Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Strandbeest: The Dream Machines of Theo Jansen

Emily Black Fry is the Lead Interpretation Planner at the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) in Salem, Massachusetts.

Emily was kind enough to be interviewed for ExhibiTricks about the amazing new exhibition entitled "Strandbeest: The Dream Machines of Theo Jansen" that will be on view at the Peabody Essex Museum from September 19, 2015 until January 3, 2016.  

Here's what Emily had to say about the development of the show and working with artist Theo Jansen:

What inspired the Strandbeest exhibition at PEM?

I have to first emphasize Strandbeest: The Dream Machines of Theo Jansen is one of those exhibition projects museum professionals dream of working on. 

Dutch artist Theo Jansen combines the practices of art, science, and engineering to construct Strandbeests (beach animals), wind-walking creatures developed through a rigorously trans-disciplinary creative process. His works allow (or in many ways insist) on structures that burst (or crawl) out of the typical exhibition box. The roving nature of the Beests themselves invite opportunities to go outside of the museum and into communities, while also encouraging touching, close looking, and constant locomotion within the Museum. The work itself demands a new kind of exhibition structure and experience, which is why it was such an exciting project to tackle as it poses an array of creative challenges. Strandbeest doesn’t fit tightly into a traditional art museum exhibition box, and that’s why I believe our audiences are responding so well to this show.

Photo courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum / Photo by Allison White

The thematic structure for Strandbeest: The Dream Machines of Theo Jansen is inspired by dreaming— experiences that are imaginative, non-linear, provoke curiosity, and blend the familiar with the unfamiliar. It includes a range of paced experiences involving both the intimate and communal. At its core, this exhibition thrives as a kinetic, active, nomadic, and magical experience that draws visitors closer to Theo’s world. Each experience zone, as we describe them, embodies a distinct level of audience engagement and intimacy while retaining unique characteristics of Theo’s dream: to create a species that will live long after he is gone. To transport audiences into Theo’s world, the exhibition features an array of photo murals and photographs by Lena Herzog, a renowned photographer who has been intimately following and documenting Theo’s work for seven years. Her photography which encompasses everything from Theo’s hands working with PVC, to Beests walking in the wind, to Theo’s work environment, enabled us to create ethereal texture throughout the exhibition.

In addition to the drool-worthy engagement with the Beests, the project team also had another museum-dream opportunity – we prototyped the exhibition at Miami Art Basel in December 2014 in partnership with Audemars Piguet. This was an exciting experience to actually (really, it happened!) experiment with how to incorporate constant movement interactions and demonstrations in an exhibition experience while also allowing for intimate close looking and space to let curiosity wander. We learned many things through this prototyping phase: from caring for the Beests, to how to effectively create space for interactivity and movement. All of which informed the final presentation at the Peabody Essex Museum.

We realized when introducing audiences to Theo’s work in Miami that Theo’s mythology and role as a storyteller was a critical element for audiences to engage with the creation and evolution of the Strandbeests. We realized the best way to convey Theo’s story wasn’t through text panels or traditional annotated labels, but rather through film moments for audiences to hear Theo’s perspective on a specific topic or theme. At various points in the exhibition audiences encounter a life-size digital version of Theo animated by proximity screen sensors. In these various zones, which we call “Theo Moments”, he tells the origin story of the Beests, how the Beests are made, how they infect and reproduce through the minds of other makers, and ways in which the Beests have evolved over the past 25 years.

Can you tell us a little bit about the logistical back-story of the show?

The exhibition itself has lots of moving parts – literally! It features 7 full-size, large Strandbeests, a field of parts or evolutionary memories as Theo describes, dynamic photography by Lena Herzog, sketches by Theo, and examples of Hackbeests – beests made by other makers inspired by Theo’s work. Two beests named Animaris Ordis, the fundamental walking unit for all Beests, can be pushed and pulled by visitors in the gallery—this is a wildly popular aspect of the exhibition and it offers such a memorable experience for our audiences. Additionally, we run movement demonstrations during the day where we fill the wind stomachs (plastic bottles) of Animaris Suspendisse, Theo’s largest Beest at 42 foot long, or Animaris Umerus Segundus with compressed air and they can be seen walking on their own for a few minutes.

