Sunday, February 10, 2019

Are Exhibit Timelines So Boring Because of the Lines?



A while back I wrote a post asking for examples of interesting timelines in museum exhibitions.  Since then I've been wondering if the negative impressions so many visitors (and exhibit designers!) seem to have about timelines are actually a function of the flat, straight lines themselves.

Think about how daunting a seemingly endless line of jam-packed text and images seems when you are standing at the beginning point.  And now with the use of ever cheaper screens and digital storage devices, there is a proliferation of what one designer called "the promise of the infinite label" (as if that was a GOOD thing!)

So here are four different ways (with images) of rethinking, or replacing, the standard linear "encyclopedia pages on the wall" approach to exhibit timelines.



SPREAD OUT!

Instead of marching tons of text and images in a line across the wall, why not break the information into manageable chunks and spread it out around the space?

A hub-and-spoke approach to spreading out information.



Movable "thought bubble" units.
Provocation on one side visitor response on the other?

Spreading out information with a map motif.



LISTEN UP!

Could we engage other senses (like hearing) in information-dense exhibits?


Historic figures speak.


Listen Up! Text and sound.




LOOK UP!

How can we use all the space to have visitors look for information in unexpected ways and places?


Cubes -- look up and all around to approach text/images in non-linear ways.


Changing the space to change visitor expectations.


Look up -- and around!



EXCHANGE

Are there ways to exchange information by encouraging communication between visitors and the museum or interchange between visitors?  How can visitors change the information or the physical exhibit elements?


Exchanging information through flash drives.



Color-coded talk tubes to discuss different subjects?

Visitor-changeable low-tech data display


Hopefully, this ExhibiTricks post has given you some inspiration to scribble outside the (time)lines a bit.

Do you have some other ideas or images/links to share that don't follow the typical timeline?  Let us know in the "Comments" section below!






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Sunday, February 3, 2019

Museum Super Bowl Day?


Super Bowl Sunday will be a great day to visit your local museum --- because it will be even quieter than usual. 

Why are so many people, even folks who don't normally follow football, more rabidly enthusiastic about watching the "Big Game" or attending a local Super Bowl event, than visiting your museum?

Have you ever seen someone outside a museum scalping tickets to get inside?  

I'd say one possible answer lies in finding the difference between a "fan" and a "casual visitor."   Fans wear logo gear all year long and have no compunction in excitedly telling total strangers how great their team is.  The National Football league is, as recent news reports have detailed, even going after a traditionally neglected demographic, women 18 to 49, with great success.

So how can museums create more "fans" and expand their demographic reach as well?  

Places like The City Museum in St. Louis have set out to become a gathering spot for their local communities and have become open to all sorts of fun ideas that are edgy enough to attract a wide, and enthusiastic audience of repeat visitors who definitely become City Museum fans.

Of course all this talk of creating "museum fans" is pointless if your museum isn't really fan-worthy.  Is your admissions procedure torture?  Do you create core exhibits and attractions that are worth revisiting, or do you depend on the hucksterism of events that are only vaguely related to your museum's mission and purpose?  What are the obstacles that prevent your visitors from becoming fans?

Let's see if we can create more museum fans.   

GO MUSEUMS!




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Thursday, January 24, 2019

Cool Tool: Arts + Social Impact Explorer


The arts make more things possible, from better education to greater health outcomes, to a more civically-engaged citizenry—but people don’t always see those connections. 

Enter the group Americans for the Arts, and their cool tool called the Arts + Social Impact Explorer (pictured at the top of this post.)

Either on the Web, or through mobile devices, users can spin through a colorful ring of areas (like Health & Wellness, Housing, and Civic Dialogue) to find out how the arts impact and intersect with our lives. There are even ways to get additional fact sheets to dig deeper into each Art/Life connection.

From the Americans for the Arts website:

This highly interactive, visual tool is meant to drive conversation, and is accompanied by customized Fact Sheets that are downloadable and printable for sharing with board members, public and private sector policymakers, and more. It also is mobile-friendly and allows for easy conversations with decision makers to help expand the dialogue about the arts and their value to communities. Functioning as the surface of a deep “lake” of knowledge, all impact points and research within the Explorer comes with citations and links so that people can visit the websites of all the example projects, click directly to the research referenced, and engage directly with the other partners doing this work around the country.

The Arts + Social Impact Explorer is a great tool to start a conversation with funders or policy makers about the deep ways that arts organizations connect to the fabric of civil society.  It will also be a boon to grant writers everywhere!

