Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A Practical Guide to Museum Ethics: An Interview with Sally Yerkovich

Sally Yerkovich is an internationally known speaker, educator and museum leader. She is director of the Institute of Museum Ethics and adjunct professor in the Museum Professions Program at Seton Hall University. She also teaches in the Museum Anthropology Program at Columbia University and Bank Street Graduate School’s Leadership in Museum Education Program. A member of the Ethics Committee for the International Council of Museums (ICOM), she worked extensively with museums in Central and Eastern Europe as President of the Fund for Arts and Culture, an all-volunteer organization that helped promote the development of civil society by sharing best practices with cultural organizations in former Soviet-bloc countries.  

Sally is also on the AASLH Ethics and Professional Standards Committee and served as Chair of the American Alliance of Museums Task Force on the Direct Care of Collections. Her work, which draws upon her experience in museums and nonprofit cultural organizations, is increasingly engaged with how museums will face the ethical challenges of the future.

I'm very happy that Sally was able to share her thoughts with ExhibiTricks readers in the interview below:

How did you become interested in museum work?
My route to museums was circuitous.  When I was growing up in Portland, Oregon, I was really not a great fan of museums.  I found art museums intimidating.  They were grand in scale, not particularly welcoming in manner and they seemed to expect me to bring an understanding of the art with me. I was drawn more to science and history museums as well as to zoos.  They seemed more approachable and had a more direct relationship to my life and experiences.

After I graduated from college, I worked for a program that helped high school students without financial or social advantages gain the necessary skills and knowledge of the humanities so that they could be admitted to college.  I also spent a month in West Africa -- Southwestern Nigeria to be precise.  There I was immersed in Yoruba culture and society and came to a new understanding of cultural difference.  Each of these experiences had a profound impact on my thinking and led me to want to create opportunities for learning for people without the advantages of higher education.  I didn’t know how I would do that but I knew my next step should be getting a graduate degree in cultural anthropology.

After I finished my PhD in Folklore and Folklife/cultural anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania (my dissertation was an ethnolinguistic study of gossiping), I taught briefly at the University of Florida in Gainesville.  There I visited the natural history museum often and saw exhibitions that made cultural difference understandable.  These exhibitions did what I had always wanted to do – create bridges to understanding between and among cultural groups and provide entry points for those who want to learn but have not had educational advantages.  It was a short hop from there to working at the National Endowment for the Arts and then the National Endowment for the Humanities where I came to understand that museums could be venues for the kinds of learning experiences I was interested in creating.

How did you originally get involved with the Institute of Museum Ethics?
After working in museums for about twenty years, I heard about the Institute of Museum Ethics at Seton Hall University.  Its founding director had just moved to England and the Institute needed a director.  Ethics had always been a concern for me from the time of my graduate work, through my years at NEA and NEH where I helped create guidelines for working with Native American groups, to working in museums in New York and New Jersey.  

After I started working with the Institute, I realized that as museum professionals, we are confronted with ethical issues on a regular basis and we quickly internalize the values that guide our decisions and resolutions of dilemmas.  Nonetheless, we seldom talk about ethics except when a controversy or scandal arises.  I felt that the Institute could become a venue where conversations about ethics could happen absent a crisis situation and where we could come to understand better the ethical principles that underpin our work.

At about this same time, the controversy over the National Portrait Gallery exhibition Hide/Seek:  Difference and Desire in American Portraiture arose.  The Institute created a very successful day-long conversation about the controversy that demonstrated how constructive and instructive conversations could be build around contentious situations.

All of this, then, led me to develop courses on ethics in museums that I now teach at Seton Hall in the M.A. in Museum Professions Program, Columbia University in the Museum Anthropology M.A. Program, and Bank Street College of Education in the Museum Leadership Program.  I’m also developing an online introductory course on ethics for Museum Study.  All of these courses are great fun and often take advantage of the resources of the Institute.

Can you talk a little about your new book? 
A Practical Guide to Museum Ethics grew out of my interest in creating conversations about ethics.  It is a very practical guide to thinking about the ethical dilemmas that arise in all areas of museum work – from governance and management to collections care, cultural heritage and accessibility.  

Through a discussion of the relevant codes of ethics and then the posing of a number of hypothetical (and not so hypothetical) situations, it is designed to help museum professionals think through the dilemmas that they may face in their daily museum lives.  The hypotheticals can be used as conversation starters regarding some of the most prevalent ethical issues in museums.

