Sunday, February 18, 2024

Successful Imperfection



The other day one of my sons wanted to cook up a little surprise for our family.  He worked hard to make some onion bhaji based on a recipe that one of his college friends taught him.  (You can try making some of your own bhajis by following this recipe.)

Everyone enjoyed the special appetizers and found them quite tasty, but I noticed my son was a little upset, and I asked him what the problem was.  He was disappointed that the bhaji hadn't turned out exactly how he had hoped and had actually thrown some of them away because he didn't think they were "good enough" to serve.

We are often our own worst critics, and many times the fear of "less than perfect" paralyzes our work. 

Sometimes parts of an exhibition or a new program won't be 100% complete or be *perfect* on opening day -- and while that might gnaw at us as creators, our visitors are usually focused on enjoying the new exhibits or programs we've created.

Let's continue to learn from our failures, but let's also take time to savor our "imperfect" successes.



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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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Thursday, February 8, 2024

Do You Need Walls to be a Museum?


Do you need walls to be a Museum?

It's a question worth asking again, as the Rubin Museum of Art recently announced that it would be closing its New York City museum building later this year -- essentially becoming a "museum without walls."

There are many instances of emerging museums starting out as "museums without walls," with the ultimate aim in those cases to end up inside a permanent museum home rather than reversing the sequence as the Rubin is doing.

But really, what are the essential qualities of a "museum"?  I would say that strong museum experiences are defined by three S words: Stuff, Stories, and Social. (Note that "Structure" isn't one of those S words!)

First, you need some kind of "STUFF," whether artifacts, collection objects, or exhibit elements.  Even completely digital museums, like the Girl Museum, still emphasize the notion of thematic exhibitions, albeit through purely online installations.

Secondly, you should have strong STORIES to share.  The FREE THE MUSEUM project works to share stories and place their installations in and around communities in places like parks, streets, or community gathering places rather than museum buildings.

And lastly, museums must be SOCIAL places, providing opportunities for people to gather and interact with each other.  The "new" Rubin Museum aims to provide such social opportunities for people to interact with new installations related to Himalayan Art by working with creative partners around the world.

So I would say you do NOT need walls to create strong and memorable museum experiences. 

However, it will be difficult for "wall-free museums" to shift the natural perception of so many members of the public who immediately think of permanent, physical buildings when the word "museum" comes up and consider museum buildings the mark of institutional legitimacy.






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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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