Monday, March 18, 2019

Are Your Museum's Elevators An Underutilized Graphics/Messaging Resource?



On the road again, I notice inside the elevators at the Hampton Inn there are evocative photos with simple captions (like the "pedal pusher" image above.)

At first, I wasn't really sure how I was supposed to react to the simple graphics and messages scattered throughout the hotel.  Eventually, the combination of image+idea grew on me --- in a positive way.  (I'm trying to find out the motivations for Hampton Inn in "branding" themselves in this manner --- but that's for a future post.)

Leaving all that aside,  since I got to see the different images in the elevators several times a day, for several days, I started thinking about why elevators (especially in museums) seem to be an underutilized design opportunity for environmental graphics and exhibits.


Occasionally, the outside of elevator doors are used as a place to mount informational/directional graphics, but what about the elevator interior (a classic case of a captive audience) or the usually blank walls and alcoves containing elevators?

I'm not talking about using elevator interiors as a place to hang the equivalent of "coming events" flyers --- rather how could we use these natural gathering spaces to engage visitors, to set a tone, to provide simple interactive experiences --- involving motion or perspective or acceleration or the "etiquette of elevators", for example?

I'd like to collect the best ideas and/or images you've experienced (or would like to experience!) of graphics, exhibits, messaging, or architectural embellishments involving elevators and pull them together for future blog posts on underutilized graphic/exhibit spaces in buildings.

So either put your elevator musings into the Comments Section below or put them into an email to me directly.



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Monday, March 11, 2019

Creative Inspiration: Damon Belanger's Shadow Art


Artist Damon Belanger has playfully subverted people's expectations by creating unexpected "Shadow Art" in and around Redwood City, California.



By using chalk outlines that are then filled in with durable paint made for concrete patios, Belanger adds whimsy to what might otherwise be bland streetscapes.



How could you play with this idea outside (or inside!) your museum?



Find out more about Damon Belanger's work by clicking over to his website or Instagram page.



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Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Mascot Hall of Fame -- From Big Idea to Opening Day in 6 Months


Jacqueline Johnson leads client projects at Chicago Scenic Studios and has more than a decade of experience in the museum field — including positions at Chicago’s Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and the Blanton Museum of Art.  Jacqueline was kind enough to offer this guest post about the recently opened Mascot Hall of Fame.

Does project – and team - management make a difference in creating an excellent museum exhibit?

Ask the intrepid team of museum design, exhibit fabrication, and tech professionals who worked together to bring a Big Idea to life in just over six months.
 
The Big Idea - the Mascot Hall of Fame - was the brainchild of David Raymond, the creator of the Phillie Fanatic, the original team mascot of the Philadelphia Phillies. Four years ago, Raymond met Whiting, Indiana Mayor Joe Stahura, whose own quirky Pierogi Fest draws thousands to the small lakefront Indiana city each summer. Once those two met, they decided it was time to stop talking and bring the Hall of Fame to fruition on the City’s resurgent lakefront zone.
 
Next up, museum exhibit design firm JRA of Cincinnati and Chicago Scenic Studios, a Chicago design and fabrication firm, joined the team. The dream moved from vision to reality fast, becoming a 25,000 square foot facility that opened in late 2018 and houses exhibits, activities and events that celebrate sports mascots. 




 
Chicago Scenic’s primary project management team – Jim Mallerdino and Doug Peer, each experienced in fabrication and museum project planning - kept the team moving against a demanding timetable. In just six months, artisans and fabricators built the seven exhibits areas and environments that round out the interactive, fun, and family-oriented experience.
 
Oh and there’s this: Each of those exhibits areas speak the language of FUN to kids and adults alike, with playful names like Fuzzical Education, Fureshman Orientation, Science of Silliness, Marvelous Mascot Maker, Mascot Studies, The Furry Arts, and Frankenfur’s Mascots.




 
The Chicago Scenic team also managed the fabrication of two unique stores onsite – a gift store and a Build-a-Bear experience – and the larger group of skilled subcontractors who brought digital interactives, graphics, specialty flooring, specialty painting, and decorative inflatables to complete the Hall of Fame attraction.
 
While the museum targets 8-13-year-olds, its many layers of interactive exhibits, entertaining videos, authentic mascot experiences, and curated artifacts like the massive mascot heads hanging in the museum’s opening lobby, appeal to a much broader and older audience as well.
 
When a project of this size and scope is done right, a great team of professional museum designers, builders, and specialty service providers can almost make it look easy. How fitting for a place that pays tribute to sports mascots, characters that are brought to life by people toiling in heavy, hot, and furry costumes for hours on end – strutting, dancing, and entertaining fans.


