Saturday, July 25, 2015

Favorite ExhibiTricks Posts: People, Tools, and Inspiration (Summer 2015 Edition)


I've been doing the ExhibiTricks blog for over eight(!) years now, and in that time I've built up quite a "back catalog" of articles and resources.

Since it's summer (in North America) and that is often a time for slowing down and catching up on reading and ideas, I thought I'd put together a list of some of my favorite posts in three recurring ExhibiTricks categories: People, Tools, and Inspiration.  Obviously the Venn Diagram often overlaps between those three topics, but I hope you have fun reading these curated posts nevertheless.  Enjoy!


PEOPLE





























TOOLS


























INSPIRATION






















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Friday, July 17, 2015

Are You Building a Team of Loyalists or Mercenaries?


I think I've found another quality that distinguishes a great museum from a merely so-so museum.

And that's whether you are building a team of loyalists or mercenaries.  (I was struck by this idea after reading this recent article by Fred Wilson.)

Are you creating a work environment, and an institutional culture, that makes people want to stay, to become part of this great thing, and to make it even greater?  Are people there for purpose, not merely for profit?  

Or would they happily skip over to just about any other company or organization that would pay them a little more?

Tough questions.  How is YOUR museum answering them?



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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

ROAD TRIP! More Museums Worth a Special Visit


My family and I are off to visit friends and relatives in Detroit, so of course my mind heads in the direction of interesting places to visit.  I've written about "Museums Worth A Special Trip" in previous ExhibiTricks posts (see here, here, and here!) but I thought summer travel season would be a good time to pick up the topic again.

So here are some Summer 2015 "Museums Worth A Special Trip" suggestions for your reading (and hopefully, road tripping!) pleasure:

Since I'll be heading to Detroit, I would be remiss if I didn't mention one the great Art Museums in this country, The Detroit Institute of Arts (aka The DIA.)  As if the spectacular Diego Rivera murals weren't reason enough to visit the DIA, in recent years the Museum was completely redesigned, both physically and conceptually to enhance visitors' experiences.



This summer, The National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. has a special immersive (literally!) exhibition called The BEACH that fills the massive central space of NBM with nearly one million plastic balls that create a giant playground to wade, dive, or swim through!  In addition to the rollicking fun of the BEACH, you can also enjoy the other architecture-related exhibitions nestled into NBM's amazing building. 



While we're on the East Coast, if your travels bring you near the Boston area, be sure to check out The Discovery Museums in Acton, Massachusetts.  Pound for pound, still two (a children's museum and a science museum on the same "campus") of the most charming museums around. Packed with simple, elegant, and inventive exhibit ideas and playful spaces.


Whenever people ask me if I have a "favorite" museum, I generally say I have too many "favorites" to pick just one, but, if pressed,  The City Museum in St. Louis, would definitely make my top three.  How can you not love a museum that did an exhibition about toasters? With someone inside who will make a piece of toast for you using an antique toaster? A phantasmagoria filled with slides and tunnels and shoelace making machines and ... check out this video to get a sense of the place!




Now let's bop across the Bay Bridge to Oakland, California to visit the Oakland Museum of California  (aka OMCA.)  This museum has reinvented itself in recent years with lots of community involvement.  It's worth checking out the book, How Visitors Changed Our Museum, to find out more about OMCA's exhibit process and products.  The museum is divided into Art, History, and Natural Sciences, and each part reveals truly interesting and innovative approaches.




Of course my Museums Worth a Special Visit list could include many other worthy institutions (like The Exploratorium and The Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum)  but I'd like to crowdsource my Summer 2015 list a bit. 

So, what are some of your favorite museums to visit and recommend to others?  Let us know in the "Comments" section below!



Don't miss out on any ExhibiTricks posts! It's easy to get updates via email or your favorite news reader. Just click the "Sign up for Free ExhibiTricks Blog Updates" link on the upper right side of the blog.

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!)

Sunday, June 28, 2015

What is a High Quality Museum?


How would you define "High Quality" in the context of museums?  It's a slippery term (like "World Class" which we've written about before here on ExhibiTricks.)  Every museum wants to be described as "High Quality" and "World Class" but what do those terms actually mean, in a practical sense, and how do you know when you truly have become a high quality organization?

What does high quality mean to you, or to the museums you work in, or visit?  

I was asked to contribute a short article (excerpted below) to the Association of Children Museums journal, Hand to Hand, about just this topic.  In fact, all the articles in the entire issue are focused on the notion of "High Quality."  The current issue of Hand to Hand is available as a free PDF, so click on over to the ACM website to check it out.  (And enjoy my "high quality" thoughts below!)



High Quality = Internal Capacity  by Paul Orselli

“High quality” to me means something of lasting value, something special that is meaningful over time and across generations.  And children’s museums—any museums, really—that can be described consistently as high quality are quite uncommon.

As a practical matter, the way to develop a truly high-quality children’s museum experience means having a clear sense of what you want your museum to look like two, three or more years in the future—not just two months after opening! That means investing for the long-term in thoughtful experiences, materials, staff, and expertise.

In my exhibit design and development practice, I ask museum collaborators two simple questions: How will you (the staff inside your museum, not contractors orconsultants) 1) fix things that break or don’t work? and 2) transform great new ideas into real exhibits and programs? If you can’t come up with credible answers to both questions, I’m afraid that not only will you be constantly racing to “put out fires” in the form of problems that could have been anticipated (as opposed to the many un-anticipated ones you’ll encounter) but your bright, shiny museum will soon become dingy and boring, not only physically, but in its intellectual and emotional spirit as well.

