Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Design Inspiration: Real-Time Data Sites


I love real-time data visualization websites!  In addition to being a perfect blend of science, art, and technology, the web-sights provide a soothing thrum of information that I find mesmerizing and relaxing.  I also think these sites are great inspirations for museum/exhibit/design ideas.

Some of my favorite real-time data sites are listed below:


Wind Map  gives a real-time visualization of wind speeds in the U.S. It's like a giant video infographic!  A more three-dimensional view of wind around the entire globe is available on the earth website (pictured at the top of this post.)



Line of Sight provides a way for you to track satellites and other human-created space materials flying over your current location.


While you are up in the air, check out planefinder.net  a site that lets you pick out the location of commercial aircraft during their flights.



Coming back to Earth, you can track tectonic activity by seeing the geographic locations of active earthquakes and volcanoes at this site, or view National Weather Service satellite data, including infrared, visible light, and water vapor views.



Finishing up on the terrestrial side, EarthCam is a website that lets you easily choose and view real-time webcam feeds from interesting places around the world.



I'll finish out this post with a digital "eye candy" site. Google Trends Hot Searches gives you a constantly scrolling feed of current trending searches on their popular search site.



I hope clicking on these sites gives you some inspiration and enjoyment!  Did we miss any of your favorite real-time data sites? Let us know about them in the "Comments" section below!



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Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

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Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Creating A Worldwide "Museum Memory" Tour



The continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on museums, and museum-goers, has me remembering many of my favorite museum experiences.

I have many museum memories, but if I had to think about just one that I keep coming back to, it would definitely be the series of frescoes, collectively called the Detroit Industry Murals, created by Diego Rivera and housed in a sunlit space inside the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Besides being a registered National Historic Landmark, Rivera's frescoes have been compared favorably to those in the Sistine Chapel. But the reason I enjoy the frescoes in the Rivera Court has so much to do with the powerful feelings of awe and appreciation I feel every time I walk around that space.

I share this post in the hopes of creating a worldwide "museum memory" tour of sorts. 

Please tell me about the museum experiences that are meaningful to you by sharing your own thoughts, images, and links.





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Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

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Sunday, April 25, 2021

Museum FAQ Videos on YouTube

My "Museum FAQ" video series, started as a bit of a pandemic project, but now consists of nearly 60 (and counting!) freely available videos that cover a wide range of topics from Museum Management to Exhibit Design to Science Communication.

The topics covered, and tips and techniques shared, are truly “evergreen” in the sense that they will (hopefully!) still provide interesting and useful information for years to come. 

While I continue to record new Museum FAQ videos, three conversations, in particular, stand out for me.

Christian Greer, President & CEO of the Michigan Science Center, brought forward a thoughtful (and timely!) discussion about managing in times of transition.  I was struck by how eloquently Christian shared tactics for balancing the foundation of Mission with the flexibility and creativity needed for turbulent times.

On a completely different topic, Amparo Leyman Pino shared successful ways she has used language as an interpretive tool in museums. Amparo moved beyond the more familiar multilingual labels to the ideas of blended language and language-neutral environments.

Lastly, exhibit designer Margaret Middleton shared fun and informative ways to think about creating more inclusive museums by walking us through how to plan for better infant care and feeding areas as a model for the process.  

I hope you’ll click on over to the POW! YouTube channel to view some Museum FAQ videos for yourself – and, better yet, please let me know if there are new topics that we could have a Museum FAQ conversation about together to share with our museum colleagues on YouTube! 



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.

Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

If you enjoy the blog, you can help keep it free to read and free from ads by supporting ExhibiTricks through our PayPal "Tip Jar"

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Don’t be that "best"


"Best Museum" lists are the worst!

USA Today regularly publishes something purporting 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 marketers looking to churn 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.




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Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

If you enjoy the blog, you can help keep it free to read and free from ads by supporting ExhibiTricks through our PayPal "Tip Jar"

Sunday, April 4, 2021

5 Accessibility and Inclusion Insights from Producing an Exhibition During COVID

Redefine/ABLE Exhibit logo


In this Guest Post,  Drs. Audra Buck-Coleman, Naliyah Kaya, and Cheryl Fogle-Hatch share the learnings and insights they derived from shifting a multi-site, cross-platform exhibition to an online experience due to the COVID pandemic.

