Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Giving Thanks and Thanksgiving


As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday here in the U.S. it seemed like a perfect time to re-post one of the most popular ExhibiTricks articles on a topic directly related to thankfulness. Donor recognition inside museums always provides design challenges (and opportunities!)

I hope this post provides creative inspiration and serves as a reminder of the many things we all have to be thankful for.   Enjoy!



Most donor recognition installations in museums are really ways to say thanks.  And who could argue with that?

But you can thank someone with the equivalent of a cheap mass-produced card you grabbed on your way home, or with the donor recognition version of a homemade loaf of bread accompanied by a carefully chosen book inscribed to the recipient.

Last month I asked museum folks for images of interesting and thoughtful examples of donor recognition.  I received an avalanche of images --- many more than I'll include in this post, so I've gathered all the images that I've received into a free PDF available for download from the POW! website.

Just click on the "Free Exhibit Resources" link near the center-top of any page on the website, and you'll see an entire collection of free goodies, including the newly added link called "Donor Recognition Examples."  Once you click on the link you'll get the PDF of images. (Be patient --- it's a BIG file.)

So what sorts of images and examples of donor recognition did I receive?  They fell into several larger categories, namely:

• Frames and Plaques

• Walls and Floors

• Genre Specific

• Mechanical/Interactive

• Interesting Materials

• Digital Donor Devices

So let's take each of the six categories and show a few examples of each.


FRAMES and PLAQUES

I'm sure you've seen lots of bad examples of this donor recognition approach, but there is a lot to be said for the simplicity (and creative twists!) that can be employed using this technique.

The image at the top of this post is a nice example of "helping hands" (but still essentially plaques) in this category from the Chicago Children's Museum.

I like the use of colors and the physical arrangements in the following two examples. The first pair of images comes from the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh (with bonus colored shadows!)







The next is a sert of back-lit elements designed by Skolnick A+D Partnership for the Children's Museum of Virginia --- The entire unit is essentially one big lightbox!





Light is also used as a strong element in the image below from Macalester College.  The folks from Blasted Art used Rosco's Lite Pad product to create the glowing text.





Lastly, I like this simple example from the MonDak Heritage Center.  Just frames, but it does the job nicely.






WALLS and FLOORS

Sometimes donor recognition wants to be BIG, in an architectural sense, so interior or exterior walls are used  --- and sometimes even floors!

Here are two exterior wall examples that stood out.  The first from the Creative Discovery Museum





And the second from the Oakland Museum.  They are both colorful and animate nicely what would otherwise be a big blank wall.





 Here's a nice interior wall from Discovery Gateway, in Salt Lake City



Each of the pieces is back-laminated graphics on acrylic.  (Here's a detail.)






Of course, even the best-laid donor recognition plans can get circumvented by operational issues!





And lastly, here's a floor example from The National Museum of Nuclear Science and History.  It's the Periodic Table with donors in each element.







GENRE SPECIFIC

Several people sent examples of genre specific donor recognition designs.  A popular motif is to use collection objects or images, especially in the case of Natural History Museums.

Here is the Specimen Wall from the California Academy of Sciences.  It's an elegant  low-tech solution that features specimen reproductions encased in laminated glass. The wall was conceived by Kit Hinrichs and realized in collaboration with Kate Keating Associates, with fabrication by Martinelli Environmental Graphics and glass by Ostrom Glassworks.






Here's a clever use of old school tabletop jukeboxes to recognize donors to radio station WXPN put together by Metcalfe Architecture & Design in Philadelphia.





MECHANICAL / INTERACTIVE

In the same way that interactive exhibits are fun and memorable, donor recognition can be too!

Gears are a popular motif in this regard.  The first image (Grateful Gears) is from an installation at the Kentucky Science Center, while the second is from the Madison Children's Museum.










INTERESTING MATERIALS

Sometimes the design element that gets people to stop and actually read the donor names are the unusual materials that the donor recognition piece is made of. If the materials relate to the institution itself, so much the better!


This first image comes from the San Francisco Food Bank







The next is from the Museum Center at 5ive Points, in Cleveland Tennessee which has a strong history of copper mining.  So this intricate donor recognition piece is made from copper!






I love this clever use of miniature doors and windows at the Kohl Children's Museum.  You can open doors and windows to reveal additional information about donors.






The last entry from this section is the truly striking three-dimensional "Donor Tree" from the Eureka Children's Museum in the UK.





DIGITAL DONOR DEVICES

As with all museum installations, digital technology plays an increasing role --- even in Donor Devices.

One unit that stood out was this digital donor recognition device at the National  Historic Trails Center that solicits donations in real-time and puts up digital "rocks" on the rock wall screen of different sizes --- depending on the size of your donation, of course!  A really neat idea that beats a dusty old donation box,  hands down.




As I mentioned earlier, these images are really the tip of the iceberg.  So please check out the entire PDF of all the images I received by heading over to the "Free Exhibit Resources" section of my website.


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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Unpacking My Museum Trip To China



I just returned from Beijing, China where I was invited to present lectures and workshops around the theme of "Developing Engaging Museum Exhibitions."

The program was coordinated by the ICOM International Training Centre for Museum Studies (ICOM-ITC), housed at the Palace Museum in Beijing, and is a collaboration between ICOM, ICOM China, and the Palace Museum


The Palace Museum --- nice spot for a workshop!

As is the custom of ICOM-ITC, about half of the program participants were museum professionals based in China, while the participants from outside China came from such countries as Iran, Zambia, Colombia, and Armenia.




I was one of two international lecturers (and the only participant from the U.S.) My workshops focused on Prototyping, Interactive Exhibit Experiences, and Exhibit Evaluation. I was ably joined by the energetic and engaging Lucimara Letelier, an independent museum professional from Brazil.  Lucimara covered topics related to Museum Marketing, Branding, and Audience Development.

