Saturday, February 20, 2016

Stick to it! A resource list of tapes for designers.

Tape is one of those things that you often use, but rarely think about.

So here's a listing of a variety of speciality tapes for your creative design toolbox!  Just click on the title link above each tape description to go to a web page to purchase that tape or for more info.

"SOLAS" stands for "Safety Of Life At Sea" and it is super-durable reflective tape that was designed originally to be used by the Coast Guard. It's strong. It's shiny. What more could you want? It may also be useful outside your exhibit pursuits on bikes, backpacks, or cars.

Gaffer's Tape
If you think duct tape is useful, try Gaffer's tape. You can think of Gaffer's Tape as duct tape without the sticky residue. It's the standard tape in the film and theater worlds. Best of all, the adhesive is designed to not rip off paint. You can leave Gaffer's tape stuck to a wall for days, and then remove it without tearing up the wall surface or leaving sticky gunk behind.

Blue Painter's Tape

The "blue masking tape" is great because it doesn't mar or mess up walls.  Great for painting/masking of course, but also super when putting together large paper or cardboard prototypes that need to interface with walls, floors, or windows.

Vypar X-Treme Tape

X-treme tape is a non-adhesive, self-bonding wrap. It's not really "tape" since it's not sticky. But it really grips and wraps around wet stuff or slimy stuff --- think water exhibits, hoses, bubble exhibits, etc. Once it's in place -- it is NOT coming off! You just pull on the tape and it fuses to itself under tension. As a bonus it comes in a range of colors as well.

Here are two variations on good old reliable duct tape:

Gorilla Tape
Gorilla Tape is like regular duct tape on steroids. Sure, it's much stickier, but it also adheres to uneven/rough surfaces.

Clear Duct Tape
From the creative minds of 3M comes "clear "duct tape! It is less noticeable than standard duct tape, but more importantly, 3M claims it lasts 6 times longer than the standard variety, having been engineered for extreme temperatures and UV exposure.

Vet Wrap

A "self-clinging" wrapping material that does not require tight compression.

Instant-bonding Glue Dots
Adhesive "dots" that require no drying time, are clean and easy to use, and work on a variety of materials. Glue Dots bond instantly to any surface.

Terrifically Tacky Tape
This is double-sided craft tape with red liner that is super strong. (The bond actually increases after the first 24 hours it is applied.)  This is the same kind of ultra-thin, very sticky tape as "3M 4910 VHB Tape" but TT tape comes in shorter-length rolls so it is less expensive.

EMPTY EMPTY and PACKED PACKED tape rolls from Benchmark.
Use on crates for traveling exhibitions so you don't mix 'em up!
(Benchmark sells lots of other interesting exhibit and mount-making supplies as well.)

3M Dual Lock Reclosable Fastener System
Clear self-mating reclosable fastener with clear acrylic adhesive on the back. This is the "mushroom" topped style, rather than hook and loop, so it fastens to itself and doesn't collect fuzz like the "hook" half of velcro.

Colored Plastic Vinyl Floor Marking Tape
Great for outlining areas on floors or walls.  These tapes come from Identi-Tape and are highly adhesive and resistant to water, oil, fungus and chemicals, have a semi-gloss finish, and can be written on with permanent markers.

1/4"-wide Colored Plastic Vinyl Tape
Also from Identi-Tape, these 6-mil vinyl adhesive tapes are available in a 14 colors plus clear in 36-yard long rolls. These tapes are ideal for constructing lines and tables on dry erase boards, identification of small tools, decorative striping, etc.

Hugo's Amazing Tape
The cool thing about Hugo's Amazing Tape is that it only sticks to itself.  This makes it great for things that need to be wrapped and re-wrapped, or opened and closed, on a regular basis.  Hugo's tape can also be used as a temporary clamp or stabilizer for irregularly-shaped materials as well.

And that also wraps up this post about tape!  Do you have any favorite tapes that we've missed here? Leave us the info in the Comments Section below!

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Looking for some additional FREE exhibit resources?  Check out the POW! website.

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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Edifice Complex and Museums

Here's a quick museum business quiz --- answer true or false.

1) A museum can be too big.

2) A museum can be totally"self-supporting" financially.

Depending on your answers to those questions, you may or may not believe that museums (especially in the U.S.) have a serious "edifice complex."

That is, the blind belief that somehow merely constructing a GIGANTIC building, funded through a combination of hopelessly over-optimistic attendance projections and/or slightly dubious loan arrangements, will create a successful, sustainable museum.

