Thursday, January 31, 2008

Exhibit Maker's Bookshelf: Howtoons!

One of my favorite recurring features in MAKE magazine, and on the Web, is Howtoons.

Howtoons is sort of a graphic novel/manga/Mr. Wizard mashup that gives you instructions for creating a fun (usually sciency) DIY project. If you go for that sort of thing (and if you're already reading this blog, I guess you do!) you should check out the Howtoonsbook, which is a paperback collection of Howtoon projects.

A perfect gift for the big or little maker in your life (including yourself!)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Creative Design:
Amazing Mechanical Elephant

A litle exhibit inspiration for you. An amazing mechanical elephant created by the team at Les Machines in France.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The End of Human Body Exhibitions?

This article from the LA Times reports that the California State Assembly voted 50 to 4 to approve legislation to ensure that the people whose remains are on display consented to be part of such exhibits.

Generally the bodies are dissected and preserved in a process called plastination. "Although plastination was intended to advance medicine and science, many entrepreneurs are using plastination to make outrageous profits by dissecting, mutilating and parading unwilled bodies around the world and in our state," the bill's sponsor, Assemblywoman Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco), said during Assembly debate. "Asking for consent and verification is not too much to ask."

Presumably, the Assembly's concerns arise from allegations that the "provenance" of bodies from China used in some human body exhibitions can not be adequately verified.

Personally, I found the traveling Body Worlds exhibition fascinating, if a little creepy. However, no matter what your feelings about the particular content of certain exhibitions, should governments really be determining whether a museum should present a particular exhibition or not?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Exhibit Maker's Toolkit: Skitch

Re: IMG_2743

Skitch is a great Mac-based tool for simple image grabbing and manipulation. Perfect for sticking annotated images (like the one above of my daughter during a recent museum visit!) into emails, reports, webpages, etc.

Skitch was developed by the fine folks at Plasq (check out their tool Comic Life also) and it can be downloaded via the Skitch website. They have a great intro video that you can watch to get a sense of what Skitch can do.

Have fun!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Creating Exhibitions

Mark your calendar! The Creating Exhibitions Symposium, sponsored by MAAM (Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums) is coming up in April in Philadelphia.

This first annual event promises to be an exhibit-palooza!

Follow this link for more information and the preliminary program.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

WD-40, The Museum Exhibit Developer's Friend!

Of course you know about WD-40, but have you really unlocked all it's potential as an exhibit problem solver?

One of my favorite unexpected uses of WD-40 from my Children's Museum days was to use it to easily remove crayon marks from exhibit gallery walls!

Well, the fine folks who make WD-40 have created the "Offical List of 2000+ Uses" for WD-40. Check out their webpage or handy downloadable PDF.

The WD-40 website lists all sorts of fun information for exhibit-minded folks including the reason why the stuff is called WD-40 in the first place!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

"Mystery Boxes" In Exhibits.
Why J.J. Abrams Would Make a Great Exhibit Developer

J.J. Abrams, one of the creative folks behind the TV show LOST, gave this talk about the role of mystery in his life and work at a recent TED conference.

Abrams speaks about his grandfather, who started the science supply company Kelvin Electronics. The two of them would take apart "mystery boxes", like telephones or radios to see what was inside. In a similar way, Abrams builds "mystery boxes" into his storytelling, so that viewers will be intrigued and want to find out more about what makes things happen in the particular universe of each of his stories.

One takeaway for exhibit developers is to look for the ways to create "mystery boxes" for visitors to uncover in the content or design of our exhibit spaces.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Exhibit Inspiration: A French Gizmologist

A wonderfully compelling video (with piano accompaniment!) of a French gizmologist creating a triode lamp.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Sustainable Museums. What happened to COSI Toledo?

In case you hadn't heard, COSI Toledo closed down permanently on December 31, 2007, after 10 years of operation.

I think its a little sad and scary that one of the early "brand(ed) names" of the science center business, COSI, has taken such a drubbing in both its greatly expanded Columbus location, as well as in its now defunct Toledo satellite.

Unfortunately, the news of museum closings, like COSI Toledo's, begs several important questions: 1) Are the traditional business models of museum operation truly sustainable? 2) Is the public really willing to support museums directly (through admissions, contributions, etc.) and/or indirectly through taxes, millages, etc.? 3) Should the IRS that grants 501 (c) 3 non-profit status for museums insist on more realistic business plans? All tough questions, which I don't claim to have the definitive answers to, but I am interested in starting a dialogue. So, what do you think?

To get us started, here's a thoughtful article from Neal Rubin in the Detroit News discussing the importance of supporting cultural institutions.

Here's a link to some comments on the situation from some people who live in Toledo.

UPDATE: Now the folks at COSI Toledo are trying to make a go of it by offering outreach programs to local schools (See this ExhibiTricks post)