Our goal for the exhibition experience was to surprise audiences. We wanted them to encounter an unexpected, unconventional, and highly experiential environment where elements seem oddly familiar and interactive. We also wanted audiences to feel immediately welcome to take risks, experiment, explore, and engage in active dialog. Gathering spaces with multifunctional seating in each experience zone allow for groups to orient and be social.

Photo courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum / Photo by Walter Silver

In our opening week, I heard comments that the exhibition feels like a playground or simply like a cool place to hang out – all music to a museum educator’s ears.  Also, we welcome and encourage people to take photos and video of their Strandbeest experience by tagging it with #strandbeest. In fact we prominently feature the deluge of social media posts within the exhibition on an in-gallery social media screen. It’s thrilling to see all of the posts coming in so far and the global Strandbeest conversation writ large. Here’s one of my favorite posts:  https://instagram.com/p/74STDer0fa/?taken-by=neelb4me

Theo says everything around us is merely an invitation to observe. The exhibition experience captures this spirit by inviting audiences to see the Beests through dynamic uses of light, sound, and touch. The spirit of Theo’s imagination is illuminated throughout each experience zone, specifically with the use of Theo Moments, films showcasing Theo’s storytelling.  Audiences will notice that each has a specific mood, pace, and level of engagement.

All interpretive text and interactives are open-ended and offer multiple perspectives and questions encouraging a wide range of responses.  Perspectives illuminate the spirit of imagination and move fluidly between art and science. Projections, audio, video and innovative uses of multi-touch technology are employed to animate the environment of the Beests and reveal intersections of elements that investigate his creative thought process.

Some additional information about the exhibition and artist:  Theo Jansen was born in 1948. He was raised in the beach-side town of Scheveningen, in the Netherlands, and studied physics at the University of Delft. Jansen created the first Strandbeest (“beach animal”) in 1990 and has been working on their evolution ever since. Theo works with PVC, plastic tubing, to move and adapt Strandbeests to their environment in a lifelike way. He continually finds new ways to use this “artistic protein” to evolve more complex and resilient Beests. This exhibition is organized by the Peabody Essex Museum and will travel to the Chicago Cultural Center in Chicago, Illinois and the Exploratorium in San Francisco.  This is the first U.S. tour of Theo Jansen’s Strandbeests.

What makes the Strandbeest show different from other shows at PEM?

PEM often takes a experiential point of view when it comes to exhibition design, but this project in particular privileges more than ever a sense of the imaginative and experiential aspects of Theo’s work. The design of the exhibition itself is multifunctional, multidisciplinary, and multisensory. We decided to reshape our approach to traditional curatorial text and instead bring audiences into Theo’s world -- we produced video screens titled “Theo Moments." This exhibition encourages us to imagine how we can deliver information about Theo’s process and psyche in unconventional ways.  Location-activated screens highlight Theo’s dynamic storytelling touching on thematic points in the exhibition (origin story, production, reproduction, evolution).

Photo courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum / Photo by Allison White

We also learned during our presentation at Miami Art Basel the importance of having human interaction within the space, whether it’s someone listening to visitors share their fascination with the beests or helping facilitate the movement of Animaris Ordis, the basic walking unit of the Strandbeest which can be pushed and pulled by anyone. With this in mind we set out to hire a rare breed of individuals to work the gallery – we put out a call for Strandbeest Interpreter/Operators. This team offers not only constant care for the Beests, but also facilitates movement demonstrations of the larger Beests and engages with audiences during all open hours. We managed to hire an exceptional group of Interpreter/Operators who come from equally diverse backgrounds – some are sculptors, engineers, bike mechanics, and biology enthusiasts. But they have one thing in common – they are complete fans of Theo. It’s a dream job for them.

What was it like working with Theo Jansen? 

We’ve had the pleasure at PEM to work with several amazing and kind artists, but I must admit Theo is one of the most thoughtful and creative artists around.  I met him when we presented Strandbeest in December 2014 at Miami Art Basel in partnership with Audemars Piguet and I became deeply fascinated about how he takes time to listen and speak to visitors. He truly is thankful for all of his followers and makers who have kept the Strandbeest spirit alive. He’s a true tinkerer at heart, so even leading up the exhibition he was adding new evolutionary features to one of his newest Beests, Animaris Suspendisse; he added a nose feeler and “shove sticks” at either end of the Beest. When the nose feeler detects fluffy or hard packed sand one or the other shove stick pops out, drags on the ground, and the Beest turns either towards the water or towards the dunes. I love that his goal is still top of mind – how to keep improving the Strandbeest for survival.

