Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Culture of Playwork Session at ACM

I'm currently in Philadelphia for the ACM and AAM museum conferences. Definitely one of my favorite sessions at the ACM conference was "The Culture of Playwork from the U.K. to the U.S."

Four presenters, Joan Almon, Penny Wilson, Erin Baker, and Rachel Grob each spoke eloquently about the value of play in the lives of children and adults, as well as the emerging profession of "Playwork."

I really want to think some more about all the meaty issues introduced during this session before I write some more about it, but in the meantime I hope you will visit the websites of the presenters' respective organizations: U.S. Alliance for Childhood, Play Association Tower Hamlets, KaBOOM!, and The Child Development Institute.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

The Exhibit Doctor

In these tricky economic times, museum staff and independent designers really need to find new ways to stretch their exhibit development dollars and discover fresh exhibit resources. That’s why I’m proud and pleased to launch The Exhibit Doctor® during the ACM and AAM museum conferences in Philadelphia this week.

Several times a week I receive informal calls or emails from colleagues asking for suggestions regarding exhibit technology, or for solutions to exhibit problems that have them stumped. Folks are always grateful for my ideas, so I thought
The Exhibit Doctor® would be a great way to formally help out my fellow exhibit designers and museum colleagues.

What do you get when you sign up for your annual Exhibit Doctor membership?

• The “Monthly Checkup” A digital newsletter crammed with dozens of descriptions and reviews of interesting new exhibit tools and resources that is emailed directly to you 12 times a year. These are all practical exhibit resources that you’ll be able to put to use right away.

• The “Exhibit of the Month” In addition to “The Monthly Checkup” we’ll also send you directions each month to construct a simple interactive exhibit component that will “freshen up” your museum galleries or provide ideas for future exhibition projects.

Click here
to download an abbreviated example of The “Monthly Checkup” as well as a sample “Exhibit of the Month”

• Six “Mini Consultations” Sometimes you just need a quick answer to a thorny exhibit question. That’s what these “mini consultations” are for. Contact us with your exhibit issues, up to six times during the course of your Exhibit Doctor membership year, and we’ll provide a useful solution or point you to a trusted resource --- fast!

You get all these budget-stretching and time-saving exhibit resources for an annual fee of just $499.
That's less than the cost of just one day of exhibit consultation! If you’re really looking to economize, you can sign up for just “The Monthly Checkup” (No “Exhibit of the Month” or “Mini Consultations”) for the low annual fee of $199.

The Exhibit Doctor® program will begin soon, so just click here to be notified when registration begins!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Social Media at the AAM Conference

Both the ACM (Association of Children's Museums) and AAM (American Association of Museums) Conferences will be taking over Philadelphia next week --- and so will the Bloggers and Tweeters!

I'm pleased to have been invited by AAM to submit some posts to this year's official conference blog, and you can also follow conference updates on Twitter by searching for the #aam2009 hashtag.

See you in Philadelphia or Cyberspace!

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Monday, April 20, 2009

A Conference Without PowerPoint?

My quixotic quest for adding some more zip to museum conferences by subtracting PowerPoint (or at least really lame PowerPoint --- like reading off your bullet points...) from the equation looks like it's starting to bear fruit. I started instigating a year ago with a posting on ExhibiTricks before the Denver museum conferences (see the original blog entry below.)

Here's an update from some recent events: I'm happy to report that the recent MAAM "Creating Exhibitions" conference had a large number (a majority?) of non-computerized presentations that actually fostered conversation and interaction amongst the participants.

For those of you heading to Philadelphia next week for this year's ACM and AAM conferences, the fine folks from ACM allowed Peter Exley and myself to host an officially sanctioned Pecha Kucha event on Monday, April 27th from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. in the "Philadelphia Ballroom" on the Mezzanine level of the Sheraton Philadelphia City Center located at 17th and Race Street. If you're registered for ACM, come join us! (Did I mention Cash Bar?)

I also hear rumblings that ASTC will be holding some Pecha Kucha and other alternative presentation formats at this year's conference in Fort Worth.

I don't suppose we'll ever get the "Museums and the Web" folks to release their death grips on their laptops and LCD projectors, but at least we're off to a good start with moving beyond talking head PowerPoint presentations at some of the other museum conferences...

Soon two of the big museum conferences, The Association of Children's Museums (ACM) and The American Association of Museums (AAM) will be taking place. And many, if not most, of the presenters at both these conferences will be packing a laptop loaded with PowerPoint presentations.