Creating a strong institutional culture of internal capacity is the key difference between a great museum and a mediocre one. Building and investing in this strong institutional capacity doesn’t mean that you work in isolation.  On the contrary, carefully understanding the strengths and weaknesses across your institution makes it clear when and where you need to invest time and resources. Those investments in time and/or resources can involve seeking out expertise in your local communities, sending staff to national or regional conferences or local professional development opportunities, or (gasp!) bringing in consultants to help build up internal capacity in other areas of institutional need. There are many choices.

What is not a choice is doing nothing. Because doing nothing will surely begin the slide from “high quality” to “who cares?” And is that the kind of museum you want to be part of?




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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Creative Design Toolbox: PAINT!


Paint is often an underutilized creative tool, so here's a round-up of four interesting types of paint that you can incorporate into some of your next design projects:


ALBEDO 100 PAINT
Albedo 100 paint is a series of four different sprays that are essentially invisible in daylight, but become highly-reflective in low-light conditions.  The manufacturer has created formulations suitable for metals, textiles, concrete, wood, and even horses and pets!  (For example, here's a BBC report about reindeer herders in Finland coating the antlers of their reindeer with Albedo paint so they don't get hit by cars at night.)


Albedo paints could be just the thing for outdoor exhibit areas or low-light areas around planetariums or art installations, not to mention the possibilities around Halloween!  You can find out more by clicking over to the Albedo 100 website.



CHALKBOARD PAINT
You may have encountered chalkboard paint before, but to me the real design opportunity lies not only in flat walls, but in dimensional (aka 3D) opportunities, like the car done up in chalkboard paint at the top of this post (the vehicle of one of our local public school art teachers!) or the play table below.


Imagine chalkboard-painted furniture in a Maker's Space or an Art Studio, or chalkboard-painted objects in a math or topology exhibition!

Chalkboard paint is available from Amazon, or from large hardware stores like Home Depot.  I think Krylon brand works the best, and it comes in different colors, as well as in brush-on or spray-on forms.




HYDROPHOBIC PAINT
A wonderful introduction to the possibilities of "hydrophopic" (literally water-fearing, or water-resistant) paints are through the website or videos of Seattle-based artist Peregrine Church.  


Church has turned the rainy weather of Seattle to artistic advantage by creating "Rainworks" (sidewalk-based artworks that only appear when wet, due to the hydroscopic nature of the stencil-based designs he and his co-conspirators create.) 

Check out his Rainworks YouTube video below:




Hydrophobic paint comes in many formulations, but Rust-Oleum's "Never Wet" brand seems to be most accessible for consumers, either at Amazon or hardware or paint stores.   Hydrophobic paints seem like a great opportunity to enliven the sidewalks and walls around any sort of museum, gallery, or cultural venue.


IdeaPaint
Last, but not least, IdeaPaint  is a coating that transforms ordinary surfaces into dry-erase surfaces.  So imagine all the walls (or all the furniture!) of a room transformed into dry-erase surfaces that can capture drawings, notes, whatever!


IdeaPaint seems like a great opportunity to not only enliven cultural spaces, but corporate spaces as well.  Click on over to the IdeaPaint website for more creative inspiration (or to purchase IdeaPaint products.)


So get out those tarps, brushes, and rollers to start getting creative with PAINT!  Did we miss any of your favorite paint-related creative design tools?  Let us know about them in the "Comments" section below!


Don't miss out on any ExhibiTricks posts! It's easy to get updates via email or your favorite news reader. Just click the "Sign up for Free ExhibiTricks Blog Updates" link on the upper right side of the blog.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Three Lists

“The best laid schemes o' mice an' men ... "

Robert Burns could have been a museum planner.  Despite the best laid schemes for our museum and exhibit projects, things often do go awry.  Whether it happens during the initial stages of value engineering (often providing neither "value" nor "engineering") or before the opening of a new building or exhibition, the harsh realities of schedules and budgets often squeeze our hopes and dreams like a vise.


In an effort to shake myself out of the funk that often accompanies this part of the exhibit/museum development process, I've taken to creating three lists for myself (at any stage of a project) and suggesting that clients do the same.

What are the titles of those three lists, you ask?  Simple:

• Things that MUST happen before opening

• Things that would be NICE to have happen before opening

• Things that ABSOLUTELY WON'T HAPPEN until after opening

Exactly which specific things you put on your lists will vary from project to project, and situation to situation.  (It's a pretty sure bet your new museum will need working front doors on your first day, but if a few staff office chairs arrive a week late, it's probably not a reason to cancel the opening gala.)  But to proceed otherwise, as if everything on all the punch lists and wish lists and to-do lists will happen before opening, is, at best, a rookie mistake, or at worst, a one-way express train ticket to Looneyville.

So pause a moment to process the bad news you just got from your General Contractor (or Director or Fire Marshall or Lead Designer ...) take a deep breath, and gather your team together to start putting together your three lists.

Your project (not to mention your health and sanity) will be better for it.


Don't miss out on any ExhibiTricks posts! It's easy to get updates via email or your favorite news reader. Just click the "Sign up for Free ExhibiTricks Blog Updates" link on the upper right side of the blog. 

Need some help putting together your project's three lists?  Let's talk! Contact Paul Orselli and POW! today.

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