differentiate it from traditional museums. We would come to visit it in the evening to live a global experience!

Mock-up display panel: Entrance
Simulation of a display with touch screen. The display is made of cardboard. The touch screen is represented by a few A4 pages with texts and images content. The visitor can thus imagine what he will discover.
Mock-up display panel: Dark room
Test of the video screen integrated in a sink with an archive film showing the development of the images made with the Zeiss telescope.
Mock-up display panel: Dark room
Test of the light boxes showing historical images taken on glass plate.


Friday 23.10.2020
Visitor: Martine S. (decorator)

The route is rich in emotion, the dramaturgy is well balanced, you let yourself be carried away by the succession of spaces and discoveries that you find there. I would simplify the basement a little because there is too much information. It’s a rich content, but perhaps you shouldn’t put everything in. I would see enough of the transmission of the time in the centre of the large Jornod room. The idea of going from the infinitely large to the infinitely small is very striking. You really want to dive into space and see the stars. It is therefore very important that the visitor can observe the sky with the Zeiss telescope and that there should be places to sit and take time to think about the information presented. Perhaps there should also be a place to set up a café?

Tuesday 13.10.2020
Visitor: Xavier H. (scenographer)

Make touch screens matt to avoid reflections from windows, stained glass, etc.
In the dome, colour the windows with a blue or orange transparent film to attenuate the light as it is very dazzling when reading texts or looking through the telescope.
In the darkroom, make tilted light boxes, it will be more elegant.
In the clock room, it’s very nice to have reproductions of the clocks and then to have the seismograph in real life. It’s interesting this contrast: at the back of the seismograph, put a Plexiglas wall so that you can see it from the clock room.
In the Jornod room, don’t paint the floor but create a false floor under the chronometry part, as if you were entering a workshop, etc.
Big lighting work to be done as for the theatre. Staging the objects, the atmosphere of the place, etc.

Mock-up display panel: Machine room
I am showing a model of a panel explaining the research on atomic clocks with an archive film that will be projected on a screen fixed to the wall.
Mock-up display panel: Technical room
Testing of a display with an example of a vintage radio that will broadcast the 12:30 pm time signal for almost 50 years. The visitor will be able to listen to several examples by pressing the buttons on the radio.

Tuesday 29.09.2020
Visitors: Janine P., Alessandra R. (curator and artist)

The lobby is beautiful and unique. In the explanation of Art Nouveau, the connection with the works of La Chaux-de-Fonds should be made, this is important to attract an architecturally sensitive public! The interactive terminal version is a wise choice!
The ground floor of the Hirsch Pavilion is a connection to the sky! The memorial has a very philosophical, human side in the middle of this infinite, mortal universe.
In the dome, we would like to be able to plunge into the sky with a projection that occupies the whole space of the hall, to see the stars even in broad daylight. The perception of immensity, of expansion is very palpable. Idea of a large projection room.
We would not see any technical information in this room to allow the spectator to apprehend the space, the infinity of the universe. Why not put this aspect in the engine room, on the more technical side?!
The darkroom is a place for scientists to experiment, it is important to have human beings in this exhibition, to feel these researchers in action.
The equipment is rich and very beautiful.
The material is rich and beautiful. The time vault is also striking, you have to be able to put a real clock for the impact. Maybe we can find a way to put it under a cage of burglar-proof glass!
It is important to make this link between the abstract sky and the technical side of the research carried out by these researchers.
This project is a chance, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity!

Mock-up display panel: Clock room
I explain how time conservation was possible thanks to the precision clocks that were installed in this safe. A reproduction of the clocks will be made on a scale of 1:1 with an information panel and a sound atmosphere.
Seismograph room
I explain how the seismograph worked and the different elements that the visitor will be able to see in this room (archive images, seismograms, etc).

Sunday 20.09.2020
Visitor: Stéphanie B. (doctor)

The atmosphere on the ground floor takes us to another time, we lose the notion of time, there is a very emotional side to it.
The use of touch screen is very good for the hall because I like to be able to go deeper into certain subjects. It would be nice to have 1 or 2 more in the other rooms.
I like the darkroom with this red atmosphere and the images that emerge from it, it’s very immersive.
The room with the telescope is majestic and the seismograph cave is impressive. I am less interested in the technical aspects with these different measuring instruments.
Seismograms are small pictorial works, paintings.

Monday 07.09.2020
Visitors: Pierre-René B., Pierre-Alain P., Olivier L., Pierre S. (engineer, watchmaker, technician, contractor)

For the entrance hall, the choice of installing an interactive terminal is ideal. It is indeed important to limit the number of displays in this magnificent Art Nouveau space. Perhaps consider whether a vertical option of this kiosk could not be considered. It would facilitate access for children and several people could see the screen at the same time!
The use of large information panels is beautiful and clear, the opinions are positive. One proposal is to group all the instruments related to time measurement on a single panel. The idea of lighting the darkroom in red is positive. It will be necessary to check the exact space that the experiment will take with the spectroscope.
In the machine room, a colleague suggested adding information on the evolution of time measurement. We need to be able to explain to the public the importance of precision and its impact on our lives, science, etc. For the technical area, it should be proposed to the CSEM and LTF is to present their innovations in video form that would be broadcast on screens.
In the Espace Jornod, the organisation of the space is clear, the panel near the radiators should be revised. The space does not allow this arrangement.
In the seismograph room, keep a space available for a screen with an interactive presentation of one of the members.
Finally, several rooms were renamed, including one to pay tribute to Gilbert Jornod, who worked at the observatory for 43 years and died during the summer.

Research of titles for the exhibition

Space and Time: Stories from the Neuchâtel Observatory

The Factory of Time: Stories from the Neuchâtel Observatory

The Time Factory: Stories of the Neuchâtel Observatory

Time Manufacture: Stories from the Neuchâtel Observatory

Mastering Time: Stories of the Neuchâtel Observatory

Time: determination, conservation, distributionStories from the Neuchâtel Observatory

Le temps des étoiles à l’atome: Stories of the Neuchâtel Observatory