Even if each of these PowerPoint presentations is able to start smoothly without technical glitches involving projectors, connectors, and software, usually a big IF, I'll ask the question many of the folks trapped in the conference rooms will be thinking: "Why are some of the most creative people in the world using such powerful computer technology to present such boring, non-interactive speeches?"

Honestly, when is the last time you did something more at a conference presentation than sit on your fanny and stare at the screen and speakers on the dais for 75 minutes or so before the moderator apologizes for running long and leaves only time for one or two audience questions, if any? Most of the time, the talks could have easily been given, and often greatly improved, by eliminating PowerPoint.

Couldn't we just BAN PowerPoint from Conference Presentations?

Lest you think I'm a raving Luddite, I happily embrace computers and technology in all facets of the museum world, but I just think that the staid PowerPoint approach stifles creative presentations and dialogue between conference participants. (And, after all, even such eminent thinkers as David Byrne and Edward Tufte have wildly different takes on the topic.)

Even if you don't believe the museum world is ready to go "cold turkey" on PowerPoint, there are less drastic alternatives.

Mary Case, of Qm2, put me onto a short WIRED magazine article (and video example, seen at the top of this posting) about a presentation technique called "Pecha Kucha." As the article notes, pecha kucha (Japanese for "chatter") applies a simple set of rules to presentations: exactly 20 slides displayed for 20 seconds each. That's it. Say what you need to say in six minutes and 40 seconds of exquisitely matched words and images and then sit the hell down. As a quick Google search indicates, pecha kucha is catching on around the world. Why not give it a try at museum conferences to wean us off of bloated corporate-style presentations?

Another way to open up the conference format to alternative presentation styles may be as simple as "A Day Without PowerPoint". Pick one day during the conference that ALL presentations must be done without PowerPoint (or similar computer tools like KeyNote, for those trying to weasel around the ban!) Add a check box on the conference proposal forms that allows session chairs and participants to indicate their willingness to present sans PowerPoint and go from there. As a bonus, you get monetary and environmental gains from eliminating the projectors and associated technologies from the conference sessions for one day.

So, I beg all of you filling out evaluation forms at ACM or AAM to write "A Day Without PowerPoint" on each one you turn in, or better yet look for ways to eliminate PowerPoint from YOUR next talk!

Have some presentation tips or tricks you'd like to share? Let us know in the "Comments Section" below.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Museum Exits and Blue Slushees

A Blue Slushee --- one of those sweet drink concoctions consisting of frozen chemicals and sugar, usually an impossibly bright color that guarantees it is not "natural" was the motivation for this post.

I've written previously about the importance of the "Entry Sequence" (things like reasonable parking fees, pleasant guards and admission personnel, easily understandable admissions prices) in setting a pleasant starting tone for a museum visit.

It turns out that the "Exit Sequence" for a museum visit is just as important, and that's where the saga of the Blue Slushee drinks on sale in the lobby of "The Franklin" (formerly The Franklin Institute of Science) in Philadelphia begins.

Our family, consisting of two adults and four kids, had arrived right at opening time on a busy day, so we were able to park our car in The Franklin's parking structure and get our tickets to go inside without much fuss. After several hours of zipping around the various exhibit halls (including at least six round-trip passes through The Giant Heart for our youngest) we were all ready to leave and get outside to grab a late lunch.

However, to exit The Franklin we now had to march right past a stand smack in the middle of the lobby selling what could only be generously termed "junk food" including big clear plastic cups of fluorescent blue Slushee drinks. Needless to say, our hungry, and slightly overstimulated, 4 year old took one look at the bright blue treats and wanted one right away. When we gently refused, she had a fuss all the way to our lunch destination several blocks away.

Did this wreck our visit to The Franklin? Certainly not, but it did leave a bit of a bad taste in our mouths (even without drinking the Blue Slushees!)

It also raised a few questions:

• Why is The Franklin selling sugary junk mere steps away from their Giant Heart exhibition that repeatedly stresses the importance of eating healthy foods?

• Why is The Franklin pulling the same cheesy trick that roadside carnivals and supermarket check-out lines pull, namely, trying to shake the last few dollars out of you by sticking colorful impulse items between you and the exit?

Leaving aside the fact that you can't bring food or drinks into the exhibition halls right next to the lobby, or that The Franklin has a perfectly fine restaurant (that sells actual food!) just outside the lobby, I just think The Franklin is better than this. Don't you?