 
Redefine/ABLE: Challenging Inaccessibility, a collaborative, multi-site project, began as an exploration of how an exhibition could achieve maximum inclusivity for multiple audiences. University of Maryland design students collaborated with members from the disability community to create an exhibition that via its messages and delivery would challenge ideas of accessibility, disability, and inclusion. The project was scheduled to open in two different physical spaces and on a website at the end of March 2020. Instead, the nation shut down for the virus and we had to suspend the exhibition. By early summer, with no end in sight for the Covid-19 restrictions, we pivoted Redefine/ABLE to be an all-digital, virtual and social media exhibition, “installing” content across a project website, TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Second Life

The Peale, a project partner, hosted virtual programming. Reflecting on this grand experiment a year after its first scheduled launch, we offer five insights from what became of our coronavirus-induced “Plan B.” We share these in hopes of informing how museums and cultural institutions might successfully approach accessibility and inclusion during and after the pandemic.


 
1. Discarding misconceptions can increase inclusion.

As the Covid-19 lockdown realities began to evolve in March last year, we surveyed the digital options with no real satisfying results. None of the spaces we found offered the in-person experiences we had planned, and they lacked the humanity we felt was necessary for the content. We instead kept our fingers crossed that the launches of the physical spaces would only be slightly delayed. By the end of May it was clear we would not be able to offer these installations, so Dr. Nancy Proctor recommended that we install the exhibition content in Second Life (SL). This option had never come up while we were other seeking options for the project. In fact, upon hearing about SL, Audra scoffed. Her knowledge of the space was tainted by recollections of condescending comments from colleagues. Further, when she told another colleague about this expansion of the project, they asked, “Isn’t Second Life dead?” Given SL’s profile, it seemed like an unsuitable space.

These ideas were reinforced when Audra first “stepped” into our assigned SL exhibition space. The room was cold, digital, inhuman. However, as we worked with SL builders Eme Capalini and Gentle Heron, the once-nondescript gray box of a room transformed. It was rewarding to witness visitors moving about a room that felt very much alive, warm, and inviting. Further, SL offered us a way to produce the project content that largely represented our physical space plans.

In some ways, the SL space was more accessible and accommodating, too. We received visitors at all hours of the day and from far-flung geographical locations. They could drop in at their convenience versus having to abide by pre-set hours, they did not have to worry about affording parking or entrance fees, and they didn’t have the hassles of negotiating traffic. It also connected our content to the SL community. These days augmented and virtual reality garner the most attention for ways to consider immersive spaces, but SL has minimal technical requirements and doesn’t require expensive gadgets. In this sense, it was more inclusive as well.

The SL installation had more than 400 new and returning visitors within the first 6 weeks of the launch. This was more than we expected for our two physical spaces combined and more traffic than our social media accounts and website. It was gratifying that so many could access this work. The Second Life option was one that we had initially dismissed. Fortunately, it didn’t stay that way.

Sixteen human-looking Second Life avatars are standing in the illustrated room. Introductory information about Redefine/ABLE is on the main panel closest to tour leader, David London. Nine large wooden-framed panels with exhibition information are posted around the space.

David London, the Peale’s Chief Experience Officer, leads a tour of the
Redefine/ABLE Second Life installation during an open house event.
     Second Life gave us the ability to create a close-to-real-life installation that complimented the other project platforms.




2. Embracing humility, ignorance, and discomfort can inform universal design. 

Learning how to navigate in Second Life was challenging, but it also gave us a sense of how those with different abilities are challenged to navigate inaccessible spaces. “Inept” barely scratches the surface of how Audra and Naliyah felt entering Second Life. Audra had only a cursory knowledge of the space, little of it positive. Trying to figure out what we were supposed to do and how we were supposed to do it was humbling and frustrating. Everyday actions such as walking, sitting in a chair, and navigating stairs were suddenly foreign. We also had to learn how not to run into things: walls, bodies of water, other avatars. During a pre-opening press event, Naliyah ran into another guest’s avatar. Thankfully, everyone we ran across (and ran into!) was understanding and accommodating. If only real life were as forgiving.

As with physical spaces, digital spaces have cultural expectations. We were oblivious of SL’s. Audra first indiscriminately created her SL avatar, choosing from a set of standard options. Eme and Gentle kindly let her know that anyone who had been in SL more than two weeks would immediately spot her default look and thus would not take her seriously. She needed a makeover, but she did not have any SL money, an understanding of the SL currency, or knowledge of where to purchase outfits nor how to change into them after she did. Thankfully Eme was there again with her abundance of patience to guide her through the process.

