Wednesday, April 8, 2020

The Bionic Museum?


One of the TV shows my two younger brothers and I enjoyed watching when we were kids growing up in Detroit was "The Six Million Dollar Man."  In the show, astronaut Steve Austin is injured while testing a prototype spacecraft and becomes a "bionic man" by having his legs, one arm, and one eye replaced by advanced biomechanical enhancements.  During the opening credits of the series, a voice intones,

"We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. Better...stronger...faster."

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, it feels as if many museum workers are thinking about ways to reopen their museums so they are "better...stronger...faster."  But what does it mean for museums to become "better" in a post-pandemic world?  Will this crisis provide a turning point for museums or merely speed us along the road we've been traveling on for the past few decades as we rush to reopen?

Whether we can benefit from the current "pause" in museum operations or not, here are 6 (as opposed to six million!) things to think about right now as we ponder the future of our institutions. Nobody has all the right answers, but we all need to be taking the time now to be asking the right questions.


1) FUNDING
This crisis has shown more forcefully that so many museums have fragile funding structures. It is incomprehensible to me that large art museums with endowments of hundreds of millions of dollars (or more!) still were unable or unwilling to forego staff and contractor layoffs. It is shameful and morally wrong to amass such vast amounts of wealth that cannot be used to support staff in times of extraordinary crisis.

Most, if not all, museums are NOT truly self-sustaining entities and it is unrealistic to keep suggesting otherwise. The US government could, and should, do more to support the arts and cultural institutions -- a mere sliver of the federal budget redirected to this purpose would make a significant difference and support many, many jobs of museum, arts, and cultural workers. (And I don't mean the woefully inadequate funding currently doled out to the NEH, NEA, and IMLS -- which should each be increased by many multiples.)


2) STAFFING
The already disproportionate numbers of women, people of color, and younger people in entry-level or lower-level front-of-house, security, admissions, and education roles belies the true concerns about equity by many organizations.

Who occupies the top spots in museums?  Follow the money -- to which departments are funds allocated, and to which people in the organization?  Similarly, which people and departments face the cuts first when crisis strikes? Where you cut and spend often indicates your organization's real values.


3) FACILITIES
In a world where people have been trained to socially distance themselves from each other, to be wary of touching surfaces, and to be hyper-vigilant about sanitary issues, how do we show visitors we share their concerns?  What does this mean for new *public* cleaning regimens and added staff roles related to facilities?


4) EXHIBITS
How can we rethink the notions of "hands-on" exhibits? How do we re-tool or re-purpose educationally questionable (and now public-health questionable) experiences like mini-grocery stores?  How can we use technology and creative design approaches to recalibrate our notions of interactive exhibits and environments?


5) EDUCATION PROGRAMS
Museum educators and public-facing staff are the heart of museums. Without them, museums are just businesses masquerading as non-profits, not serving their communities as resources. If museums are serious about their roles as community resources, that should be reflected in the way they conduct business, NOT just when they are filling out grant applications or trying to impress donors.


6) PUBLIC TRUST
Museums are often, and rightfully so, touted as among the most trusted organizations. What does our behavior during and immediately after the pandemic do to build upon and continue that trust by the public?


Lots to think about as we move into the post-pandemic museum landscape.  What are YOUR key concerns related to museums?  Share your thoughts in the "Comments" section below.



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Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

New Klee-Shea Children's Museum Project!


I wanted to share this exclusive blog post with ExhibiTricks readers about the new Klee-Shea Children's Museum (KSCM) project which hosted a virtual reality groundbreaking ceremony at midnight on March 31, 2020.

Spokesperson Jay Ochs informed me that the full name of the new museum will be the Klee-Shea Discovertorium Incrediblarium Children's Museum, named after the renowned community leader and paper goods heiress Dr. Kleemona Necks (known to everyone by her childhood name, "Klee") and her beloved 63-year old pet tortoise, Shelly, affectionately called "Shea".

Billed as a "world-class" institution unique in the entire museum field, some of the exciting new experiences that will be featured in the first-ever LEED Adamantium building include:


• A Holographic Mini-Grocery Store Area: using state-of-the-art haptic laser projection equipment, young shoppers will be able to fill their carts with realistic simulations of grocery products, thus easily resolving the need for KCSM staff to keep re-stocking the shelves after excited children jam every object into their carts, and eliminating sanitation concerns.




• Bowling Ball Pit: highlighting the "outside the box" thinking of Brooklyn-based exhibit design firm Boughess, this one-of-a-kind experience will allow young visitors to test their cooperation and risk-taking skills while at the same time also participating in fun and healthy strength training.




• "Feelings" Room: During initial testing, Klee-Shea staff realized that on rare occasions, exhibits would break or malfunction. Rather than immediately repairing these components, the museum will gather the non-working components into a dimly-lit area where unsuspecting children can discover feelings of frustration by attempting to make these non-operational exhibits work.