What is the most interesting response you’ve had when you’ve talked about your book to people not involved with museums? 
“Museum ethics? What’s that?” or “Do museums have ethics?”   Even though people read about ethical issues in museums regularly in the newspapers – articles about deaccessioning, fund raising, possible board members’ conflicts of interest and the like – they don’t always think of these as ethical issues and don’t understand the reasons that these things can be problematic for museums.  For these people, I would hope my book would be an introduction to the principles that underlie work in museums.

What are some of your favorite online (or offline!) resources for people interested in finding out more about Museum Ethics?
Of course, I need to start with the Institute of Museum Ethics own website. We have a news feed on the website as well as resource lists pointing to documents and websites that provide codes of ethics for all the different aspects of work related to museums.  On Twitter -- @museumethics – we also keep up with news and with developments in the field that relate to ethics.  There is also a new website for my book.

For people working in or with museums in the U.S., the American Alliance of Museums Code of Ethics for Museums is a good starting point.  The AAM website also has important supplementary information concerning field-wide standards and best practices that can provide guidance. The American Association for State and Local History and the Association of Art Museum Directors have similar resource banks that are excellent.

The website for the International Council of Museums also has some very useful information related to museum ethics.  Their Code of Ethics sets standards adhered to by museums internationally and their website  is especially strong on information related to the international trafficking of items of cultural heritage. (See the ICOM International Observatory on Illicit Traffic in Cultural Goods for a wealth of information.)

There are a number of blogs that often focus upon ethical issues in museums.  CultureGrrl is the first that comes to mind.  Whether you agree with Lee Rosenbaum or not, you can bet that she will highlight the ethical issues of the day. 

I’m also a great fan of the Anonymous Swiss Collector blog as well as Cultural Assets, attorney Kevin P. Ray’s occasional legal analysis and commentary on art and cultural property.  Finally, speaking of things legal – my starting point in thinking about any legal or ethical question related to museums is always Marie Malaro and Ildiko Pogany DeAngelis’ A Legal Primer on Managing Museum Collections. It never ceases to provide lucid thinking on many issues that are critical to museum governance and management.

What advice would you have for museum professionals, especially those from smaller museums, in making sure their exhibitions and programs manifest in ethical ways?
The key word for creating exhibitions and programs is integrity.
If your work is based in sound, balanced research and you have consulted with and listened carefully to other experts, whether they are scholars or members of the community to which your exhibition relates, you can most likely be confident that you are presenting a story to the public that you can defend and take pride in.  

When you are dealing with a potentially controversial topic, listening to different perspectives and including those is often really important.  Also, the National Coalition Against Censorship has a publication, “Museum Best Practices for Managing Controversy” that can be very helpful.

What do you think will be the most important issues for museum ethics in the future?
Several years ago, the Institute of Museum Ethics and the Center for the Future of Museums (AAM) did a forecasting exercise to get a sense of what the most important ethical issues for museums might be in fifteen to twenty five years. The exercise highlighted six issues:

• Accessibility
• Conflict of Interest
• Control of content
• Collecting and deaccessioning
• Diversity
• Transparency and accountability in governance, operations, and finance

Even in just the five or so years since we did the study, these issues have become much more critical in the field.  The most difficult of them are, of course, related to money.  What should the role of a donor be in creating an exhibition?  Are there funders and/or potential board members whose reputations are such that it may not be wise for museums to work with them?  Is it ever appropriate for a museum to cede control of the content of an exhibition or program to a donor?  

There are no easy answers to any of these questions and it will be increasingly important for museums to share their perspectives and experiences with one another so that the field as a whole can develop reasoned approaches to them.

The bottom line, though, is and will always be maintaining the integrity of our institutions.  Without that, we lose our credibility and we fail to realize our promise as public educational institutions.

If money were no object, what would your “dream” museum project be?  (Ethical project of course!)
I dream of starting a global conversation about ethics in museums that would result in curriculum modules for museum studies programs and ongoing opportunities for museum professionals to engage in a dialogue about the kinds of ethical dilemmas they face regularly.   Absent the pressure of a real problem to solve, talking about ethical issues can be engaging as well as challenging and it would be great to see this conversation become a part of life as a museum professional.

Thanks again to Sally for sharing such great thoughts and information!  Make sure to check out the new website for Sally's book, or click here to purchase A Practical Guide to Museum Ethics directly.

And now .... A CONTEST!

As a special bonus for ExhibiTricks subscribers, we will be awarding two copies of Sally's new book, A Practical Guide to Museum Ethics (one copy to each of two lucky ExhibiTricks subscribers in a random drawing held at the beginning of June.)  