Practically everything about being in the SL space was foreign: navigation, infrastructure, social expectations. As professionals in real life, we are generally regarded as knowledgeable and accomplished. In SL, we were anything but, and it was spectacular. We were incompetent not by choice but because of how SL was designed. How frustrating—if not impossible—it must be for those who use a wheelchair to try to navigate spaces without ramps or elevators or for those who cannot see to attempt to gain information via websites that aren’t accessible. We knew of the importance of universal design before SL, but learning the space was a pointed reminder. We cannot take for granted that physical and digital spaces are accessible. Unfortunately, universal design is not standard. Putting yourself in a space not easily navigated can be an effective reminder of why it should be.


Cheryl is seated at left. Two students are standing in front of different designs and seen talking through different ideas. Other students are seated on the wooden floor. Many printouts are taped to the wall.
Cheryl, at left, sits in on an on-location physical exhibition planning
session with the design students. Engaging stakeholders and
members with disabilities throughout the exhibition design
process helps to achieve increased accessibility. 




3. Asking questions and engaging others can foster trust and confidence.

Sometimes non-disabled designers and curators try to anticipate what people with disabilities would prefer or need rather than asking them. Society has stigmatized some disabilities to the point that others feel reluctant to approach people about their needs. Other members may feel superior to those with disabilities. They know what they want. They don’t have to ask. Both scenarios can lead to paternalistic solutions that infantilize the disabled. Rather than assume or avoid, just ask! Even better if you can engage people with disabilities in the design and curation process at an early stage.

“Nothing about us without us” is a slogan used by the disability community. Engaging disabled stakeholders can complicate an already complex project, such as exhibition design, but your results will almost certainly be better for it. The design students we worked with completed written reflections at the semester’s conclusion. They remarked on the value of engaging our disabled stakeholders in the design process. One wrote, “Being able to listen to our stakeholders’ personal experiences with disability is unmatchable. ... In my view, our stakeholders were a huge part of this project taking shape. The information and knowledge we gained from our conversations with them was invaluable.”

Also, there is a difference between asking a few questions and involving stakeholders throughout the process. As another student wrote: “I still think that people have good intentions, but the slogan ‘nothing for us without us’ really struck a chord with me. If I were designing a product for people with disabilities, I would’ve always asked for their opinion, but now I would really strive to have them on the team from the beginning. In hindsight, it’s really obvious that the target audience should be a part of the design process, but I really underestimated the importance of seeking feedback from the very beginning and listening to their wants and needs carefully throughout the process.”

Involve those with disabilities in things big and small. It might be to answer a few questions or to collaborate on producing an exhibition. But asking those whose needs warrant understanding and consideration is the best way to achieve inclusion and accessibility. The receptiveness of our disabled stakeholders to answer questions, no matter how trivial they might have seemed to the question poser, helped the students feel even more comfortable to ask more questions. The result was a stronger exhibition in content and form.

This screenshot from a Peale hosted programming event, which streamed through YouTube, shows six people from an event about the Digital Divide. Clockwise from top left are host Dr. Nancy Proctor, the Peale’s Chief Strategy Officer and Founding Director; Jen, the ASL interpreter; Azure Grimes, Project Coordinator with Libraries without Borders; Dr. Nettrice Gaskins, artist and educator; Debbie Staigerwald with The Arc Baltimore; and Daisy Brown, Storytelling Ambassador and Stoop Shoots project lead at the Peale.
This screenshot from a Peale hosted programming event shows
the host, Nancy Proctor, the four panelists, and the ASL interpreter.
The Peale arranged for ASL and CART transcription for all
events to make them more accessible. 




4. Normalizing accessibility and inclusion requires full-time dedication.

The Peale hosted exhibition programming and arranged for ASL interpreters and live CART transcription. One of the conversations we had when trying to arrange for these services was if we would have audience members who needed them and should we go to the expense if not. Other events often ask that if an attendee needs accessibility accommodations such as CART transcription or ASL interpretation, that they request it two weeks in advance of the event. This boiler-plate language comes across as a half-hearted effort to be inclusive. It puts the responsibility of requesting these services on those with disabilities rather than on event hosts. What if someone who needs these services did not hear about an event two weeks (or whatever timeframe) prior?
 