What special events or off-site events will happen in conjunction with the exhibition?

Those who are familiar with Theo’s work probably first encountered his Beests online via YouTube. If you simply google Strandbeest you’ll see endless amounts of footage of Beests self-propelling down the beach where Theo works on the coast of Schevenigen in the Netherlands. We wanted to bring the Beests out to communities in New England and organized a series of pop-up events throughout the area as a preview for the exhibition.  

Our pop-up walk at Crane Beach in Ipswich, MA drew 15,000 people and basically shut down the area – we were overwhelmed with the response but excited to see people come out for to see the Beests. In addition, we walked Animaris Ordis at Boston City Hall and Dewey Square. They also were shown and walked by Theo at MIT Media Lab following a panel discussion between Theo, Trevor Smith, Curator of the Present Tense, and MIT professor Neri Oxman. The opening events of the exhibition were just as dynamic as the exhibition itself – we hosted a Family Sleepover where Theo read a bedtime story to over 100 children and parents and held an all-night Hackathon where makers worked on a creative challenge given by Theo – you can see a record of their fantastic work here: https://beesthackathon.wordpress.com/

Strandbeests at Boston City Hall
Photo courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum / Photo by Kathy Tarantola

Tell us about the interactive and hands-on elements in the Strandbeest show?

The show is almost entirely interactive -- that’s what’s so exciting about Theo’s work. Harnessing Theo’s spirit for rigorous experimentation, audiences will explore through both facilitated demonstrations and unfacilitated interactives the systems and materials that enable the Strandbeests’ movement. For example, we isolated and presented each of the main systems of the Strandbeest into three interactives. Audiences can pump the wind stomachs using a bike pump to get a sense for how they work similar to a pneumatic computer. We also have the leg system available for visitors to observe the singular motion generated by Theo’s 13 holy numbers. And, lastly, we featured the Strandbeest muscles or piston system for visitors to experience how the tubes lengthen which allows for maximum movement. 

Photo courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum / Photo by Kathy Tarantola

Additionally, one aspect of the exhibition focuses on a massive field of parts Theo created during his 25 years working on his Strandbeest dream. He calls his "fossils" evolutionary memories of countless hours of trial and error. Within this field of parts—for example the first crank shaft he made can be found or parts where he experimented with tape and wood joints—we created an interactive that allowed audiences to hold a fossil and upon placing it on a target it animates a projection showcasing Theo’s studio. Theo walks into the screen and begins handling the object in your hand and telling you a story about the fossil itself.

Field of Strandbeest "Fossils"
Photo courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum / Photo by Allison White

We also commissioned a trans-disciplinary group of key opinion leaders to “platform” around ideas like design, evolution, beach erosion, literary connection, biology and the environment.  Key opinion leaders such as Adam Savage (Visual Effects Artisan and Host of Mythbusters), Lawrence Weschler (writer), Lena Herzog (photographer), Michael Friedman (horologist and historian at Audemars Piguet), and Paola Antonelli (Senior Curator, Department of Architecture and Design, MoMA) were interviewed to discuss issues in their own work and how Strandbeests intersect with it. These short evocative interviews can also be seen in the exhibition.

What was the most interesting thing you learned about Strandbeests while preparing the show?

One of the most interesting things I’ve come to realize is that Strandbeests have become a nucleus for unexpected communities of communities to connect and comingle. If you Google or follow #strandbeest you’ll encounter gangs of global thinkers and makers being inspired by Theo and his open-source sensibilities (he’s released on his website the genetic code of the Strandbeests so you can hack your own). These sculptural creatures have become a PVC prism for considering an array of contemporary ideas that smudge lines between disciplines whether it’s biohacking, evolutionary theory, quantum design, or even the craftsmanship of horology – Strandbeests offer a fresh lens for thinking about these new ideas.

How might this show impact future exhibitions at PEM?