Not already an ExhibiTricks subscriber?  Just click on the "Sign up for Free ExhibiTricks Blog Updates" link at the top right side of this blog page to become a subscriber and get a chance for one of the two free books!

If you're chosen as one of the winners, we'll contact you to ask for your shipping information.  Good luck!

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Have you tried making your museum a more interesting place?

The title of this post is inspired by some ideas from Austin Kleon (his newsletter is really worth subscribing to, and Kleon's book "Steal Like An Artist" is a great read ...) where he relates several (possibly apocryphal) tales of writing teachers giving similar tough, but straightforward, advice to their students who want to become more interesting writers.

"Have you tried making yourself a more interesting person?" 

The upshot of Kleon's musings boil down to the idea that if you want to be interesting, you have to be interested.

I started triangulating this notion of becoming a more interesting person with possible ways of creating more interesting museums, based on my love (and previous blog posts: here, here, and here) of "Museums Worth A Special Trip."

How can museums not currently worth a special trip become more interesting?  Let me immediately suggest two overused approaches that many museum folks try that quite often lead to less interesting museums:

1) Equating bigger with better   Of all the blunt force approaches to becoming a more interesting museum, nothing beats a large building (or building expansion) project.  Here's a news flash --- most museums should be improving their existing programs, exhibits, and facilities, not becoming bigger.

2) Adopting "best practices"  Best practices for who?  Best practices for where?  I'd argue that every museum should develop practices that are unique to their location and the communities they serve.  Why try to apply a "one size fits all" approach?

When I think about museums that I (and many other people!) find truly interesting, places like The City Museum in St. Louis, The Discovery Museums in Acton, MA, or the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh  the staff in these places seem to share a resistance to growth for growth's sake, or merely adopting someone else's notion of "best" practice, and instead have an insatiable desire to try new stuff, to experiment, and, most importantly, to quickly iterate through the physical manifestations of their ideas and to trust that their visitors will respond to their efforts --- even their failures.

Maybe another way to develop more interesting museums is to get things WRONG the first time!  To really push for ideas and interests that aren't completely tested and "safe" in every instance.

My wish is that you can discover something(s) in your own institution to become really interested in, so you can create an even more interesting museum for yourself and your visitors.


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Monday, May 9, 2016

Collective Impact: Impressions of the 2016 InterActivity Conference

Children's Museum colleagues from around the world (including representatives from Bulgaria, El Salvador, Korea, Israel, Nigeria, Australia, and China!) recently converged in Connecticut to meet, learn, and discuss about topics of common interest during the annual InterActivity Conference put on by the Association of Children's Museums (ACM).

I attended the entire conference, so I offer my impressions here for those who were not able to attend, but also to give a sense of the current state of the Children's Museum field.

The theme of this year's conference was "Collective Impact." Building on the notion that no single organization can create large-scale lasting social change, but rather we have more impact when different parts of the community work together.

This theme of collective impact --- of learning together and changing the world through common cause was evident throughout the sessions and keynote talks at the conference.

Here are my impressions of the sessions and events that I participated in:

Welcome Dinner and Opening Program
This was a great way to start the conference by getting everyone together.  A nice opportunity to eat and chat with old friends, and to meet new colleagues.  In addition to the meal the program featured Jeff Edmondson, the Managing Director of StriveTogether, and a Children's Museum "Fashion Show."

Mr. Edmondson's talk, while energetic, felt a little too motivational speaker-y for my tastes. It also felt a bit like a generic talk that could be presented to any kind of professional group (in fact, Mr. Edmondson misspoke and said "Children's Hospitals" instead of "Children's Museums" at one point and got quite flustered apologizing for a simple mistake.) But extra points to Mr. E for his energy and brevity!

The Museum Fashion Show was quite fun, since every participant had a DIY outfit with elements highlighting some part of their museum's programs or exhibits.  Pictured below is Megan from the Fairbanks Children's Museum with a book dress highlighting the Fairbanks "take a book" program that allows young visitors (who are often upset when they have to leave the museum) to take home a children's book from a designated book shelf near the front desk and entrance/exit door.

Thursday Morning started with a great Professional Networking Breakfast where I found out a little bit about the "Mind in the Making" program -- a way for the public and organizations like museums to plug into children learning research,  and also the Daily Vroom app --- a way for parents to discover "brain building" activities with their kids using their everyday activities.  I'll definitely be looking more into both of these resources, based on my fortuitous breakfast conversations!

