Sunday, February 18, 2024

Successful Imperfection



The other day one of my sons wanted to cook up a little surprise for our family.  He worked hard to make some onion bhaji based on a recipe that one of his college friends taught him.  (You can try making some of your own bhajis by following this recipe.)

Everyone enjoyed the special appetizers and found them quite tasty, but I noticed my son was a little upset, and I asked him what the problem was.  He was disappointed that the bhaji hadn't turned out exactly how he had hoped and had actually thrown some of them away because he didn't think they were "good enough" to serve.

We are often our own worst critics, and many times the fear of "less than perfect" paralyzes our work. 

Sometimes parts of an exhibition or a new program won't be 100% complete or be *perfect* on opening day -- and while that might gnaw at us as creators, our visitors are usually focused on enjoying the new exhibits or programs we've created.

Let's continue to learn from our failures, but let's also take time to savor our "imperfect" successes.



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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, February 8, 2024

Do You Need Walls to be a Museum?


Do you need walls to be a Museum?

It's a question worth asking again, as the Rubin Museum of Art recently announced that it would be closing its New York City museum building later this year -- essentially becoming a "museum without walls."

There are many instances of emerging museums starting out as "museums without walls," with the ultimate aim in those cases to end up inside a permanent museum home rather than reversing the sequence as the Rubin is doing.

But really, what are the essential qualities of a "museum"?  I would say that strong museum experiences are defined by three S words: Stuff, Stories, and Social. (Note that "Structure" isn't one of those S words!)

First, you need some kind of "STUFF," whether artifacts, collection objects, or exhibit elements.  Even completely digital museums, like the Girl Museum, still emphasize the notion of thematic exhibitions, albeit through purely online installations.

Secondly, you should have strong STORIES to share.  The FREE THE MUSEUM project works to share stories and place their installations in and around communities in places like parks, streets, or community gathering places rather than museum buildings.

And lastly, museums must be SOCIAL places, providing opportunities for people to gather and interact with each other.  The "new" Rubin Museum aims to provide such social opportunities for people to interact with new installations related to Himalayan Art by working with creative partners around the world.

So I would say you do NOT need walls to create strong and memorable museum experiences. 

However, it will be difficult for "wall-free museums" to shift the natural perception of so many members of the public who immediately think of permanent, physical buildings when the word "museum" comes up and consider museum buildings the mark of institutional legitimacy.






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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, January 31, 2024

Why "Best Museum" Lists are the Worst!



I hope your museum is better than chasing after some hokey "best of" list.

USA Today regularly publishes multiple categories of these "Best Museum" lists.

The whole process starts with an incredibly bad premise -- how can you compare two completely different museums, say the Museum of Modern Art and the American Museum of Natural History, and claim one of them is the "best"?

The people who most often seem interested in these "best museum" lists are executive directors or board members begging you to vote (multiple times!) for their institution or museum marketers looking to churn out another breathless press release.

Do we really need our work recognized by giving ourselves flimsy PR bragging rights because of some bogus "best of" list?

You don't actually get to claim the title of "the best" for your museum with some cheesy marketing stunt -- instead, you need to try every day to create amazing experiences so that your visitors keep coming back to your museum, again and again, and telling their friends and family to do the same.








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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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Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Cool Tool: KEEPa Magnetic Clip


My brother-in-law recently told me about KEEPa -- a cool multi-function magnetic clip/strap device.

A durable polyurethane strap has two super-strong magnets encased at each end, surrounded by small ridges to reduce sliding or skidding.



KEEPa is the perfect kind of multi-purpose tool -- the more you use it, the more new ways you come up with ways to put it to use.

Find out more about KEEPa on their website or see people putting it to use on the KEEPa Instagram page.





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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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Tuesday, January 16, 2024

The "Three List" Trick




As I continue coordinating my plans for 2024, I'll often be relying on my trusty "Three List" trick.

Despite the "best-laid plans" for our museum and exhibit projects, things often do go awry.  Whether it happens during the initial stages of value engineering (often providing neither "value" nor "engineering") or just before the opening of a new building or exhibition, the harsh realities of schedules and budgets often squeeze our hopes and dreams like a vise.



In an effort to shake myself out of the funk that often accompanies different parts of the exhibit/museum development process, I've taken to creating three lists for myself and suggesting that clients do the same.

What are the aims of those three lists, you ask? 

1) Things that MUST happen before opening

2) Things that would be NICE to happen before opening

3) Things that ABSOLUTELY WON'T HAPPEN until after opening

Exactly which things you put on your lists will vary from project to project and situation to situation.  (It's a pretty sure bet your new museum will need working front doors on your first day, but if a few staff office chairs arrive a week late, it's probably not a reason to cancel the opening gala.)  But to proceed otherwise, as if everything on all the punch lists and wish lists and to-do lists will happen before opening, is, at best, a rookie mistake or, at worst, a one-way express ticket to Burnout City.

So pause a moment to process the bad news you just got from your General Contractor (or Director or Fire Marshall or Lead Designer ...), then take a deep breath and gather your team together to start updating your three lists.

Your project (not to mention your health and sanity) will be better for it.






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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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Sunday, December 31, 2023

New Year, New Games!



Our family just received some new games over the Holidays that I'd like to recommend.**

Good games, like good museum exhibit experiences, share a few common traits:

1) Easy to learn and play.

2) Fun for a variety of age levels.

3) Challenging, but not too challenging.

4) Interesting enough to play again and again.

So here, in no particular order, are some games that you might like to check out. (The link attached to each game name brings you to Amazon.)



Charty Party is a card game for adults that reminds me of another card-based game called Apples to Apples. During each round of Charty Party, one player is chosen to be the judge and flips over a chart card. The other players then anonymously play their funniest orange card to name the Y-axis of the chart. It's an easy but often hilarious game.
As the name of the game and the picture below implies, this is a game about birds!  You play against other players to collect bird cards, get different types of food, and gather eggs in various ways. Wingspan is a gorgeous-looking game, with each one of the beautiful playing cards showing an accurate picture of a real bird. Wingspan feels educational but not boring -- with interesting, solid gameplay.

We like the game so much that we bought one of the "expansion" packs -- in this case, the Asia Expansion set, which adds a whole new flock of birds to learn and play with!





Brought to you by the same people who developed the "Exploding Kittens" game, Mantis (named after the super-cool oceanic creature the Mantis Shrimp) comes with a bonus physical copy of the comic book, "Why the Mantis Shrimp is My New Favorite Animal."

The aim of the game is to be the first player to get 10 or more cards into your score pile. You do this by collecting matching sets of colorful Mantis cards and/or stealing those same cards from your opponents! Mantis works as a card game for kids but is also one of the adult party games you’ll want to play again and again.





If you've ever imagined yourself tearing up Tokyo like Godzilla or blasting New York City from an alien spaceship, this is the game for you!

A dice-driven game with a good combination of both luck and strategy needed to win, you compete against fellow "monsters" to collect energy points and avoid losing health points.  Each round plays relatively quickly, so it's a great game for people at a party to jump in and out of.



Here's hoping your 2024 gets off to a fun and playful start!


As I mentioned above, each game name leads to a link on Amazon where you can purchase your own set!  (** Note: Commissions may be earned from the Amazon links above.)





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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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