Ultimately the Peale staff decided to offer the services whether or not someone had requested them. The thinking was that to make future programming more welcoming and inclusive, you have to show you are committed. Although only a small percentage of the registered guests requested these services, this was a start and a much larger population than before. In addition, we had event speakers describe themselves so that those who were blind would get a sense of what the person looked like. These accommodations are now available for anyone seeking access to past programming. Audience members expressed their gratitude for these services. Further, the Second Life space and website also included alt text and other accessible features as much as possible. The Peale is now gaining a reputation for being inclusive and accessible. Since these programs, we’ve attended other Zooms and webinars where these accommodations are not provided. It’s disappointing and further reinforces the exclusion.

Far too often, inclusive practices are viewed as burdensome. They feel like a burden because we have been fighting the natural order of things by creating non-inclusive societies. We continue to try and reform problematic spaces, practices, language, and policies rather than embracing new ways of being and doing. Normalization takes time and a commitment from all of us to offer these accommodations as the default rather than the exception. We have the technological capabilities to standardize accessibility. Yes, these take time and resources but so do other efforts. We need to change our mindset that using these resources for accessibility accommodations means they are “lost” for other purposes. Prioritizing diversity and inclusion is a gain, not a loss. By committing to inclusion and accessibility today, we make this the default for the future.  

Redefine/ABLE content from Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Second Life, and the project website.
We installed Redefine/ABLE on different digital platforms. Gaining a true
sense of the impact of the project across these platforms was challenging.




5. Trying and failing to capture the inclusion “silver bullet” is still progress.

It’s been 10 months since the digital versions of Redefine/ABLE launched. Were these efforts successful in engaging audiences in learning about disability and accessibility? Are they modifying their language to eliminate ableist terms? Are visitors now aware of the shortcomings of the Americans with Disabilities Act? Although the Redefine/ABLE spaces seemed to be good sources of information, we couldn’t be sure due to an inability to track such reactions. Yes, Google can tell us how many visitors came to the website, Twitter can tell us how many retweets we had, and so on, but what impact, really, did these platforms have? We implemented surveys and other participatory elements to try to track and engage audience members, but we had little participation. Trying to quantify and qualify an exhibition’s impact is difficult. This one, given its many platforms, was even more so.

How can we assess impact if we cannot easily know what thinking and rethinking the content stimulated? Counting visitors is a start, but to what level are they taking in the information? Do they spend a cursory amount of time with the information or ingest everything closely with furrowed brows? Does the information prompt them to make changes in their daily lives, have conversations with others about what they learned, or research other information? How did people with disabilities respond to the content versus those without? In past physical exhibits, we were able to solicit participation in feedback surveys on site, which led to a higher rate of participation. Assessment poses greater challenges as more exhibitions make virtual pivots. Asking visitors immediately post-tour to complete a questionnaire or offering on-the-spot swag to those who fill out feedback forms, is more arduous if not impossible.            

Not capturing the “aha moments” also meant the design students we worked with didn’t get a rich understanding of how audiences responded to their work. Testing the model is a big factor in learning. The virtual options truncated this. Did we find a silver bullet? Unfortunately, we can’t say -- as much of the results of our grand experiment remain largely inconclusive. As we continue to create virtual spaces, we also need to incorporate appropriate, inviting assessment tools to know what kinds of impact, if any, these spaces are having.

We featured people with different disabilities as part of the exhibition content. One of them, Marguerite Woods, said, “Inclusion is the natural order of things. … Diversity is kingpin. ... No one is better than or more than or less than. We all are. That perspective… will open opportunities for everyone. It doesn’t create burdens. It creates opportunity and creativity.” We couldn’t agree more. But diversity and inclusion take deliberate, constant attention. We aren’t fully there yet, but hopefully we are well on our way to achieving universal design.


We want to express our gratitude to Maryland Humanities, The Institute of Museum and Library Services, The Arts and Humanities Research Council in the United Kingdom, and the University of Maryland, College Park Friedgen Family Fund. This project would not have been possible without their financial support.


Thanks again to Audra, Naliyah, and Cheryl for sharing their experiences and insights with ExhibiTricks readers!



Author Bios

Dr. Audra Buck-Coleman is a designer, educator, author, and facilitator. She directs, curates, and collaborates on social design projects with underrepresented communities. This includes serving as project director for Redefine/ABLE: Challenging Inaccessibility, a virtual exhibit that addresses disability, inclusion, and ableism. Her work connects design students, cultural institutions, and underrepresented communities and their concerns within a social justice design context. The resulting exhibits empower minoritized communities by elevating their voices and concerns in public spaces. She is a former associate professor and inaugural design program director at the University of Maryland, College Park.
 