Thursday morning I attended the Material Matters 2.0 session, which I found interesting and useful. I love a session that gives me practical takeaways!  Panelists spoke about the pros and cons of using specific materials in exhibit projects and brought samples for folks in the audience to handle and look at. For example HDPE is a good material to use for removable access panels since it holds up to repeated inserting and removing of mechanical fasteners. It would be great to have more deliberately practical sessions like this at every museum conference!

The other Thursday morning session I attended was called "Engaging a Community Through Social Media" and it also was a winner.  Three museum practitioners and a marketing professional gave their practical tips and experiences with Social Media through examples.  One great takeaway for me was the idea that nowadays people often come to your Social Media channels first, and then your website. So it's important to think about how best to use your resources for your institution's online presence.

The entire rest of the afternoon was spent inside Norwalk City Hall in a format of presentations inspired by New England Town Hall meetings.   Let me start off with a positive by saying the local Soweto Melodic Voices musical group were amazingly entertaining.

As for the rest of the Town Hall program, it was, frankly, a train wreck --- if a train wreck could also be boring. The format of speakers pouring out dense bits of information very rapidly with little, if any, interaction with the audience felt like being forced to drink from an informational fire hose --- if drinking from a fire hose could also be boring.

I know the organizers' motivations for developing a Town Hall format were good, but I'd like to offer a suggestion for future ACM Conferences in the form of a Town Hall resolution.

RESOLVED:  ACM and InterActivity Conference Planners shall offer interactive session blocks on selected topics such as the "Achievement Gap" instead of theatrical programs that force all conference attendees to passively be gathered into one large auditorium space.

If an entire session block of eight or nine smaller sessions had been offered around the topic of the Achievement Gap, for example, with each smaller session focusing on an aspect of the Achievement Gap like Education, Health Care, Literacy, etc.  We could have then gathered as an entire conference group to have each session moderator report out on what was discussed in a more digestible (and actionable!) format.

(For context: when InterActivity was in Pittsburgh a few years ago, an extended session format of "Small Talks" (like TED talks) was introduced.  It was fun and successful.  Since then, subsequent InterActivity hosts have tried similar extended sessions for all the conference attendees at once that have been much less successful. People come to conferences to learn things and interact with their colleagues, not attend a multi-hour lecture.)

Stepping off soapbox now ...

Moving on to the Thursday evening event, hosted by Stepping Stones Museum.  It was wonderful in every way.  Stepping Stones has a super museum and their staff and sponsors offered plenty of inspiration (AND plenty of great food and drink!) for everyone.

Friday sessions included excellent presentations on working with artists and developing museum leadership, entitled respectively: "Need a New Knockout Installation? Try Partnering with an Artist" and "Strategies to Develop the Next Generation of Leaders."   Both sessions were really well done and involved good takeaways.  One interesting connective thread between the two topics that I found was the importance of clear communication and expectations making the difference between highly successful (or less successful ..) interactions between museum staff themselves or with museum visitors.

Another highlight of Friday was the ACM Marketplace, where vendors show off their ideas and wares to the Children's Museums community.  There were a good range of folks showing interesting stuff, but I especially liked nWave letting me pet Owlbert the owl!

The 2016 InterActivity conference wound up for me with a morning session entitled "Mistakes Were Made." I was one of the speakers/facilitators that first shared our own mistakes and lessons learned, and then small groups shared their mistakes/lessons before one grand mistake winner was chosen, and awarded the coveted "Mistakes Were Made" trophy.  You'll have to attend next year's InterActivity conference in Pasadena to ask Brenda Riley, the Director of Fairbanks Children's Museum to share her prize-winning story (and lesson!) with you herself.

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Friday, April 29, 2016

Tinkering and Building Things: An Interview with Clifford Wagner

Clifford Wagner started his Science Center career in 1980, and since then has created interactive exhibit components and traveling exhibitions for countless museum visitors.  Over 35 years later,  he still loves trying to come up with great visitor experiences.

I was delighted that Clifford took the time to share his thoughts with ExhibiTricks readers in the interview below:

What’s your educational background?  I’ve got a Degree in Art and Design.  But you could say my education started with my mother being a teacher and my father an engineer.  She always encouraged creativity. My father passed along a lot of his knowledge to me with the tinkering and building things in the basement we did together. 