Find out more about the Mascot Hall of Fame online at www.mascothalloffame.com/visit
 



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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Replay: Great Exhibit "Seeds" in Chrome Music Lab


I've been working and thinking about music exhibits lately, so I've gone back to play around with Chrome Music Lab because I find so many of the ideas and approaches there so much fun. I think ExhibiTricks readers will find some great exhibit "seeds" by taking another look at this "replay" post.

Chrome Music Lab is a nifty collection of interactive "experiments" that lets users explore the fundamental elements of music like rhythm, chords, and harmonics. 

Google has assembled these collaborations between musicians and coders into one place for anyone with a Web browser to try out.   And best of all,  the Music Lab examples were built with the freely available Web Audio API, so anyone with the time and some technical know-how can put together similar interactive explorations into sound and music.

Even as a non-musician, I really enjoyed playing and experimenting with all the Music Lab modules, but two of my favorites were "Voice Spinner" and "Rhythm" (pictured below.)


In Voice Spinner, you use your computer's microphone to capture your voice and create "sonic circles"  that can then be played backward or forwards at different speeds.  Not only is it super fun, but the Voice Spinner interface really lends itself to repeated experimentation.  (I had fun trying to recreate the backward-tracking sections of old Beatles songs!) 

The "Rhythm" module lets you choose among sets of different cartoony animal musical combos. Each set of animals plays different percussion instruments that you can then control by clicking or un-clicking dots (like musical notes) onto a set of parallel lines.  Once you set everything into motion the animals play different rhythms in time to the dots you placed.   It's a deceptively simple interface that let's you set up really complex rhythmic patterns!  It's also really fun to use to collaborate with someone else.




Bravo to Google for turning Chrome Music Lab loose into the world! It's worth clicking over to the website to play with all the current modules --- each one of which can easily serve as creative inspiration for museum/exhibit/design folks!




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Sunday, February 10, 2019

Are Exhibit Timelines So Boring Because of the Lines?



A while back I wrote a post asking for examples of interesting timelines in museum exhibitions.  Since then I've been wondering if the negative impressions so many visitors (and exhibit designers!) seem to have about timelines are actually a function of the flat, straight lines themselves.

Think about how daunting a seemingly endless line of jam-packed text and images seems when you are standing at the beginning point.  And now with the use of ever cheaper screens and digital storage devices, there is a proliferation of what one designer called "the promise of the infinite label" (as if that was a GOOD thing!)

So here are four different ways (with images) of rethinking, or replacing, the standard linear "encyclopedia pages on the wall" approach to exhibit timelines.



SPREAD OUT!

Instead of marching tons of text and images in a line across the wall, why not break the information into manageable chunks and spread it out around the space?

A hub-and-spoke approach to spreading out information.



Movable "thought bubble" units.
Provocation on one side visitor response on the other?

Spreading out information with a map motif.



LISTEN UP!

Could we engage other senses (like hearing) in information-dense exhibits?


Historic figures speak.


Listen Up! Text and sound.




LOOK UP!

How can we use all the space to have visitors look for information in unexpected ways and places?


Cubes -- look up and all around to approach text/images in non-linear ways.


Changing the space to change visitor expectations.


Look up -- and around!



EXCHANGE

Are there ways to exchange information by encouraging communication between visitors and the museum or interchange between visitors?  How can visitors change the information or the physical exhibit elements?


Exchanging information through flash drives.



Color-coded talk tubes to discuss different subjects?

Visitor-changeable low-tech data display


Hopefully, this ExhibiTricks post has given you some inspiration to scribble outside the (time)lines a bit.

Do you have some other ideas or images/links to share that don't follow the typical timeline?  Let us know in the "Comments" section below!






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Sunday, February 3, 2019

Museum Super Bowl Day?


Super Bowl Sunday will be a great day to visit your local museum --- because it will be even quieter than usual. 

Why are so many people, even folks who don't normally follow football, more rabidly enthusiastic about watching the "Big Game" or attending a local Super Bowl event, than visiting your museum?

Have you ever seen someone outside a museum scalping tickets to get inside?  

I'd say one possible answer lies in finding the difference between a "fan" and a "casual visitor."   Fans wear logo gear all year long and have no compunction in excitedly telling total strangers how great their team is.  The National Football league is, as recent news reports have detailed, even going after a traditionally neglected demographic, women 18 to 49, with great success.

So how can museums create more "fans" and expand their demographic reach as well?  