 
Dr. Naliyah Kaya is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Montgomery College. She has served as an advisor and as an evaluator for cross-cultural exhibitions including Redefine/ABLE: Challenging Inaccessibility. She also teaches TOTUS Spoken Word Experience as part of the Jiménez-Porter Writers' House Program at the University of Maryland, College Park where she was previously the Coordinator for Multiracial & Native American / Indigenous Student Involvement in the Office of Multicultural Involvement & Community Advocacy (MICA).
 
 
Dr. Cheryl Fogle-Hatch is the founder of MuseumSenses, a Baltimore-based advocacy studio that researches and develops multisensory experiences for galleries, museums, and other cultural organizations. She collaborated with the UMD design students to create Redefine/ABLE: Challenging Inaccessibility. Previously, Dr. Fogle-Hatch worked as an archaeologist, conducting research in museum collections. Cheryl has taught college courses in archaeology at the University of New Mexico, and she has designed and led hands-on science activities for high school students participating in programs of the National Federation of the Blind.




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.

Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

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Thursday, April 1, 2021

"Starry Not?" Museum Will Sell Van Gogh


One of the world's best-known paintings has been listed for sale.

Spokeswoman Prima Kvitnya of the Museum of Modern Art confirmed that Van Gogh's "Starry Night" would be sold in an effort to convert physical art-viewing experiences to NFTs and full-room immersive video installations.

"This is just the start," Kvitnya said.  "We hope to eventually eliminate the need for viewing physical artworks, and instead offer only enhanced digital versions of everything in our collections."

Full story here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Contribute to the Museum Workers Relief Fund!



There are still thousands of our museum worker colleagues who need concrete financial support NOW.

To that end, the collective Museum Workers Speak has put together the Museum Workers Relief Fund for the mutual aid of museum workers in need.  In the words of their website:

It has become clear to us that when our institutions will not stand in solidarity with us, we must stand in solidarity with one another.



If you would like to contribute (as I already have) to the Museum Workers Relief Fund, you can follow this link to do so.  Also check out the new Museum Workers Speak Slack channel to chat, organize, send job leads, etc.

As an added incentive, for every ExhibiTricks reader who contributes at least $10.00 by or before April 15, 2021, I will set up a one-hour Zoom call (at a mutually convenient time) to discuss anything you like.

Think of it as a super-cheap consulting call with me to talk about museum exhibit possibilities, museum careers, or whatever else springs to your mind.

So click on over to the Museum Workers Relief Fund page NOW, make your contribution, and then email me your receipt so we can compare calendars for that Zoom call!



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.

Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

If you enjoy the blog, you can help keep it free to read and free from ads by supporting ExhibiTricks through our PayPal "Tip Jar"

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Design Toolbox: Get the Hook!


My wife recently asked me to place a hook in our back hall so she could hang up a special mop that picks up dog hair from our hardwood and tile floors.

While there were a number of hooks I could have chosen from my workshop, I enjoyed picking out the rubbery dog tail wall hook shown at the top of this post. Why? Well a combination of function and whimsy, I suppose -- combined with a visual cue that tells you something about the tool hanging there.

Anyway, this household chore, and my recent post about different types of tape, made me want to delve into a visual exploration of different types and styles of hooks -- mainly wall hooks. Since hooks often show up in both the public spaces inside museums (think coat rooms) and museum exhibition areas (hanging tools in Maker Spaces or smocks inside water exhibitions, for example) I thought I'd share some hooks I particularly like to provide some museum/exhibit/design inspiration.

The name of each hook below is a clickable link that brings you to a place where you can purchase each particular item -- along with a picture and brief description.  



The classic IKEA "dog tail" wall hook. Funny, relatively cheap, and functional.  Who could also ask for more?  (Also available from Amazon**)








Continuing with the animal theme, these sparrow-shaped hooks would be a great addition to a Nature Center or Natural History museum.








Toughooks are affordable unbreakable plastic backpack and coat hooks. The manufacturer is so sure you can't break them, that they guarantee these hooks for life.









The Shelfology website shows some elegant (if a little pricy) hooks.  I especially like the powder-coated steel Popsicle wall hook (pictured below) which comes in about 30 different colors, as well as the Doohooky wall hook.






3M Command™ Hooks

There are many types of 3M Command™ hooks and they are all designed to hold strongly on a variety of indoor surfaces, but leave no sticky adhesive behind.








Another inexpensive, minimalist winner from IKEA.  Simple, but does the job.







I love this clever design where each black "key" on the piano keyboard can flip down to form a hook.








Another minimalist design.  Sometimes you just need a simple stainless steel screw-in hook at a great price, and this is it.