As spokesperson Ochs explained how all visitors would exit through the Klee-Shea Gift Shop (with products ranging from rubber dinosaur erasers to multi-thousand dollar telescopes that nobody will ever buy) he shared initial thoughts on the Museum's upcoming "soft opening" party when the entire facility will be filled with foam pillows and bags of marshmallows will be given to the first 500 people in line.

To find out more about this exciting project, follow the link to the Klee-Shea Children's Museum website.



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Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

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Monday, March 23, 2020

Let's turn "Work From Home" time into new Museum FAQ Videos!

Now that COVID-19 has turned almost every museum worker into a telecommuter, I have an idea for something that could build a resource for colleagues around the world.

Let's use our "work from home" time into creating a set of Museum FAQ videos to share with each other.

A little background -- last year I started a short-video series called Museum FAQ to provide answers to frequently asked questions I often received from clients, peers, and Emerging Museum Professionals (EMPs).

Here's an example Museum FAQ video you can view on YouTube.

Now that so many of us are working from home wouldn't it be great to create a "reference library" of free videos on museum/exhibit/design questions like, "What makes a great museum label?" or "How can I shift static content into interactive exhibit activities?" or "What's a simple unguided Maker Space activity?"  You get the idea.

I'm happy to set up times to plan and record simple Zoom conversations between myself and museum colleagues to create new Museum FAQ videos to share freely on YouTube.

If that sounds like something you'd like to be part of, please email me at info@orselli.net so we can get started!



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Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

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Monday, March 16, 2020

Your Museum Moment of Zen #MuseumMomentofZen



Perhaps in this time of uncertainty and pandemic, what we need is a Museum Moment of Zen or #MuseumMomentofZen (like the image at the top of this post via the Denver Botanic Gardens.)


via The Broad Museum

Now on Twitter and Instagram you can search for #MuseumMomentofZen and find images that various museums from around the world have contributed.

via The Cleveland Museum of Art

So, take a deep breath and enjoy a moment (or several moments) of Museum Zen.


via The Whitney Museum of American Art


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Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

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Thursday, March 5, 2020

Beverly Serrell's Big Idea eBook


I recently had the opportunity to chat with Beverly Serrell about the release of her new "Big Idea" eBook. You can find the video of our conversation on YouTube or embedded below. In the 20-minute video, Beverly discusses at length her reasons for making the eBook, the process, and many challenges of working in the digital realm.

The eBook is about the “Big Idea,” a tool for exhibit developers, whether you've been in the museum exhibition business for a long time or you are part of the new generation. With a good big idea, the development of an exhibition will go more smoothly from the start.

Beverly worked with Paul Rodriguez to create an eBook packed with 37 pages of colorful dynamic content, offering rationales, definitions, and examples, plus exercises and discussions. (And lemurs!)

You can order your own copy of the Big Idea eBook here, or enter our FREE BOOK GIVEAWAY! 

Here's how to enter to win one of two free copies of Beverly's new eBook --  either click the "Sign up for Free ExhibiTricks Blog Updates" link on the upper right side of the blog OR send an email with "I want to win a copy of the Big Idea eBook!" in the subject line before March 20, 2020.  We will randomly select one new ExhibiTricks subscriber and one emailer to each receive a Big Idea eBook as their prize.  Good luck!




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.

Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

If you enjoy the blog, you can help keep it free to read and free from ads by supporting ExhibiTricks through our PayPal "Tip Jar"

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Creative Juxtaposition: Nick Cave AND Nick Cave


Today's post is about two masterfully creative people, each named Nick Cave (pictured above.)

Nick Cave is an artist who is known for using sound in his work, most notably in his multifaceted pieces called "Soundsuits."

Nick Cave is a musician who brings an artistic sensibility to his deeply strange and personal musical compositions.

Here is a YouTube video of Nick Cave speaking about the artistic choices he made while creating a particular Soundsuit, now on display at The Smithsonian.  Nick Cave's work rewards careful observation.





Here is a YouTube video of one of Nick Cave's songs called "Girl in Amber." (You can read more about the background of the song on another Nick Cave website called "The Red Hand Files.")





After exploring each Nick Cave's work, I'm struck by some commonalities:

• The work of each Nick Cave is informed by their own personal experiences, shared in ways that resonate and connect them to their viewers/listeners.

• Nick Cave's work pays strict attention to seemingly small details, that really do add up to create a greater whole.

• Each artist creates a visual and sonic environment that defies easy categorization.  In fact, each Nick Cave is his own category.


And wouldn't we all like to bring these elements into our own creative work?



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.

Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

If you enjoy the blog, you can help keep it free to read and free from ads by supporting ExhibiTricks through our PayPal "Tip Jar"