Thursday, January 1, 2009

Doing More With Less, and Our First 2009 Contest!

Given the uncertain economy, and its equally uncertain effect on museums, one theme we expect to be revisiting throughout 2009 here at ExhibiTricks is "doing more with less."

In that spirit, here are are some of our favorite inexpensive (or free!) exhibit resources that we've posted about on ExhibiTricks this past year:

Spoonflower gives individuals the power to print their own designs on fabric. The idea is that you upload a digital image to the Spoonflower web site and the company prints the design as a pattern on 100% cotton fabric.

• The fine folks at RWC Digital in Fort Worth, Texas produce lenticular graphics, and are willing to sell small quantities (even one or two!) RWC was easy to work with and delivered on time at a very reasonable price.

Ponoko is a cool company that allows you to upload designs that are then fabricated using laser cutters and materials (like various types of plastic and wood.) It would be excellent if we all had access to tools like laser cutters, but until then, companies like Ponoko help fill the void.

Think Anatomy has assembled a great collection of web-based resources for learning about, as well as gathering content information on, all things anatomical.

Picnik is a free online photo-editing tool. If you, or your museum, can't afford software programs like Photoshop, try Picnik.

And now the contest! Two lucky ExhibiTricks readers will each win a complete 3 volume set of the ASTC Exhibit Cheapbooks (edited by yours truly!) Each Cheapbook volume contains approximately thirty inexpensive exhibit ideas contributed by museum colleagues from around the world --- each volume a perfect resource for doing more with less!

Here's how to enter: Between now and January 12th, just share your favorite money-saving exhibits tip in the "Comments" section below this posting OR subscribe to ExhibiTricks via email (just click on the link at the top right side of the blog.)

After the 12th, we'll choose the author of our favorite money-saving exhibits tip, and randomly choose a new email subscriber. Both winners will receive a complete 3 volume set of the ASTC Exhibit Cheapbooks.

Good luck!


  1. Thanks to all those who have already subscribed via email!

    I don't know if people are shy about commenting with their money-saving exhibits ideas, but I'll start things off:

    Try to design and build components that can be "repurposed" for future exhibitions. For example, a magnetic board interactive can be reused by changing the graphic on the face and/or the magnetic pieces.

  2. Coach volunteers/staff from the museum to do most of the exhibit development, design, fabrication and installation themselves -- with your guidance. Michael Heusler (Innovations in Art: design/ fabrication/installation) and Joyce Cheney (Focus Communications: exhibit development) met six times with three volunteers from a small, local historical society's museum. After discussions and reviews during each meeting, we agreed upon "homework." The volunteer team contacted us when they'd completed their "assignments" and we came back to coach again. They developed the whole exhibition themselves, then recruited community businesses to donate materials and local citizens to donate construction/installation labor. The only exhibition costs were coaching charges for us, and costs of fabricating a few specific display elements. Big savings -- big exhibition success!! They learned a lot, and did the next exhibition completely on their own.

  3. Hi Joyce,

    Great comment!

    I think continuing to build "internal capacity" is one of the most important challenges for new (and old!) museums.

  4. Perhaps it's easier to do for programming, but if you have something that's temporary (in some sense), borrowing is a great way to go. Sometimes, the right connection at a government agency will net you a long-term loan of their equipment, shuttle tire, model rover, etc.

  5. Make friends with your neighborhood hardware store. They have all the cool stuff you are going to need. Often you can get miscut plexi glass, pipe, wire, and even paint for a huge discount. One local store even sets things aside that they think we might be able to use. We ofer them a few free passes and the discount is even bigger.