What got you interested in Museums?  Truth to tell, I stumbled into it.  I did a couple of years of custom furniture making.  Then in 1980 I got hired as a cabinetmaker at the Franklin Institute Science Museum.  Immediately I was building hands on interactive exhibits and that is what I have been doing ever since. I was the chief interactive device designer/prototyper when I left the Franklin eleven years later, to jump across the street to Please Touch Museum for Children as Director of Exhibits.  The Science museum work focused me on creating the best possible interactive experiences for our visitors.  The children’s museum work got me to be more playful. 

How does actually building your own exhibits inform your design process?  I make my own mechanisms and cabinetry, so I have a good idea of what is workable.  This hands-on knowledge informs my design process at every stage.  Whether I’m working on my own projects or with another museum or science center, the process starts with brainstorming.   At the beginning,  don’t rule something out because it seems impossible to achieve.  Who knows? It might be doable. One of my favorite lines I use in brainstorming is “And the luxury version of this device would be….” Quite often  the final, doable device can incorporate much from the pie in the sky version.

When I design and build interactives I pay very close attention to where our eyes go when we are looking at something for the first time.  An interactive can be confusing to visitors if the sequence isn’t logical.  I’ve seen text, just six inches away from where it should be. Because it is not in an intuitive place, for the visitor it might just as well be on the other side of the moon. I do this eyetracking as a mental process but now eyetracking hardware can be had for as little as $500.  I can’t endorse this because I haven’t used it, but it does exist.

Tell us a little bit about your current thinking about traveling exhibitions?  When we make  a traveling exhibit we must ensure that visitors are going to have a meaningful response to it, whether that response is humor or emotion or pure delight or relevancy to their lives. Every component that makes it into my traveling exhibits is there because it has a high probability of the visitor reacting to it by pulling over their friends  “Come here, you’ve got to see this!” Are your exhibits doing that? If not, tweak them until they do.

What are some of your favorite online (or offline!) resources for people interested in finding out more about exhibition development?   Museum conferences are great. This is when all of our virtual colleagues turn real. Go and talk to everyone doing the same sort of work you are doing.  Do not be shy. For me there is nothing more valuable than being at a host city museum with other people whose lives are creating exhibits and being able to ask them: what do they think? What do they think of the exhibit that you both are standing in front of? Ask, talk, listen, learn and teach.

What advice would you have for fellow museum professionals, especially those from smaller museums, in bringing more variety into their exhibitions?    Museum professionals have a lot to learn from each other. Science Centers can learn a lot about playfulness from Children’s Museums. Children’s museums can learn how to engage adults as well as kids. Art Museums can enhance visitor experiences by having more hands-on devices. For variety from a purely design point of view, a good interactive has both hooking and holding power. It has to attract the visitor’s attention, and then keep that attention. One way to get variety into an exhibition is to have as many different kinds of hooks as possible. An unexpected way to control the action. A mirror so people can see their own faces. A sign with an interesting question.

What do you think is the “next frontier” for traveling exhibitions?  Science Centers have been exploring timely and relevant topics for quite a while, since pioneering exhibits such as Darkened Waters about the Exxon Valdez oil spill. When we produce an exhibit we are asking for our visitors' time and attention.  Are our exhibits worthy of their attention?  Are we putting all this time and energy into illuminating things that inspire visitors and help our civilization continue to flourish? Children’s museums have to make sure that any traveling exhibition they bring in works for the adults as much as the kids.  Adults are 50% of your audience.  Giving adults good stuff will make them want to come back.

What are some of your favorite museums or exhibitions?   I love the extraordinary playfulness of the City Museum in St. Louis. I also love the questions raised by the exhibit and book called Massive Change by Bruce Mau.  How is this for an opening statement in an exhibition:  “Whether we realize it or not, we live in a designed world. The question is: will this be a design for destruction or for a sustainable new world that we can safely hand down to our children and our children’s children?”   How’s that for relevancy?

Can you talk a little about some of your current projects?  Earlier this year,  I built five interactives  for The Discovery Museum and Planetarium in Bridgeport, Connecticut based on The Fostering Active Prolonged Engagement (Project APE) exhibit book produced by the Exploratorium.  A couple of them I built much as described in the book with minor improvements, others like the Thermal Camera exhibit I redesigned and added on to provide more opportunity for visitor engagement.  

I was happy to give The Discovery Museum an extra device I developed  for the thermal camera.  It is a 4 pane rotatable window. Two of the panes are clear to our eyes but opaque to the thermal camera and two are clear to the camera but opaque to our eyes. It is so cool to see visitors react to this counterintuitive effect showing the camera seeing what we can’t.  That’s the hook in this - the unexpected- and it’s a really good hook.     

