Friday, May 17, 2019

POW! Launches Museum FAQ Video Series

Paul Orselli Workshop (POW!) is pleased to announce the launch of the new Museum FAQ video series!  Click on over to the Museum FAQ webpage to view the first videos in a library that will be growing quickly.

Over the years, clients and colleagues have been asking Paul Orselli and POW! many "Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQ) about museum exhibit development and design, as well as other aspects of the museum business ranging from “What makes a great exhibit label?” to “What should I look for in a museum consultant?” We started the Museum FAQ video series to answer just those sorts of questions in a fun and informative way.
We’ve just started the library of Museum FAQ videos, so bookmark the Museum FAQ webpage and come back often to view new videos! 
Do you have your own Museum FAQ that you would like Paul to answer, or do you have a suggestion for a new Museum FAQ video? Just send Paul an email at paul@orselli.net with your questions or requests and you might see your own Museum FAQ featured in a new video soon!


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Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul is an instigator, in the best sense of that word. He likes to mix up interesting people, ideas, and materials to make both individual museum exhibits and entire museums with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.)

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Friday, May 10, 2019

Quick Inspiration: String Art


Check out this string art created with ultraviolet light or video projection.



For more images and information, click over to the artist's Facebook page or website.



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Wednesday, May 1, 2019

"Best Museum" Lists are the Worst


USA Today recently published something claiming to be "The Best Museum in Every State" list.

Aside from the incredibly stupid premise -- how would you compare two completely different types of museums, say the Museum of Modern Art and the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and claim one of them is the "best"?

The people who most often seem interested in these "best museum" lists are executive directors chasing donors or museum marketeers looking to turn out another press release.

Is there anything more pathetic than someone begging you to cast an online vote so that their museum can gain the "best" museum designation in the western suburbs of Boston or in small towns east of the Mississippi?

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

You don't claim the title of "the best" for yourself in some cheesy marketing stunt, instead you do the hard work every day, with every visitor, to create amazing experiences so that they give you the title of "the best" by coming back to your museum again and again, and telling their friends and family to do the same.

As that great museum philosopher Jerry Garcia once said, 


"Don’t be the best. Be the only.”


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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Partnership Power



One of my favorite things about the museum business is the sharing that so often takes place between colleagues and creative partners. There is real power in partnership.

What an opportunity then to share with ExhibiTricks readers the products of three new partnership projects that we all can learn and benefit from.

The first is a new online resource called TMG Online Conversations.  TMG, in this case, stands for The Museum Group, consortium of independent museum professionals who work with museums to help them achieve their greatest potential in an ever-changing world. TMG Online Conversations builds on the tradition of TMG members presenting (in a conversational format) engaging topics of interest to the broader museum community. If you are in New Orleans for the 2019 AAM Conference, please keep an eye out for two Conversations programs that The Museum Group will be hosting on Tuesday, May 21st.  




The first TMG Online Conversation (click here to view the video recording on YouTube) brought together Marsha Semmel, a TMG member and noted independent consultant and author, with Jane Werner, Executive Director of The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh,  to join in conversation about what they've learned from years of community partnerships and the impact of those partnerships on each of their most recent projects -- in the case of Marsha, a new book called "Partnership Power Essential Museum Strategies for Today’s Networked World" and in Jane's case, an entire new museum, Museum Lab, that will join the existing cultural campus of the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh.




I found some great professional takeaways from watching the recording of Jane and Marsha's Conversation, but one thing that really stood out for me was Jane's commitment to "investing in people instead of investing in stuff."

So here's to celebrating partnership power -- and Partnership Power!  I hope everyone will check out Marsha's new book, take a trip to Pittsburgh to visit the soon-to-open Museum Lab, and click over to YouTube to enjoy the very first TMG Online Conversation!



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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

In Solidarity -- Don't Stop


In solidarity with colleagues and citizens in places like France, Brazil, Libya -- where cultural history has been destroyed by accident, by neglect, by violence.  I say, "Don't Stop."

Working in the museum world can sometimes feel overwhelming. Days filled with administrative trivia, visitor complaints, and endless "to do" lists can, at times, wear even the most dedicated museum workers down.

Don't stop.

Find one thing today, even a little thing, that will make your museum better, and make you feel better about working there.

It could be a Social Media post about a fun new Education program.  A tweak to an exhibit to make it move from good to great.  Ordering a new entry mat to replace that worn out old one by the front door. Sincerely complimenting a co-worker on a job well done. A phone call to reconnect with a community partner.

All those little things add up --- for you, and your visitors.  There will always be things to rebuild, things to improve, but take time to look back at how far you have come, what you have built and accomplished, not just what is left undone.

Don't stop.




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Monday, April 8, 2019

Museum Elevators and Exhibit Design (Part 2)



I recently wrote a post about the underutilization of elevators for exhibit and graphic possibilities in museums.  Fortunately, ExhibiTricks readers responded with some nice examples which I'm happy to share below. 