Lucimara in action.


Since I am writing this post just after a 24-hour burst of airplane and airport travel, I'm still processing my experiences in China (and still a little jet-lagged!) but here are some of my initial impressions:


"Engaging" means many things in museums  
We often think of exhibits being "engaging" through hands-on interactives or the integration of technology, but audience "engagement" begins even before visitors enter your museum. Lucimara stressed the importance of "The Five Ps" when it comes to museum marketing and engaging audiences: Price, Place, Product, People, and Promotion. 




The term "prototyping" doesn't translate well
It helps if everyone shares a common understanding of the terms you are using --- especially in a workshop filled with museum folks from around the world!  It became apparent in my first talk that the term "prototyping" didn't translate very well, so we re-branded prototyping as "trying things out."

Trying out a prototype.


Museum people share common challenges
It was a pleasure to work with such enthusiastic and curious people during my ICOM-ITC presentations.  It was gratifying to share common challenges (and encouragement and ideas) with such a far-flung group.  A great strength of the museum business is the willingness of museum folks to share with each other.



China is in the midst of a museum boom
I was really struck by the tremendous level of support that the Chinese government provides to the museum sector. Not only does this support translate to museums and museum projects spread throughout the country, but over 87% of the 4246 Museums in China are admission free.

As another example of this museum boom, I was told that in the next few years they will add over 300 new science centers in China!

Inside the HUGE Capital Museum in Beijing


You can do a lot in a short time ... if you focus!
A surprising aspect of focused workshop time (and also working with outside consultants!) is that once we are removed from the seemingly constant distractions of the museum workplace, we can accomplish a surprising amount of work in a relatively short period of time.  

In my workshops we created exhibit prototypes, developed interactive exhibit approaches, tried some visitor evaluation techniques inside one of the Palace Museum's exhibition galleries, and rounded out the week by developing a pop-up exhibition!




Of course, my trip to China wasn't ALL work! A wonderful aspect of the ICOM-ITC workshop was the opportunity to tour the Palace Museum (known as "The Forbidden City" to many Westerners) and important cultural sites like The Great Wall as a group.  

The workshop participants also got to socialize together by visiting different parts of Beijing together at night.  This work/play combination really created a great group dynamic and forged important professional ties.  I feel like I have a new group of international museum colleagues.

Traveling to other countries (and museums!) helps provides perspective on our own life and work.  Being a part of ICOM-ITC was a wonderful professional and personal experience that I will never forget!  

At The Great Wall!


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Friday, November 3, 2017

A Guest Post From The High Seas!


Charissa Ruth is a freelance educator based in Brooklyn, New York. She is currently working onboard the JOIDES Resolution, a scientific research vessel, as an Education and Outreach Officer. Before sailing the seas, she was working in various museums and cultural institutions teaching school, afterschool, and family programs. She'd like to try her hand at stand-up comedy sometime in the future so if you've got really good jokes you can send them her way.

Charissa was kind enough to share this guest post from onboard the JOIDES Resolution:


The towering structure in the middle is the derrick which stabilizes
the pipe as we drop it down and collect core samples. 

It’s a different world living on a moving, floating structure. On an impeccably blue and white background, you can see the crew decked in red moving here and there, constantly at work. From my office window, I can see the ocean, I can see the drilling derrick towering over the rest of the ship as guardian, and I can see the catwalk where the scientists first meet the new core.

We are a small city at sea. We have scientists from all over the world --- Brazil, Australia, USA, China, Japan, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Korea, and Italy. The bulk of conversation happens in English but you can hear snippets of accents and languages from all over. It reminds me of Brooklyn, of home.



Sometimes it can feel pretty lonely or isolating out here.
There are also picnic tables for people to sit at for
our weekly outside BBQ (weather permitting). 

Work is happening around the clock. We all have twelve-hour work shifts and everyone is allotted some daylight hours and some nighttime hours in which to keep progress happening. There’s a pleasant rhythm at work. Meal times happen four times a day, with cookie time or break time twice a day. People are waking up and going to bed at all hours of the day. “Good Morning” replaces “Hello” as the common greeting.

It’s been humbling to learn the rudimentary tenets of geology from geologists. All I knew of rocks and fossils is what I remember from picking up and playing with them outside as a kid. In a way, I feel I have regressed back to an infant stage. Everything is new, I feel overwhelmed at times with the amount of new information, and I’m learning to speak a new language slowly but surely.




Once the cores reach room temperature, we split them open to look at. 
Here we see half of the cores laid out for observation and 
we are looking at some black basalt. 

One of my major responsibilities as an Education and Outreach Officer on the JOIDES Resolution is to facilitate live broadcasts to classrooms all around the world. (You can find out more information and learn how to sign up a classroom here.) Just this week, we’ve talked to students in Brazil, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Later this month, we have groups from Japan, South Korea, and Germany. Learning to speak this new scientific language, I now become a translator for students young and old.




We talk about plate tectonics, rock layers, fossils so small you need a powerful microscope to see them. We talk about what it’s like to live on a scientific research vessel with 120 souls onboard. We talk about how they, the students, can make their way into this field and maybe one day onto this ship. The message is clear - there are still places in this world where you can be an explorer and discoverer.  


Thanks Charissa for sharing your shipboard experiences with ExhibiTricks readers, and good luck with the remainder of your voyage!

 

The ship lit up at night while still in port in Hobart.
Photo credit: Bill Crawford




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P.S. If you receive ExhibiTricks via email (or Facebook or LinkedIn) you will need to click HERE to go to the main ExhibiTricks page to make comments or view multimedia features (like videos!)