I’m also building theatrical props, including some that are on tour with Cirque du Soleil.

If money were no object, what would your “dream” exhibit project be?  I’d love to put together a team to make an exhibit that helps people really think about their place in the world and how we can help achieve sustainable well being for all people and for the planet.  I sincerely believe we have the knowledge to do so.  It wouldn’t be an easy exhibit to create—it’s a tough topic.  But I can’t imagine anything more important.

For me, the most important question of all is  How are you helping?  How are you helping all of us have quality lives?  For us working in museums, the way we help is to make things that enrich our visitors’ lives. We help visitors understand science phenomena, we make creative spaces where kids  play and grow.  The work we do is so important.  So thank you all for what you do. 

To find out more about Clifford Wagner and his exhibit work, click on over to his website!

Speaking of Clifford's exhibit work, he will soon be retiring some of his most popular and visitor-tested traveling exhibitions after very successful tours --- but he would like to find good homes for all those exhibit components!  So if your museum is in the market for some top-notch exhibit components (or entire exhibitions!) at incredible prices, check out these PDFs featuring exhibit descriptions, images and prices for Garden of Gizmos, Color Play, and Contraptions A to Z.  These exhibitions are well built and in great shape, so much so that Clifford is providing a full one year warranty on every exhibit component purchased.

As a BONUS to ExhibiTricks readers, if you purchase any components from the traveling exhibitions mentioned above before May 30, 2016 and mention "ExhibiTricks" you'll get a 5% discount! 

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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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Exhibitionist Changes To Exhibition

The National Association for Museum Exhibition, otherwise known by the acronym NAME, has just released the newest issue of its journal, which is published twice a year.  It is a thematic issue about the power of words in every aspect of exhibitions --- written, spoken, and designed.

Every article is filled with thoughtful information that anyone involved in the exhibition process will find valuable.

And there are big changes afoot with each part of NAME's journal. First the name has been changed from "Exhibitionist" to "Exhibition."  (There are many reasons for the name change, not least of which include unfortunate Google search results, but "Exhibition" is the new name.)

Exhibition has been entirely redesigned and has gone to a full-color format.  Having just received my own copy of Exhibition, I can attest that the graphic and organizational design is beautiful, and the inclusion of color exhibition images is a great leap forward. (In fact, here's a link to a PDF sample of what you can find inside the newly revamped Exhibition journal.)

NAME's journal was previously only available to AAM members, but now any museum/exhibit/design professional can subscribe to Exhibition.  I may be a little biased since I write the "Exhibits Newsline" column in every issue, but I truly believe that Exhibition is the best professional museum journal available.  If you are already a subscriber, I'm sure you agree!

If you are not already an Exhibition subscriber, what are you waiting for?  Click this link now to subscribe and move your professional practice forward today!

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, April 12, 2016

What Does Your Museum's Stroller Parking Look Like?

Today, during a Master's Thesis defense on creating shared learning spaces inside History Museums, a conversation came up about Stroller Parking that really intrigued me.  So let's step deep, deep into the weeds of a very specific museum/exhibit/design topic, shall we?

As all types of museums (not just Children's Museums and Science Centers!) and cultural organizations strive to become more welcoming to family audiences, these institutions often find themselves facing traffic jams of strollers inside their pristine hallways and common areas.

Many museums, in an effort to restore a semblance of order (visual and otherwise) often designate areas willy-nilly near stairways or gallery entrances with a sign stuck on the wall labeled "Stroller Parking."

But let's face it, most of these Stroller Parking areas have all the visual panache of a turnpike restroom.  Can't we do a little better (for ourselves, and our family visitors) than a virtual used stroller lot jammed into an underutilized corner?

Let's have some fun and put together images of great examples of Stroller Parking inside museums (and other cultural institutions like zoos or theaters ...)

We've done this before with a crowd-sourced ExhibiTricks post about donor recognition walls, so I'm expecting great things from you, dear readers!  I'll give you some inspiration to get started on your submission by highlighting the image at the top of this post showing one of the Phoenix Children's Museum's Stroller Parking areas.  It's fun, it's intuitive, and it sends the right kinds of messages to family visitors.

So, email me an image of a well-considered Stroller Parking area, a brief description of why you like it, as well as the location or institution featured, and I will gather up all the words and pictures for a future ExhibiTricks post and a downloadable PDF on the subject!

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!)