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Monday, April 13, 2009

A "Playful" Interview with Aaron Goldblatt

Aaron Goldblatt has an intense interest in what makes both museums, and their visitors, "tick". He was kind enough to answer a few questions for the ExhibiTricks blog, and I hope you enjoy reading his responses as much as I did.

What’s your educational background?

BFA in sculpture from Philadelphia College of Art (now University of the Arts)
MFA in sculpture from Rutgers University. I attended High school in Maryland suburb of DC, and Grade school on military bases in the US and in Germany.

I Studied ceramics in North Carolina and still make pots now and then. I trained as a welder and carpenter.

What got you interested in Museums?

True to the data in visitor studies – I grew up going to museums to become a lover of museums as an adult. Every family vacation centered on visits to museums in the US and Europe (my father was an army doctor and we were stationed in Germany from 1961 through 1963). Through the 1980s I worked as a technical designer and fabricator for many sculptors, installing their work in museums around the country. I loved the art but loved the museums more – and the possibility that one could think about addressing a whole host of arenas beyond art through this curious medium of exhibitions.

Life on the road in the 1980s was fun but not sustainable. The birth of my daughter led me to hunt around for grown-up, stable employment. How funny that it would be Please Touch Museum! They were looking for an Exhibits Manager and with great skepticism in 1990 I applied for the job. I had in fact heard of children’s museums and my daughter and I had great fun at the National Children’s Museum in Washington, DC the previous year.

My skepticism grew from: 1. Worrying how I would maintain my studio practice in the face of a full time job, and 2. Would this children’s museum business just be silliness? Well, I got the job. 1. My studio practice was great for a year, but the job at the museum proved so compelling and rewarding in ways I thought previously could only come from making art that I happily closed up that shop. 2. It was silly in the best of all ways, and it was lots of other things as well.

I found myself in a place and at a time where creative thought was encouraged, teams of smart people worked on things that seemed to matter in ways that had never occurred to me before. The audience proved to be demanding, shrewd, and responsive. I also found myself in a community of children’s museums that were doing really interesting work nationally and they were enormously welcoming. I can’t exaggerate how refreshing it was to find an environment that deemphasized individual authorship and valued a collective focus on measurable success.

What has prompted your interest in "Play”?

At Please Touch Museum play was the currency of the realm. We talked about it all the time; we looked for it in our work and discovered that a playful process was necessary for a playful product. I started to wonder what play really was. I watched my daughter play alone and with her friends and figured way more was going on than what I understood. I looked at my own propensity to build things and thought the pleasure I derived from it must mean something larger.

A poet friend gave me a copy of Homo Ludens, by Johan Huizinga and it blew me away. Someone had actually thought about this stuff in a really deep way! He connected play to human behavior in the most fundamental way and placed it in a comprehensive historic context.

In 1997 I came across The Association for the Study of Play (TASP) and was once more blown away. There was a whole community of scholars from every conceivable discipline examining play systematically. Primatologists studied play among bonobos. Sociologists were studying rough-and-tumble play among boys in immigrant communities in Chicago. Early childhood educators were watching toddlers play among strangers in institutional settings. All of them struggling to define this slippery notion of play. The work of Brian Sutton-Smith and Bernie Mergen, both of whom had important relationships with Please Touch in its early years, opened my eyes even further.

In truth, I have found play to be my home for some years now. It is the filter through which I look at almost everything. I know my students weary of hearing me gas on about it.

Tell us a little bit about Storytelling Bootcamp, and how it got started?

I teach in the Museum Studies Graduate Program at the University of the Arts. During a strategic planning retreat a couple of years ago, a former student, Victoria Prizzia, and I found ourselves in the same breakout group. We talked about storytelling as a central characteristic of our task creating exhibitions. It occurred to us that it might be fun to begin every year, with the entering students, in a storytelling intensive workshop for two or three days. All kinds of people could troop through telling stories from their particular perspectives. Actors, curators, financial analysts – anyone who is interested in deriving meaning from a data set of some kind. There would be individual and group storytelling workshops. That way, each cohort of students would share some sense of the breadth and potential of stories. The idea of the workshop at UArts may or may not ever take off, but Victoria and I continued to talk about it.