If you'd like to find out more about the development and use of the Arts + Social Impact Explorer tool you can view this quick YouTube introduction.

But really the best way to experience all the features of the Arts + Social Impact Explorer is to take it for a spin yourself by clicking over to the Americans for the Arts website.



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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Flip the Flop: Kenya's Ocean Sole Turns Trash Into Art



What would you do if thousands of flip-flops regularly washed up on the beaches where you live?

The creative folks who formed Ocean Sole in Kenya treat the flip-flops as raw materials for the art they create.

Ocean Sole workers and volunteers have removed over 1,000 tonnes of flip-flops from the ocean and waterways in Kenya. Ocean Sole has also provided steady income to over 150 Kenyans in their company and supply-chain, and the group contributes over 10% of their revenue to marine conservation programs.




What could museums and designers take away from this model of trash to art from Kenya?


You can find out more about Ocean Sole's work and products by clicking over to the Ocean Sole website.





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Sunday, January 6, 2019

Aim Higher. Work Faster. Make Museums Better.


One of my new sheroes is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the recently elected congressperson from New York.

Representative Ocasio-Cortez wants to aim higher and work faster to solve problems for her constituents.

With that spirit in mind, here are three areas of museum work that I think we can all make better by aiming higher and working faster.


1) LIVING WAGES FOR ALL MUSEUM WORKERS
It is unconscionable that museums do not pay all their employees and interns living wages.  I've heard all the excuses for low museum pay, and they all sound like bunk.  Unpaid internships and substandard wages are not the way to run any organization, let alone organizations that claim to have a higher social purpose.

One step to address this challenge: Stop "salary masking"! Commit to transparency by requiring salary ranges in all job postings.  Kudos to professional organizations like ACM, AASLH, and MAAM for being leaders in this effort.



2) JOINING OUR WORK TO OUR COMMUNITIES  
Does the staff, board, and programming of your museum truly reflect the communities your institution wants to serve? If not, why not?

One step to address this challenge: Start conversations with communities IN those communities, not your museum! Attend community events as a participant, not an "expert."  True engagement is an ongoing process, not a one-time focus group meeting -- and that process might begin with a simple and sincere Facebook or email message.



3) VALUING PEOPLE OVER SCREENS
Museums seem more willing to pay (or overpay) for screen-based opportunities over staff-facilitated activities, even though many studies show that visitors to cultural institutions often prefer non-screen based experiences.

One step to address this challenge: consider WHAT you want visitors to take away from an experience before immediately jumping to HOW you will deliver that experience. You may find an elegant non-screen based solution or a great "phygital" (mixed physical and digital) opportunity to explore.


I hope you aim higher and work faster to face whatever museum challenges you encounter in 2019!



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Thursday, December 20, 2018

A Few of My Favorite Things (2018 Edition)


As the year comes to a close I'd like to share a "few of my favorite things" -- feel free to listen to this John Coltrane tune as you read along. 

(I'll be taking a "blog break" to celebrate holiday festivities with family and friends through the end of the year, but look for new ExhibiTricks posts starting in early January 2019!)


Why You Must Travel to Montgomery, Alabama
I recently wrote a blog post about my experiences at The Legacy Museum and The National Memorial for Peace and Justice. I am still thinking about my visit to Montgomery because of those places.


Best YouTube Math Presenter
Every museum talks about STEM (or STEAM) but really, when was the last time you encountered a really fun exhibit or program about Math?  The enthusiastic dynamo Professor Tadashi Tokieda could change all that. Check out his videos on the Numberphile YouTube channel.


Favorite Speciality Museum in Paris
Of course, the Louvre gets all the love, but if you really want to make the most of your Museum Pass, you will visit the Paris Sewer Museum!


If You Could Only Subscribe to One Magazine 
The New Yorker. Period.


A Museum Worth A Special Trip (near Boston)
I worked super hard (and literally shed blood, sweat, and tears!) to lead the development of all the new Science Galleries at the recently expanded and consolidated Discovery Museum in Acton, Massachusetts.  If you are anywhere near the Boston area, it's worth a special trip.


One Day in St. Louis
If you arrived in St. Louis to experience the City Museum, marvel at the Gateway Arch, and eat some Ted Drewe's frozen custard, you could then leave the city limits fulfilled.


And that's a wrap for 2018!  Enjoy whatever end-of-year events you celebrate, tell the people around you that you love them, and work on projects that make you happy and proud in 2019!



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!)