Places like The City Museum in St. Louis have set out to become a gathering spot for their local communities and have become open to all sorts of fun ideas that are edgy enough to attract a wide, and enthusiastic audience of repeat visitors who definitely become City Museum fans.

Of course all this talk of creating "museum fans" is pointless if your museum isn't really fan-worthy.  Is your admissions procedure torture?  Do you create core exhibits and attractions that are worth revisiting, or do you depend on the hucksterism of events that are only vaguely related to your museum's mission and purpose?  What are the obstacles that prevent your visitors from becoming fans?

Let's see if we can create more museum fans.   

GO MUSEUMS!




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Thursday, January 24, 2019

Cool Tool: Arts + Social Impact Explorer


The arts make more things possible, from better education to greater health outcomes, to a more civically-engaged citizenry—but people don’t always see those connections. 

Enter the group Americans for the Arts, and their cool tool called the Arts + Social Impact Explorer (pictured at the top of this post.)

Either on the Web, or through mobile devices, users can spin through a colorful ring of areas (like Health & Wellness, Housing, and Civic Dialogue) to find out how the arts impact and intersect with our lives. There are even ways to get additional fact sheets to dig deeper into each Art/Life connection.

From the Americans for the Arts website:

This highly interactive, visual tool is meant to drive conversation, and is accompanied by customized Fact Sheets that are downloadable and printable for sharing with board members, public and private sector policymakers, and more. It also is mobile-friendly and allows for easy conversations with decision makers to help expand the dialogue about the arts and their value to communities. Functioning as the surface of a deep “lake” of knowledge, all impact points and research within the Explorer comes with citations and links so that people can visit the websites of all the example projects, click directly to the research referenced, and engage directly with the other partners doing this work around the country.

The Arts + Social Impact Explorer is a great tool to start a conversation with funders or policy makers about the deep ways that arts organizations connect to the fabric of civil society.  It will also be a boon to grant writers everywhere!

If you'd like to find out more about the development and use of the Arts + Social Impact Explorer tool you can view this quick YouTube introduction.

But really the best way to experience all the features of the Arts + Social Impact Explorer is to take it for a spin yourself by clicking over to the Americans for the Arts website.



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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Flip the Flop: Kenya's Ocean Sole Turns Trash Into Art



What would you do if thousands of flip-flops regularly washed up on the beaches where you live?

The creative folks who formed Ocean Sole in Kenya treat the flip-flops as raw materials for the art they create.

Ocean Sole workers and volunteers have removed over 1,000 tonnes of flip-flops from the ocean and waterways in Kenya. Ocean Sole has also provided steady income to over 150 Kenyans in their company and supply-chain, and the group contributes over 10% of their revenue to marine conservation programs.




What could museums and designers take away from this model of trash to art from Kenya?


You can find out more about Ocean Sole's work and products by clicking over to the Ocean Sole website.





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Sunday, January 6, 2019

Aim Higher. Work Faster. Make Museums Better.


One of my new sheroes is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the recently elected congressperson from New York.

Representative Ocasio-Cortez wants to aim higher and work faster to solve problems for her constituents.

With that spirit in mind, here are three areas of museum work that I think we can all make better by aiming higher and working faster.


1) LIVING WAGES FOR ALL MUSEUM WORKERS
It is unconscionable that museums do not pay all their employees and interns living wages.  I've heard all the excuses for low museum pay, and they all sound like bunk.  Unpaid internships and substandard wages are not the way to run any organization, let alone organizations that claim to have a higher social purpose.

One step to address this challenge: Stop "salary masking"! Commit to transparency by requiring salary ranges in all job postings.  Kudos to professional organizations like ACM, AASLH, and MAAM for being leaders in this effort.



2) JOINING OUR WORK TO OUR COMMUNITIES  
Does the staff, board, and programming of your museum truly reflect the communities your institution wants to serve? If not, why not?

One step to address this challenge: Start conversations with communities IN those communities, not your museum! Attend community events as a participant, not an "expert."  True engagement is an ongoing process, not a one-time focus group meeting -- and that process might begin with a simple and sincere Facebook or email message.



3) VALUING PEOPLE OVER SCREENS
Museums seem more willing to pay (or overpay) for screen-based opportunities over staff-facilitated activities, even though many studies show that visitors to cultural institutions often prefer non-screen based experiences.

One step to address this challenge: consider WHAT you want visitors to take away from an experience before immediately jumping to HOW you will deliver that experience. You may find an elegant non-screen based solution or a great "phygital" (mixed physical and digital) opportunity to explore.


I hope you aim higher and work faster to face whatever museum challenges you encounter in 2019!



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