When a design project has you climbing the walls, you might want to specify these whimsical wall hooks -- especially for a Children's Museum or other child-centered project.





Thanks for hanging in through this whole post!  I hope some of these items hooked you enough to provide you inspiration for future projects.  Have some other favorite hook suggestions to share?  Tell us about them in the "COMMENTS" section below!




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.

Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

If you enjoy the blog, you can help keep it free to read and free from ads by supporting ExhibiTricks through our PayPal "Tip Jar"



(** PLEASE NOTE: Some Amazon links may provide the author a small commission with no additional costs for the purchaser.)

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Exhibit Design Inspiration: Tim Hunkin's Secret Life of Components


The brilliant artist and gizmologist Tim Hunkin has done it again! 

Tim has created A series of YouTube guides for designers and makers entitled the "Secret Life of Components."  The subjects of the eight episodes are Chain, Switches, LEDs, Springs, Connectors, Hinges, and Glue. The eight videos will be released on a weekly schedule starting on March 4, 2021.

You can find out more about the genesis of the Secret Life of Components series as well as Tim's other amazing work by clicking over to his website.

You can also check out the first episode (about Chain) by viewing the embedded video below or by heading directly to Tim Hunkin's YouTube page.

Enjoy!




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.

Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

If you enjoy the blog, you can help keep it free to read and free from ads by supporting ExhibiTricks through our PayPal "Tip Jar"

Saturday, February 27, 2021

7 Project Red Flags to Avoid



What drives some museum projects to succeed, while others either spin their wheels for years or just crash and burn?

I've been thinking about this a lot lately since almost all of my current work involves "start from scratch" projects set up to create entirely new museums or installations rather than adapting or designing experiences for existing institutions.

One of these start-up projects, in particular, is operating under the long shadow of a recent design process that failed, and that left a lot of bad feelings (and canceled checks!) behind.  So now, in addition to working hard to create a successful new project, our design team is constantly beating back the ghosts of past "car wrecks" in the minds of funders and stakeholders. 

One thing that's been helpful is to differentiate the parts of our current creative process that are not related to the "pain points" the client team and stakeholders have experienced previously.  It really boils down to a few essential elements.

So here's a list of my seven "red flags" --- speed bumps that I really watch out for before I decide to join a project, or try to prevent from taking root during the twists and turns on the road to successful projects:


This Year's Model?
Are your design ideas based on community input with a mind toward project sustainability (economically, operationally, ecologically) or are you just chasing souped-up fads?  There was a time when every new museum seemingly had to open with an IMAX theater and/or a virtual reality gimmick whether those things were sound business decisions or not.


Leggo That Ego?
Is one person's (or one group's) ego constantly driving the creative process?  There should be no shortage of strong opinions that get batted around during a project, but at the end of the day, are the final decisions that are being made truly project-oriented or merely personality-driven?


Who's On Your "Pit Crew"?
Are the people in your project group "team players" in every dimension?  Do they respect and support each other? Do they truly want to engage the communities who will visit the museum?  Do they look for ways to creatively partner with other museums and organizations?  Or is everything a "we know best" situation?


What Does "World's Best" Mean?
I've written posts about this topic before.  It is great to set the bar high, but at least know what you're talking about. What specifically would make your new museum "world class"?  If you can't meaningfully answer that question, you don't seem aspirational, you seem delusional.


Do You Really Need A Ferrari?
Do the design solutions you're developing really fit the project and the place where it's located?  I sincerely believe that every community should have great cultural institutions, but you don't build a Ferrari when a Ford will do the trick.  Find the right tools for the right tasks.


What's Under The Hood? 
No prospective creative partner is perfect, but you owe it to your project to "check under the hood" a bit.  Ask your design team to describe a previous project that ran into a snag or two, and what steps they took to address and resolve the challenges.  If they can't come up with a credible answer or, worse yet, say that nothing like that has ever come up --- RUN! 

It's easy for everyone to be happy and excited at the beginning of a project when the schedule and budget seem great, but what happens when you all hit that first big pothole together?


Built To Last?
Let's finish where we started --- talking about sustainability.  Is your project built to last?  Are you creating true "internal capacity" (one of my favorite topics!) that will help your organization and your organization's employees and volunteers constantly grow and improve?  Or are you happy to throw your lot in with a bunch of "one-stop shopping" hucksters who will promise to do all the hard work for you as long as you keep writing checks?  I can show you many new(er) museums that,  just a few years after they opened, are sorry they made that choice.