It struck us that such a workshop could be enormously valuable for a museum considering any kind of important project. As a consultant, I have run up against problems when the museum cedes too much decision making control to an outsider. We felt that if the museum took control of the creative process right from the gate, they would be in much better shape when real planning and design took place – whether they hired out the services or kept them in-house. We also felt it could be a way for a struggling institution to refocus its efforts on what really mattered – and most importantly, in a playful way. The idea of prototyping the exercise at the MAAM Creating Exhibitions Symposium was an easy leap. We’ll see where it goes.

What are some of your favorite online (or offline) resources for people interested in finding out more about play?

Not in any particular order:

The Association for the Study of Play I love this organization. If I could afford it, I would go to their conference every year.

The American Journal of Play.
I subscribe to both the digital and paper version because I still need the paper in my hands.

The Strong Museum in Rochester NY made the bold leap to become the National Museum of Play a few years ago. They host TASP administratively and became the archives for Brian Sutton-Smith’s papers (he is generally regarded as the father of the contemporary study of play).

The International Play Association
is primarily an advocacy group and their site is excellent for seeing what’s happening around the world (good and bad) in children’s play.

The National Institute For Play
is a little overly focused on the work of one guy, Dr. Stuart Brown, but his work is really interesting, and it’s his organization after all.

There are tons of books out there. Some have been enormously important to me, but I don’t presume to think that any particular one would have a similar impact on anyone else. I do think that if folks just dived in a bit, they would start looking at all kinds of resources in different ways.

Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods, is not specifically about play, but it got me thinking about specific arenas of play and the need to vary the “playground,” so to speak, and to honor them all.

What has happened to me, and has frankly tested the patience of my family, is that I have become much more conscious of play; when it is happening and when it is inhibited. I find myself watching people closely when I think they are playing and I try to figure out what they are doing (or not doing). I have grown to respect the specifics of play and many of the activities that are probably not play, but are critical to the development of play (exploration, for example).

What advice would you have for fellow museum professionals, especially those from smaller museums, in developing better stories for their exhibitions?

I share your instinct: start with the stuff. What do you have? Of what you have, what do you see as most important? Why is it important? Why does/should it matter to your audience? I always seem to come back to the question; what are you trying to accomplish? These are questions that need to be answered internally by the organization (with outside help if necessary) and fully embraced by the staff and the board. They need to be answered before any thinking about a capital project gets under way. Without it, how do you know you’ll like what you build, or if your visitors will have any interest?

The scale of the operation or the project is immaterial. A $50M operation is just as capable of losing its way as a $50K operation (maybe more so). The amount of resources spent on a project is also less relevant than one might think. Being really clear about why a project is important and what is to be gained by doing it is way more than half the battle.

What do you think is the “next frontier” for museums?

You know, six months ago I would have ignored this question – thinking that it is simply hubris to pretend to look into a crystal ball. I am now no more prone to predicting the future, but the current economic crisis has made me think a lot about what I’d like to see. If anything good can come out of this quagmire it is the realignment of what we regard as having value.

Museums do not exist in a vacuum and they have partaken in an orgy of expansion in the last few decades like many sectors of our society. I have participated directly in that process and remain in a business that depends on some sort of continuance of that phenomenon. But it’s not all good and it’s not all necessary. What is most important, it is not all sustainable. I don’t care how green a new building or exhibition is, all too often the fundamental question is not being asked – is it really necessary? Are there ways we could do this without building a new facility? The “necessary” part is a tough one because it refers to a larger set of criteria than within the institution in question. Just because we can do it, doesn’t mean we should.

I would love to see museums do some real soul-searching and look closely at what they have/do of real value – maybe even articulate what value means in the context of their missions and collections. The political Right has had a firm grip on the term “values” for a couple of decades and used it as a cudgel against anyone standing on their margins. I think we are at a place and time when we can reclaim a wider, less punitive sense of value, and deploy it for collective enrichment (in the deepest sense of that word) rather than individual enrichment (in the most superficial sense of that word).

I realize how hopelessly naïve and idealistic this sounds. Oh well.

What are some of your favorite museums or exhibitions?

I share your love of the City Museum in St Louis. I think the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh is astonishing. The new Please Touch makes me cry, it is so beautiful. The Tate Modern is an act of heroic salvage. Eastern State Penitentiary is without peer.

Fred Wilson’s Mining the Museum gave me permission to think about play in arenas that are serious and urgent.

