Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Look Back at 2015. Happy New Year from ExhibiTricks!

As the New Year approaches, the urge to simultaneously look back at the year past, and forward to the year ahead is strong.

So who am I to resist?  I thought I'd share thoughts about the three most popular ExhibiTricks posts from 2015, as well as three upcoming topics for 2016, because I think the half-dozen subjects neatly encapsulate important ideas in the museum/exhibit/design world.

Looking Back.

The hands-down most popular ExhibiTricks post of 2015 was Hayao Miyazaki's Museum Manifesto.
I think one reason this post resonated with so many people is that the qualities of a great museum, and great museum experience, that Miyazaki outlines are hard to put together, but when these qualities come together, something truly sublime and memorable has been achieved.  A great inspirational read.

Up next was an interview to get at the story behind Beverly Serrell's second edition of her classic book, Exhibit Labels.  One thing I took away from Beverly's experiences was that even "classics" and great museums need to find the ways to keep current while still maintaining their core values.  The ultimate looking forward and looking back balancing act in our business.

The third most popular ExhibiTricks post in 2015 was a thoughtful piece by Axel Huttinger (borne out a frustrating exhibits meeting!) entitled What is Innovative Exhibition Design?  I was happy to publish Axel's thoughts because they really helped me re-consider my own exhibit design and development ideas.

I think one common thread between Axel's piece and the Serrell and Miyazaki posts is the importance of articulating and keeping track of core values.  What's really important to you and your work?  How can you best share it with visitors and include them in the creative conversation?   It's too easy to become distracted by technological gimmicks or the latest trendy buzzwords (can we please stop "hacking" everything in 2016?) in our business.

Looking Forward.

One of my museum/exhibit/design "resolutions" for 2016 is to be conscious of the "core" --- the fundamental values that can (and should!) be guiding our work.  With that in mind, there are three connected topics I'll be thinking a lot about in 2016 here on ExhibiTricks:

Inclusivity ---  I hope to give Margaret Middleton and others the opportunity to share their work in making museums and other cultural institutions more welcoming to more people.  It's no coincidence that both #museumsrespondtoferguson and #MuseumWorkersSpeak were important hubs of conversation in 2015.

The Opposite of "Neutrality"  ---  the work of groups like The Natural History Museum to push museums to consider that board members and funders (and the perception of where funding comes from) belie the notion of being "neutral" presenters of information.

Physical Participation and Creation --- lastly, folks like Rachel Hellenga have been making great strides in creating situations for visitors to physically (not just digitally) participate and create inside cultural institutions.

The core values and aspirations of museums are solid, but putting them into action in an inclusive and welcoming way takes hard work, not just rosy mission statements.   I look forward in the year ahead to being part of helping museums live their aspirations through actions, and not just words.


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