What do you think?  Did we miss any important "red flags"?  Let us know in the "Comments" section below!



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.

Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

If you enjoy the blog, you can help keep it free to read and free from ads by supporting ExhibiTricks through our PayPal "Tip Jar"

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

The Exhibit Aphorisms Decks (and a FREE GIVEAWAY!)


A number of years ago, science center consultant extraordinaire Harry White put together a fun way to collect some exhibit wisdom together in a handy, portable package -- the Exhibit Aphorisms decks!

The idea of an aphorism is to put some core truth in a memorably flippant way so that people who are “in the know” recognize it and those who don’t, think about it some more.  

So, the Exhibit Aphorisms decks are just like a standard deck of cards, except the face of each card contains a thought-provoking, exhibit-related saying or quote. 


Here are a few examples:

The first is from Ken Gleason:

The Three Ways an Exhibit Must Work.

1. Attraction
If they don't use it, it can't achieve anything.

2. Function.
It must work, keep working and be safe.

3. Education.
What we're for, and why we're doing it. 1 & 2 lead here.



From Ian Simmons: 

"The Survival of the Dullest"
Good exhibits are popular, get used, and therefore break down.
Dull exhibits don't get used, and so don't break down.
Therefore all interactive exhibitions, without maintenance, eventually tend towards the dull.



Others are shorter and reflect bitter experience:

Sufficient ruggedization of loose parts turns them into weapons.

For every hole or gap, there is a corresponding human limb or appendage to get wedged in it.

Making easy exhibits is difficult.
Making easy exhibits difficult is easy.



Then some come in pairs:

Any component which is ideal, cheap, and universally available will be discontinued by the time the exhibit that uses it is fully developed.

Any component that doesn't exist, so you have to devise it at great cost, will be in the next McMaster-Carr catalog.




Not all are directly about exhibits:

“Nobody flunked a Science Centre.”
Frank Oppenheimer


“The probability of somebody doing the absolutely inconceivable is never exactly zero.”
H. Richard Crane


“Visitors come to a Science Centre because it’s cheaper than the movies and less exhausting than the swimming pool.”
Gillian Thomas



Because the Exhibit Aphorism decks have never formally been for sale, getting hold of a deck has mainly involved running into Harry at a museum conference and asking for one.  (Although word on the street is that a Kickstarter campaign may be starting to introduce an updated Version 1 and a brand new Version 2 of the decks -- so stay tuned!)


But here's your COVID-safe, travel-free chance to win one of two FREE Exhibit Aphorisms decks, because we are doing an 

ExhibiTricks GIVEAWAY!


For your chance to win, simply send an email to info (at) orselli (dot) net with the subject line, "I want an Exhibit Aphorisms deck!" before February 28, 2021.  That's it.  We will randomly select two winners and contact them directly after the 28th.

Good luck, and remember:

"A consultant is a person who borrows your watch and then charges to tell you the time."


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.

Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

If you enjoy the blog, you can help keep it free to read and free from ads by supporting ExhibiTricks through our PayPal "Tip Jar"

Saturday, February 6, 2021

How Can Museums Find Their "Next" Practices?



I've just started the new season of Museum FAQ videos over on the POW! YouTube channel -- a series of meaty conversations with a wide range of museum professionals from all around the world.

The latest episode features a lively conversation with Kathy McLean about "next" practices for museums instead of "best" practices.  You can get a sense of how the conversation was framed by looking at the graphic at the top of this post.  Kathy and I touched on ways that museum workers and the communities they engage with can help redefine the values, roles, processes, and relationships of museums. 

One of my favorite things that Kathy said during our chat was, "if you are really trying to do something new and different, why do you need to see an existing "best" practice from another museum?'  We discussed (and linked to) some great projects as part of our video, like the storefront theater events in Miami and The Mile Long Opera in NYC.

Well worth a view, if I do say so myself. 

And when you click over to the POW! YouTube channel, hit that big red SUBSCRIBE button so you don't miss any of the new Museum FAQ videos coming up!



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.

Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

If you enjoy the blog, you can help keep it free to read and free from ads by supporting ExhibiTricks through our PayPal "Tip Jar"

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Tape-tastic!


Even though I've been stuck at home working on projects because of the pandemic, one thing I've come to appreciate even more as an exhibit developer and prototyper is TAPE!

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

So in true ExhibiTricks spirit, here's a listing of a variety of specialty tapes for your creative design toolbox.  Just click on the title link above each tape description to go to a related web page to purchase that tape or for more information.