Strandbeest has infected the Museum in many ways exciting ways. It has impacted how we worked both internally as a team since this project involved a healthy amount of cross-departmental collaboration, as well as influenced how we approach experiential exhibitions in general. This open-ended approach to an exhibition that focuses on the pacing of experiences and pays close attention to the emotional experience of the audience is something the Museum has been working on for a long time, but you really see the integration of design, media, and the work itself coming together successfully in this project. I think this exhibition has also broadened our ability to think about how voice is privileged in the exhibition – is it as shared voice between the curator, artist, and visitor? How can we communicate and tell stories without any text panels? These were some of the creative challenges we imposed on ourselves and we are extremely excited to see how well it is being received by our audiences.  

Do you have a favorite Strandbeest?

Ah, now this is a tough one. Whenever Theo is asked this question he succinctly responds with “the one I’m dreaming of next”. With that said, my favorite Strandbeest is twofold. It’s the one in Theo’s mind he’s planning to work on in the upcoming season, as well as the Beests reproducing in the minds of Strandbeest makers and hackers. But, if I had to pick a favorite in the exhibition it has to be Animaris Adulari. This petite Beest is one of the first to be adapted with a sweat system, a lubrication system to flush out the sand and loosen the joints. But, aside from the evolutionary importance of Adulari, this little guy just puts a smile on my face -- it assumes a presence like a pet dog or cat in your house -- you just want to pet the plastic zip ties as you would whiskers.

Photo courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum / Photo by Walter Silver

What do you want visitors to walk away with after seeing the show?

The Peabody Essex Museum often collaborates with artists and exhibitions that thrive between disciplines and intersections of art, culture, and creativity, and we want our audiences to come away with more questions than answers. This is definitely the case for Strandbeest. We want to incite curiosity about the Theo’s dream for the Strandbeests and walk away with an understanding that storytelling, science, art and engineering can comingle. We hope audiences connect their own experience to the interdisciplinary practices these Beests are birthed out of, including evolution, innovation, science and technology. 

We also want to foster an open-ended and active dialogue among audiences, Theo, and the Beests. Theo inspires audiences to dream and imagine, even to question accepted boundaries between the living and the inanimate. His open-source approach to sharing his ideas serves as a means of reproduction for Strandbeests—others can make new generations of them. Theo talks frequently about how Strandbeests “infect” the minds of makers -- this is something we hope happens to our audiences. We want visitors to be infected and continue to think about Theo and his work for years to come.

Photo courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum / Photo by Walter Silver

Many thanks to Emily for sharing some of the background and process behind the Strandbeest exhibition!

If you'd like to find out more about Strandbeest: The Dream Machines of Theo Jansen, just click on over to the Peabody Essex Museum website.

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, September 27, 2015

The American Visionary Art Museum's Seven Education Goals

What inspires you?  What pushes you to think about your work in new and different ways?

Given that my recent post about Hayao Miyazaki's Museum Manifesto seemed to resonate with, and inspire, so many ExhibiTricks readers, I thought I would share a similar "manifesto" of sorts, courtesy of the American Vision Art Museum (AVAM) --- one of my very favorite places to visit!

If you are not already familiar with AVAM, it is an art museum located near the Inner Harbor of Baltimore.  The buildings and exhibits pulse with energy and excitement that is infectious, and the majority of the pieces on display were made not by formally-trained artists, but rather an eclectic group of very creative people. To quote from the AVAM website:

"Visionary art as defined for the purposes of the American Visionary Art Museum refers to art produced by self-taught individuals, usually without formal training, whose works arise from an innate personal vision that revels foremost in the creative act itself." 

But what I'm interested in sharing today are the Seven Education Goals that guide AVAM.  They strike me as admirable goals for any museum, or any creative person (which really means everybody, doesn't it?)

      AVAM's Seven Education Goals
  1. Expand the definition of a worthwhile life.
  2. Engender respect for and delight in the gifts of others.
  3. Increase awareness of the wide variety of choices available in life for all ... particularly students.
  4. Encourage each individual to build upon his or her own special knowledge and inner strengths.
  5. Promote the use of innate intelligence, intuition, self-exploration, and creative self-reliance.
  6. Confirm the great hunger for finding out just what each of us can do best, in our own voice, at any age.
  7. Empower the individual to choose to do that something really, really well.

I hope you continue your week choosing to do something really, really, well!

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, September 20, 2015

Subscribe to Exhibitionist!