Part of what brings this all to mind is the sad and distressing news out of Miami, concerning the Frost Museum of Science — a signature project at the heart of the new Museum Park downtown that has run out of cash before construction can be finished.  The Frost is not merely a project "too big to fail" but "too big to finish."

In an eleventh hour move, the Frost project will be finished, but at a wrenching emotional price to the museum --- the museum's namesake funders — Phillip and Patricia Frost — announced that they're going to bail out the museum with a bridge loan to keep construction going. But they also exacted very tough terms: they’ve effectively “fired" the entire current 41-person board of the science museum.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, I suppose.  Full disclosure: I consulted on the Frost project up until late 2015 and I really admire the creative team there.  I sincerely hope they can move forward and open the museum in a positive and sustainable way.

Unfortunately, Miami's Frost Museum is hardly the exception to the museum edifice complex.  Here's a short list of news story links to ponder in a similar vein:


Museum of Jewish Heritage

Exploratorium (here and here)

MOSI (Tampa)

Science City and Prariefire  (A geographically-related pairing in my view)

Please Touch Museum (here and here)

The National Children's Museum

All museums with problems that could be reasonably tied to their (overly?) large new facilities or expansion plans.

I offer these links and examples not merely as a litany of pain, or a map to the Boulevard of Broken Dreams, but as a plea to museum and civic leaders:  If you think it is difficult to build a new museum, it is much, much, much, more difficult to create a thriving and sustainable cultural institution that is responsive to the communities surrounding it.

Maybe there is something ingrained in the American psyche and in the mindset of wealthy philanthropists that prevents modest, truly sustainable projects from moving forward when more grandiose alternatives always seem to be waiting in the wings.

Before completely despairing for the museum business, I'll offer the example of COSI in Columbus, Ohio as an example of an institution saddled (for a variety of political reasons) with a new building that was too large and unsustainable from the day it opened in 1999, that has managed to claw its way back (over the past 16+ years!) through, for example, a variety of community partnerships that involved sharing and leasing unused space inside COSI.  (You can read more about COSI's institutional evolution here and here.)

Like most addictions, edifice complex is probably best kicked if it's never started in the first place, but, lacking that, I hope museums will continue to be smarter (and smaller!) with their facilities and financial projections in the future --- especially given the changing demographics and expectations of cultural consumers.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Customer Service 101 from the Disney Institute

What does customer service have to do with exhibitions?


Even if your museum has the world's greatest exhibits, if visitors' interactions with staff are lacking, you will create unhappy and dissatisfied customers.  Here are some comments from a colleague's less than stellar experience from a recent family visit: "I was actually quite underwhelmed by the new museum. A lot of broken stuff: broken keyboards in Maker Space. Piece #9 missing in catenary arch. Floor staff talking to each other, looking at phones. Hey folks, hate to bother you but got a spare #9 in the back?"

OUCH!  My friend and her family couldn't use an exhibit because a piece had gone astray, and she felt like the floor staff didn't even care.  Interacting with museum visitors is a tough job that requires dedication and training to do well.  But many, if not most, museums don't have the staff or resources to provide high-level, consistent training in interacting with museum guests.

Fortunately, I've found that the Disney Institute (the part of Disney's empire that offers professional, business, and customer service training) provides a wealth of free online information with great tips about providing exceptional and memorable customer interactions.

A recent article from the Disney Institute mentions a number of their foundational principles regarding customer service, but one of my favorites that can be applied to museum (and exhibit design!) work is "purpose trumps task."

Disney helps their employees recognize that it is ok to be "off-task" if you are "on-purpose."  If you and your employees can anticipate the needs of your customers, you can far exceed their expectations.

A recent example from my own exhibit design work involved making an interactive for a small museum that seemed really anxious about the maintenance needs for a digital tablet component. During our conversations, I offered a low-tech alternative that both the museum client and project designer liked better, and that was less expensive on the front-end to produce, and less expensive on the back-end due to minimized maintenance and replacement costs.  I purposely listened to the museum client's needs and offered a collaborative suggestion that recognized their concerns, instead of merely completing a task that everyone had initially agreed to before I was brought into the job.

(Another fun example of being on-purpose is the story of "Captain Pizza" an airline pilot who ordered pizza for an entire plane delayed on the tarmac.)

There are many other actionable Disney Institute gems like "Listen Beyond the Obvious" and "Why Satisfaction is Dangerous" that can easily carry over to museum/exhibit/design work.

So click on over to the Disney Institute website to find some customer service tips that you and your staff can put into action.

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.  And if you want to create amazing exhibit experiences that lead to increased customer satisfaction at your museum contact Paul Orselli and POW! today.

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