"SOLAS" stands for "Safety Of Life At Sea" and it is a 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.


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.


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.


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. 



And here are two variations on good old reliable duct tape:

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


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.



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


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.


This is double-sided craft tape with a 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.


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.


Great for outlining areas on floors or walls -- like helping people maintain physical distancing during COVID times.  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.


Also from Identi-Tape, these 6-mil vinyl adhesive tapes are available in 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.


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 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!




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.

Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

If you enjoy the blog, you can help keep it free to read and free from ads by supporting ExhibiTricks through our PayPal "Tip Jar"

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

WOW! then AHA!


The New Year often brings big, celebratory fireworks shows.

I love fireworks -- you can hear the crowds ooh and ahh as each new shell explodes and sends a splash of colors and light across the sky.  As people leave the show, many of them will exclaim "Wow! that was great!"

Fireworks are usually a "one and done" type experience. A big WOW while they are happening, but not much afterthought given to the experience.  And that's fine.


Your felt future, 2011 by Olafur Eliasson


The work of one of my favorite contemporary artists, Olafur Eliasson, has been described as "first there is a WOW! followed by an AHA!"

There is a visual (and often visceral) thrill in encountering Eliasson's artwork (WOW!) but then a need to step back and think about (or often, figure out) what's going on (AHA!)

One of my New Year exhibit "resolutions" is to find (or create) a rhythm of exhibits and experiences in my museum projects so that there are plenty of WOWs, but also many AHAs.



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.

Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

If you enjoy the blog, you can help keep it free to read and free from ads by supporting ExhibiTricks through our PayPal "Tip Jar"

Monday, January 11, 2021

3 Networking DON'Ts


I was delighted to speak at the recent NYCMER (New York Museum Educator's Roundtable) Career Symposium on the subject of "Building a Network" alongside two excellent co-presenters, Kinneret Kohn and Leah Golubchick.

While we covered a number of great networking tips and tricks, my part of the session focused on 3 Networking DON'Ts


1) DON'T Hide Your Work

Make sure to share your work widely so that people can get a sense of the way you think and whether you might make a great creative partner for their next project.  No matter what sort of work you do, there are websites and apps that can help you promote your work and grow your professional network.

Is your work visual? Maybe Instagram is right for you.  Do you like to write? Start a blogYouTube for videos, Twitter for quick takes -- at the very least, you should spruce up your LinkedIn listing!

If you need some additional inspiration to put your work out into the world --  check out Austin Kleon's excellent book called "Show Your Work!







2) DON'T Forget Your Business Cards!

I tell every mentee and emerging museum professional I work with to not forget their business cards!  In our digital world, business cards might seem decidedly "old school" and yet there is something memorable in the tiny transaction -- especially if the recipient says "Great card!"

I use (and really like!)  MOO's "Printfinity" business cards -- the fronts stay the same, but you can add different images or designs onto the back of each card. It's like keeping a portfolio of your work in your pocket -- and is also a fantastic way to create a memorable interaction when you give someone your business card.  (Here's a discount link to MOO that will save you 25% on your first order!)




If you are still determinedly digital, then at the very least maximize your email signature!  In addition to contact details, you can include links to any of your online assets -- your blog, YouTube, what have you.

I use WiseStamp to help liven up my email signature (as shown below.)






3) DON'T Let Them (or Yourself!) Off The Hook

When you contact someone to ask about a job or to introduce yourself, don't just leave it at that.

Provide some additional value in the form of an article you've written, some information about a particularly interesting or innovative aspect of a recent project, or even a link to a Web article about the museum world that you found interesting.

Similarly, even if your primary purpose is inquiring about a potential job -- don't let them off the hook!  If you only ask about a job, and there's no job available, then that's the end of the conversation.  However, if you ask for some additional advice or ideas about your next steps, you might get some useful information that you otherwise might not have received.

For example, you might say or write, "Even if you don't have any current job openings, do you have any suggestions for colleagues I might speak with or recent books or articles I could read to expand my knowledge of the museum field?"  Most museum folks are generous and willing to provide a little advice -- and it sure takes the sting out of a rejection notice!  





I hope these three sets of tips inspire you to expand your own professional network.  

In that vein, I'm always happy to network with ExhibiTricks readers! You can connect with me via the Social Media links above, or feel free to contact me directly to introduce yourself.  Who knows?  We might be able to cook up a project to work on together!



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.

Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

Please note: I may earn from some links above, but at no added cost to you.