Exhibitionist is a "journal of reflective practice" published by the National Association for Museum Exhibition (NAME) in the Spring and Fall of each year. Exhibitionist is also one of the best, if not the best, museum-related journals available.

Exhibitionist features thought-provoking articles on exhibition theory and practice, exhibition critiques and commentary, book reviews, technical articles, and other essays of interest to the profession. 

As a former board member of NAME, and current columnist for Exhibitionist (check out this free sample of my "Exhibit Newsline" column)  I urge you to help keep yourself informed on what's happening in exhibitions, and in the broader museum field, by subscribing to Exhibitionist !  

You can also download free examples of past articles (and in some cases entire past issues!) of Exhibitionist by heading over to the Exhibitionist Online webpage.

You are now able to subscribe to Exhibitionist without being a member of either AAM or NAME.  So what are you waiting for? Click on over to the Exhibitionist subscription page right now!

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.  If you'd like to find out more about working with Paul Orselli, click on over to the POW! Website.

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, September 13, 2015

Exhibit Designer Toolbox: Online Tone Generator and AAPT Films

What do websites geared toward Physics Teachers have to do with developing or designing exhibits?

Well, on the surface, nothing!  But I recently bumped into two different physics-oriented websites that I think are worth bookmarking for any museum exhibit designer.

The first site is called Online Tone Generator.  It is a multi-faceted site filled with a variety of audio tools available for testing and/or download.   Some of my favorite apps on the OTG site include the "Hearing Test" which lets you generate different frequency tones to determine the range of your hearing.  (As we age, we tend to lose our ability to hear high frequency sounds.)  Simple and clean, I could easily see adapting "Hearing Test" for exhibit or program demo purposes.

The "Pitch Shifter" tool allows you to change the pitch of audio files (mp3 or wav format), without affecting the tempo. You can also save the pitch shifted files you create.  Again, this tool would be great for creating audio files for an exhibit or program.  So click on over to the Online Tone Generator site to explore the dozen or so FREE audio tools available there.

The other online tool is Physics Teacher James Lincoln's YouTube channel hosting a set of short videos called AAPT Films.   The films break down into sections, with one set called "TRY THIS EXPERIMENT NOW" which are short, punchy videos that let you perform quick (and unusual!) science demonstrations or experiments.

Two of my favorites are the "Eye Poke" video, which let's you recreate one of Sir Isaac Newton's classic experiments involving optics and the human eye.  Another fun one is the "Hear Your Muscles" video (embedded below) which demonstrates a simple techniques that anyone can use to "hear" your own muscles moving or flexing.  Cool stuff!

There are also more standard Physics classroom demonstrations featured on Lincoln's YouTube channel, but for anyone working to develop simple programs or exhibits on the Human Body, Lincoln's YouTube channel is a real gold mine of information and inspiration!

Speaking of information and inspiration, are there some particularly useful or interesting websites or online resources that you keep in your own Designer's Toolbox?   Please share 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!)

Friday, September 4, 2015


A little more than a week from now, I'll be doing something I've never done before in my museum career.

I'll be attending an American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) Conference.  (In Louisville, Kentucky.)

It's not that I don't like History Museums, or admire the people who work in them, but my museum "tribes" tend more toward Science Center and Children's Museum folks (and their respective conferences.)

So what prompts me to make this trip to Louisville?  Well, Maker Stuff.  And by "Maker Stuff" I mean the vast worldwide network of MAKE Magazine, and Maker Faires, and the eclectic group of artists, craftspeople, tinkerers, and engineers (amongst others) who get herded under the big umbrella term "Makers."

A few months ago,  I was invited to a meeting of museum folks in Atlanta, and it turns out that many of the other folks in the room were History Museum people. And (me being me) at a certain point I started to berate those nice fellow museum professionals for "completely missing the boat" on the Maker Movement.  It also immediately became clear that many of the people at that meeting had absolutely no idea of what a Maker Faire or MAKE Magazine even were! YIKES!

I mean, what genre of museums is better placed than History Museums to engage people with the stories and stuff behind inventing, designing, building, and manufacturing things?  It's in their institutional DNA!  Not to mention the enormous opportunities for History Museums to tap into new sets of audiences and communities that are deeply engaged in Maker activities that would love to connect with such awesome repositories of the stories and stuff associated with Making.