I suppose I could tick off a long list of individual museums and exhibits (and even specific objects), but I am true to the data in other ways, too. Like most museum visitors, the experience for me is almost always a social one. I am with my wife (a museum dork as much as me!), or other family members and friends. If the experience offers us some way to connect over something of wonder – I am blissful. If the curatorial voice is too intrusive, or if we are mistreated by the institution (e.g. over-charged, filthy restrooms, stupid rules), I walk away unhappy. Depending on my and my group’s mood, we might have a marvelous time even if the exhibition is weak. It will be memorable because of the social interaction of my group and probably not because of the exhibition.

I’m not entirely sure where I’m headed with this, but if my experience is any guide, I suspect we, as exhibition planners and designers, have both more and less to worry about.

Can you talk a little about some of your current projects?

I am very excited about the pending completion of an exhibition now under construction at the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania. There are great activities throughout the whole arboretum, but the centerpiece is a 450 foot long, 45 feet high boardwalk into the canopy of a temperate forest. There will be a giant birds’ nest and a net-climb suspended almost 50 feet above the forest floor. The whole point is to get folks to engage with trees in ways they never could before. This is a perspective reserved for squirrels and arborists. I can’t wait to see if it works – if people, offered a way to play in the trees they normally do not get, show signs of treasuring trees more.

We also have a project with a charter school in Camden, NJ. The big idea there is to make a place where students are encouraged to take seriously their own part in creating the material culture around them. We designed a gathering place where classes of all disciplines can do projects focused on Camden – its politics, development (or lack thereof), arts, infrastructure, etc. – all through the lens of junior and senior high students.

If money were no object, what would your “dream” exhibit project be?

I don’t mean to sound self-righteous, but money has almost nothing to do with it (well, maybe not nothing). We’ve all seen projects that suffered from too many resources as an ideological starting point. Lavishing expensive materials on an idea makes it neither better nor worse. It just dresses it in expensive materials. Sometimes it even hides a good idea. You know better than most that duct tape is a wondrous material. I’m not even talking about necessarily lowering production values. There are lots of ways to do really good design with less than glass and stainless steel.

Some situations do indeed demand a serious commitment of resources – like an installation outside, or something that will be fully, physically engaged with. We are, after all, responsible for our visitors’ safety and we don’t want it to look like a pile of garbage one week after opening. But there are a million ways to get there and spending more money is a guarantee of nothing.

I am not too picky about content either. Really great visitor experiences can be derived from almost any content and really boring experiences can be wrung from the most compelling content. It is extremely easy for me to get excited about content. Given the time to drink deeply of that content and imagine cool ways to engage with that content, I’m happy.

Thanks to Aaron for taking the time to share his insights with ExhibiTricks readers!

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Museum Budget Stretcher: The Futures Channel

In keeping with our occasional postings to help designers and museums stretch their resources, let's highlight the great work being offered on "The Futures Channel" website.

The aim of The Futures Channel is "connecting learning to the real world" which they accomplish through a series of fun and interesting short videos that they've been producing over the past ten years. Every video highlights real world applications of math and/or science, and has several related math or science activities to go along with it.

Skateboard designers, custom guitar builders, and movie special effects artists are just some of the math and science users highlighted. One of my favorite videos shows how the designers of Hot Wheels toy cars utilize math in their jobs.

The material on The Futures Channel is divided up into handy categories like "Animals" "Art & Music" and "Space Science" as well as offering material arranged by grade level, to make it easily searchable.

So give The Futures Channel a look. In addition to finding some background resources for your latest project, you just might learn something!

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Monday, April 6, 2009

Is Creativity a Team Sport?

In a recent post, I asked people to suggest "Museums Worth a Special Trip." One thing I've noticed about the museums suggested is that many, if not most of them, are the products of strong-minded founders. Which begs the question, "Is Creativity a Team Sport"?

It seems a lot more straight-forward, if less democratic, to pursue one person's design vision than to sit through endless meetings trying to come to consensus among staff and advisors on the direction of an exhibition, or a set of exhibitions, in the case of a new museum.

The National Science Foundation, among other granting agencies, has essentially mandated an exhibits approach that makes all sorts of consensus-building techniques an essential part of the "creative" process --- but has this approach resulted in more interesting exhibitions?

Art Museums seem more willing to turn over their galleries to individual artists for installations, usually with very good results. How can less "auteur" minded institutions like Science, History, and Children's Museums take advantage of a strong-minded individual driving the exhibit process forward, rather than the oft-venerated "Exhibits Team"? (I'd love to see Olafur Eliasson put together an exhibition at a Science Center!)