Santa Cruz MAH (Museum of Art and History)

Nina Simon shared these thoughts about the "Screaming Hand" elevator wrap pictured at the top of this post: We LOVE using our elevator at the Santa Cruz MAH to shake things up and make people welcome. Our elevator always has two colorful chairs in it to invite people to sit. And a couple years ago, it became a living piece of Santa Cruz art and history with a wrap of the Screaming Hand (a worldwide skate icon started in our town). This photo of the interior of our elevator is our most liked Instagram post ever.



The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College

Mix a creative, interdisciplinary, contemporary art museum with a huge freight elevator and you get the "Elevator Music" series at The Tang -- a set of curated installations in the Museum's freight elevator.  You can find out more by following this link. And here are a few representative images of "Elevator Music" below:

Elevator Music 35
Ephraim Asili: Jazz Salt


Elevator Music 33  Up = Out: A Sun Ra Mixtape

Tillamook Visitor Center

Judy Rand shared this elevator immersion experience from the Tillamook Visitor Center in Tillamook, Oregon. You can ride up to the Tillamook cheese factory floor overlook surrounded by cheese curds. It’s a way to give factory visitors a peek at what goes on inside all those tall, mysterious stainless steel vats. 

Cheese Curds Photo Credit: (c) KATU



Great Lakes Science Center 

When the Great Lakes Science Center hosted the traveling "Body Worlds" exhibition they gave visitors a great "sneak peek" of what they might expect to see.  Great use of inside/outside elevator graphics!





History Colorado Center

ExhibiTricks reader Abby Krause, the Design & Production Director at History Colorado in Denver, was kind enough to share these two images from a recent exhibition:








And if your museum has no elevators:


North Carolina Transportation Museum

Tyler Trahan, a Historical Interpreter/Educator at the Museum shares that while the Museum has no elevators, they've found another unexpected venue for interpretive content: the restrooms! They've put labels next to the sinks in each of four public restrooms discussing the toilets aboard either trains or airplanes. They match in Men's and Women's rooms at each location so visitors can share a "Guess what I found!" moment after exiting the restroom. 







I really love the idea of using those underutilized spaces in museums where our visitors aren't expecting a fun graphic or exhibit to pop-up!   I'm still collecting stories and images of the creative uses of museum elevators (and restrooms!) to put together into a free, shareable resource.

So if you've got images/descriptions you'd like to contribute, feel free to email them to me at info@orselli.net






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Monday, April 1, 2019

EXCLUSIVE SNEAK PEEK: The MOST Powerful Exhibit Development and Interpretation Tool Ever!


On this special day, I want to give ExhibiTricks readers an exclusive "sneak peek" into the most powerful exhibition design and interpretation approach available to developers, designers, museums, and entertainment venues worldwide.

The Retinal experiential/Aural liminal (Re/Al) life system integrates automatically with any visitors' sensory capabilities to create a direct, intuitive experience that supersedes ANY available digital or network information delivery methods currently on the market. In fact, no current or future display techniques will ever be able to surpass the resolution and sensory engagement of Re/Al exhibits.

While many experience designers are exploring the "bleeding edge" of advanced display techniques through Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Mixed Reality, it is clear from our testing in museums throughout the world that 100% of visitors spend more time in Re/Al reality -- and we can back that claim up with real Re/Al data.

If you would like to find out more about how to get Re/Al with your own organization's exhibit development process, please direct inquiries to our Chief Officer for New, Lรถof Lirpa at http://bit.ly/ReAlExhibits 

Visitor interfacing with a Re/Al exhibit experience.


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Thursday, March 28, 2019

Does It Really Matter If Museums Stop Taking Sackler Money Now?


There have been times over the past 30+ years of my museum career when I've recalled the words of my dear departed Italian immigrant grandfather when he first learned about my career choice, "Why do you want to work at a museum? Museums are for rich people!"

Of course, from a historical perspective, he was absolutely right as museums have always been a place to display colonial spoils, robber baron largesse, or serve as monuments to wealthy patrons. But a part of me has always believed that museums could be held to higher standards than other organizations.

Recently my grandfather's words came forcefully to mind with current news reports. Following multiple lawsuits related to the opioid crisis, there has been much hand-wringing and pearl-clutching from some large museums declaring they will now refuse money from various members of the Sackler family (who added to their already sizeable fortunes through companies vigorously promoting said opioids.)

Why is it that museums so often take these "principled" stands after they've already collected the loot?  I mean, I don't see any museums offering to give previously collected Sackler money back (if that was even possible ...)

It would be much more impressive if museums took these showy public stands before some of their donors or board members used their museum ties to "culture wash" their cash.  However, given diminishing public funding for museums and other cultural institutions (President Trump proposed again to eliminate PBS, NEH, NEA, and IMLS in his latest budget!) museums must dance a fine line when it comes to keeping those donations coming -- which creates some interesting optics -- like climate change deniers on the boards of science museums, and art museum donors whose companies make the tear gas canisters and smoke grenades used against migrants at the southern border.

Museums talk a great game when it comes to high intellectual and ethical standards, but when pushed, most cultural organizations seem to hold their noses and take the cash. Can't we do better than this?

Somewhere in the great beyond, my grandfather is laughing.



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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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