(Of course this is not to say that there aren't any History Museums plugged into the Maker Movement. The Henry Ford has hosted several Detroit Maker Faires, and The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) is hosting a workshop later this month called  "What is a Maker Space (and why would I want one in my museum)?")

Shortly after that fateful meeting in Atlanta, Bob Beatty, the COO of AASLH, basically said "OK wise guy, I agree that History Museum folks should know more about the Maker Universe, what can we do about it?"

So I'm off to Louisville to launch something called making/history.  What can making/history be? I'm not really sure yet, but that's part of why I'm going to Louisville --- to meet and talk with a bunch of cool and smart History Museum people to find out.

If you're reading this post, and it resonates at all with you, please help in making/history in any (or all) of the three ways below:

1) Spread the word! (Tweet, Facebook, Email, Phone folks in your networks who can help with this.) I want to help brainstorm and instigate with folks who are interested in connecting more Makers with more History Museums.

2) Meet me in Louisville!  The plan is to let me set up shop in the AASLH Exhibit Hall on Thursday, September 17th.  I'll be doing Maker show-and-tell and giving away free swag, but most of all chatting with more folks to help making/history happen!

3) Add your two cents! Are you already plugged into the Maker Universe, or History Museums, or both?  Share your ideas for ways to increase the connections between Makers and Historians in the "Comments" Section below, or by emailing me directly.

See you in Louisville!

P.S. By an amazingly happy coincidence, Louisville will be hosting a Mini Maker Faire on Saturday, September 19th (the last day of the AASLH Conference --- good timing, or what?) that is FREE and open to the public (including AASLH Conference Attendees --- hint, hint!)

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!)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Hayao Miyazaki's Museum Manifesto

Hayao Miyazaki is a film artist who has created some amazing animated films for Studio Ghibli in Japan.  (Some of my favorites include "Spirited Away" and "My Neighbor Totoro".) He also has created one of my all-time favorite museum manifestos, which I think is worth revisiting from time to time.

To capture some of the spirit and history of the films and the film studio, there is a Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Japan.  I've haven't had the pleasure of visiting the Ghibli Museum in person (yet!) but as I was perusing the Ghibli Museum website, I noticed a link to "A Few Words from Executive Director Hayao Miyazaki"on the home page.

The Link leads to a mini manifesto from Director Miyazaki entitled, "This is the Kind of Museum I Want to Make!"

I think it is wonderful (and gutsy!) for the director of any museum to share the guiding principles behind the creation of their museum in such an up-front way, but I also thought some of the Director Miyazaki's thoughts were worth sharing here:

This is the Kind of Museum I Want to Make!
A museum that is interesting and which relaxes the soul
A museum where much can be discovered
A museum based on a clear and consistent philosophy
A museum where those seeking enjoyment can enjoy, those seeking to ponder can ponder, and those seeking to feel can feel
A museum that makes you feel more enriched when you leave than when you entered!

To make such a museum, the building must be...
Put together as if it were a film
Not arrogant, magnificent, flamboyant, or suffocating
Quality space where people can feel at home, especially when it's not crowded
A building that has a warm feel and touch
A building where the breeze and sunlight can freely flow through

The museum must be run in such a way so that...
Small children are treated as if they were grown-ups
The handicapped are accommodated as much as possible
The staff can be confident and proud of their work
Visitors are not controlled with predetermined courses and fixed directions
It is suffused with ideas and new challenges so that the exhibits do not get dusty or old, and that investments are made to realize that goal

The museum shop will be...
Well-prepared and well-presented for the sake of the visitors and running the museum
Not a bargain shop that attaches importance only to the amount of sales
A shop that continues to strive to be a better shop
Where original items made only for the museum are found

This is what I expect the museum to be, and therefore I will find a way to do it

This is the kind of museum I don't want to make!

A pretentious museum
An arrogant museum
A museum that treats its contents as if they were more important than people
A museum that displays uninteresting works as if they were significant

What do you think of Hayao Miyazaki's ideas about museums? (Let us know in the "Comments" section below.)

Personally, his words make me want to visit the Ghibli Museum even more now!

And Director Miyazaki's mini manifesto also begs a question: What sort of message to visitors does your Executive Director post on your Museum's website?

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!)