The "Creative Team" Conundrum also rears its ugly head when thinking about visitor studies and that Web 2.0 favorite, "crowdsourcing".

In the case of visitor studies, many visitors are only able to come up with variations of exhibits and exhibit themes they are already familiar with. Every museum stocked according to audience surveys would likely include a rocket ship, a dinosaur skeleton, and a mummy --- not bad, necessarily, but not exactly moving the exhibits field forward either.

Crowds and focus groups are notoriously bad at choosing innovations, which is why companies like Apple don't use them. Apple’s attitude is that sometimes, to truly innovate, you’ve got to go beyond giving people what they say they want. Building consensus often builds mediocre, and "safe" (rather than interesting) design decisions.

Maybe we need to bring in more "trouble makers" like Fred Wilson to shake up our staid exhibition development models. As Kathy McLean said in a previous ExhibiTricks interview, "I don't really need a lot of money or time to do my dream exhibitions ... I need organizations that are interested in presenting unusual, thought-provoking experiences."

So what do you think? Better Exhibit Teams or More Exhibit Auteurs? Let us know in the Comments Section below.

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Design Inspiration: Storytelling

During the recent "Creating Exhibitions" conference put on by the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums (MAAM) several sessions, and a talk by author David Macaulay about his process, got me thinking again about the importance of stories and storytelling, especially in design projects and museums.

One thing I'm thinking about is whether it is better to start with the objects or to begin with the stories. I'm leaning towards objects first, since so many BAD exhibitions I've seen seem to have started with a fixed storyline that didn't really lead anywhere. What do you think? Stories or Stuff first?

Another thing I'm pondering is David Macaulay's statement in the Q&A session following his talk that (my paraphrase) "You can't draw on a computer, and you can only really understand something if you can draw it." While the computer is an incredibly powerful tool, one of its downsides is that it can almost effortlessly help us to produce things like renderings and label text (or blogs!) that may have a certain surface beauty without any true depth borne from hard-won understanding and experience. Mr. Macaulay spoke of a whole bookshelf full of failed experiments that he didn't want to publish because they weren't "good enough."

Some of my best encounters with museum exhibitions or art are those in which it was clear that there was something interesting going on underneath, rather than merely presenting a glittery, facile surface.

It's easy to talk about storytelling, but much more difficult to frame a proper story. With that in mind, here are two on-line resources that were suggested during the conference, each with slightly different points of view about storytelling, that can serve as springboards for your own storytelling and design efforts:

The Center for Digital Storytelling is an international not-for-profit community arts organization rooted in the craft of personal storytelling. The Center assists youth and adults around the world in using media tools to share, record, and value stories from their lives, in ways that promote artistic expression, health and well being, and justice.

Stories for Change is focused on the intertwined roles of community and place in storytelling. Their website has some especially good resources to draw upon.

So, what's your story? Or the story inside your exhibition trying to get out? I look forward to visiting the next set of museum exhibitions I see with a critical eye toward the stories inside.

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

First Children's Museum for Antarctica!

I am happy to report that I have accepted the position as Executive Director of the first children's museum in Antarctica, The Antarctic International Children's Museum.

While plans are still in process, the museum will include both the world's largest IMAX theatre (the dome will be constructed entirely of ice!) as well as the world's best kid-sized grocery store exhibit (in keeping with the Antarctic theme, the "store" will be stocked with 15 varieties of artificial fish and simulated canned goods.)

Other planned exhibitions will be an iceberg climbing structure, a (frozen) water play area, and a community-minded exhibition developed entirely by penguins.

Planning and construction of the state-of-the-art Antarctic International Children's Museum would not be possible without the generous contributions of Doctor Victor Fries.

For more information about the project, or to find out about employment opportunities, please visit our website.

Thank you so much for your messages of support and concern regarding my recent abduction by aliens, time travel excursions, and the reinstallation of the official planetary status for Pluto. (It's been a busy day!)

It was only through your concerted efforts (and a container ship load of Lucky Charms cereal!) that the proper steps were taken to ensure my eventual release.

Unfortunately, recent events have caused the founding board of the Antarctic International Children's Museum to revoke my contract as Executive Director, and as part of our severance agreement I am forbidden from any further discussion of this matter.

My understanding is that a new executive search will be conducted under the auspices of the McMurdo Research Station, and those interested should direct their inquiries there. Dr. A. Preel-Fewles is the direct contact.

On the positive side, I am now immediately available to discuss new exhibit design, development, or consulting projects with interested parties.