Ralph Appelbaum Associates

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Ralph Appelbaum Associates, Inc.
Industry Design
Founded 1978
Headquarters New York, USA
Number of employees
150-200? (2008)
Website [1]

Ralph Appelbaum Associates (RAA) is the world's largest museum exhibition design firm.[1][2] It has offices in New York City, London and Beijing.


The New York Times reported in 1999 that the firm was composed of "architects, designers, editors, model builders, historians, childhood specialists, one poet, one painter and one astrophysicist." [3]

The project the firm is most well known for is the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which has been described as a "turning point in museology"[3] and won the President Award for Design Excellence as well as the Federal Design Achievement Award.

The firm was founded in 1978 by Ralph Appelbaum (born 1942), a graduate of Pratt Institute and former Peace Corps volunteer (in Peru). According Mr. Appelbaum's official biography, "[He] currently directs RAA's undertakings, and retains daily involvement in selected commissions"[4]


Ralph Appelbaum Associates has done work for the William J. Clinton Presidential Library (2004), the Museum of the Portuguese Language (2006), The National World War I Museum (2006), the London Transport Museum (2007), and the Newseum (2008).

In 1994, William Grimes noted in the New York Times that RAA only took on non-profit commissions,[1] however their position has changed in recent years as the firm has completed some corporate work, including the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the Corning Museum of Glass. The firm has also worked for companies such as IBM, Intel, Sotheby's, Samsung, and Starbucks.

Ralph Appelbaum Associates is scheduled to open the following exhibits:

Design aesthetic[edit]

Donald Albrecht writes, "Positioning his design expertise within the context of fundraising, public relations and other forms of marketing, Appelbaum acknowledges that today's museums must compete with other forms of leisure entertainment."[6]


“Ralph Appelbaum doesn't work in the field of museum exhibition design. He practically owns it. Architects who do museums have Appelbaum and his 70-person New York firm, Ralph Appelbaum Associates, to thank for making prospects in the field bigger and better. Yet they complain about his increasing boundlessness—he does exhibits, he does interiors, he does architectures—and worry that he's unstoppable. They should worry. Since he opened RAA in 1978, Appelbaum has taken the bobby pin out of the bun, as it were, and made museums sexy again. He has been particularly successful jazzing up museums of science, history and culture—the kind of dowdy old burgs that through the 1970s were dying slow deaths in the backwaters of popular life. Over the past two decades, those same institutions have become tourist destinations for millions of people, who then spend billions of dollars in surrounding communities. Appelbaum has had much to do with that renaissance. He became the go-to guy for museum design not so much as a designer but as a dramaturge. By mixing the didactic material of museums with a good story line and a lot of flashy modern hardware, he all but invented "edutainment." – Bradford A. McKee, 'What's a Museum: What he says it is. How Ralph Appelbaum built a monopoly in the field of exhibition design. Architecture Magazine, 2002[2]”

When Appelbaum was awarded the first National Design Award for Communications by the Smithsonian, the Cooper-Hewitt commented, “His work is not without its detractors. Some believe he has contributed to a diminution of the museum, from temple to forum. Certainly, Appelbaum has helped to bring the museum into open view in our society.[8]

They have had a well-known struggle to find art museums willing to commission their work. Notably, Roberta Smith in the New York Times panned work done by the firm at the Whitney Museum for an Edward Hopper show.[8]

Notable projects[edit]

According to a press release from the Newseum, RAA "over the past three decades, [has] completed more than 250 commissions in the fields of social, cultural and natural history at a variety of museums, memorials and heritage projects in more than 50 cities worldwide."[9]

Projects include:


  1. ^ a b c William Grimes (1994-01-11). "New Approach to Museum-Show Design". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-19. 
  2. ^ Bradford A. McKee, 'What's a Museum: What he says it is. How Ralph Appelbaum built a monopoly in the field of exhibition design. Architecture Magazine, 2002
  3. ^ a b Deborah Soloman (1999-04-21). "He Turns the Past Into Stories and the Galleries Fill Up". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-07-08.  Check date values in: |year= (help)
  4. ^ "Ralph Appelbaum Associates Incorporated". Retrieved 2008-03-19. 
  5. ^ http://tonyblairfaithfoundation.org/projects/abraham-house.html
  6. ^ Albrecht, Daniel (2000). Design Culture Now. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-1-56898-215-1. 
  7. ^ Flanagan, Barbara (2000). "Interior Magazine, Designer of the Year". 
  8. ^ Smith, Roberta (1995-06-23). "ART REVIEW; Hopper Enlarged: The Father of Giants". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-22. 
  9. ^ Newseum | Press Info | Press Materials | Design and Architecture[dead link]
  10. ^ "National Museum of Scotland to reopen after £47m refit". BBC News. BBC. 28 July 2011. Retrieved July 28, 2011. 

External links[edit]