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How to Make a Reading Room/Museum more Community Useful and Interactive


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This was a Power Point I gave at a conference for the Wellcome Trust about making their Reading Room more Intellectually interactive and Community Useful. November 2012

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How to Make a Reading Room/Museum more Community Useful and Interactive

  1. 1. How to make a ReadingRoom/museum moreCommunity Friendly/InteractiveAn Open-Ended DiscussionWellcome TrustNovember 19, 2012Elaine Heumann Gurian
  2. 2. OUTCOME ASPIRATIONS• A mission that is focused, appealing and broad enough to welcome unexpected use. “about something”.• A collection that is inherently interesting and physically, visually and intellectually available.• A public space designed: to welcome a diverse audience and encourage public community.• A “both/and” space where multiple activities can comfortably coexist even if some conflict with others.• A nonjudgmental service-providing superstructure so that individuals can pursue their personal interests.• An introduction in some form that allows visitors to explicitly or intuitively understand ways to use the collections and the space.• Unexpected program initiatives that are tailored to diverse segments of the pubic offered during practical hours
  3. 3. OPTIONS NOT CONCLUSIONS To create a space that morphs from “nice to have”, even “important to have” to “essential” takes many small steps. There are no magic bullets. In an egalitarian society it is unfashionable to suggest that It also takes the unified vision and perserverience of the leadership – but it does. It must have a staff that delights in audience satisfaction and sustaining serendipity whenever activities happen consistent with the mission. An therefore, it is essential to create a company culture that focuses on service to others and public value by supporting consideration of ideas and value of staff.
  4. 4. “The curator will not select the objects for view, nor determine appropriate topics.Instead almost all information and objects will be made available and the user will mentally combine them as he or she sees fit.The museum will become a visual non-judgmental repository in which many intellectual directions are possible.No topic will be off limits and no idea will be rejected by the staff as unworthy.The museum will grow with the input of its users.”From “The Essential Museum”.
  5. 5. CREATING A“THIRD SPACE”**Oldenburg, Ray (1989). The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Community Centers, Beauty Parlors,General Stores, Bars, Hangouts, and How They Get You Through the Day. New York: Paragon House. ISBN 978-1-55778-110-9.
  6. 6. GATHERING SPACES:Bibliography*Some of the seminal literature. A selection of writings and resources from Ray Oldenburg, author of “The Great Good Place”. Oldenburg, Ray (1989). The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Community Centers, Beauty Parlors, General Stores, Bars, Hangouts, and How They Get You Through the Day. New York: Paragon House. ISBN 978-1-55778-110-9. William Whyte, “The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces” 1980 Jacobs, Jane, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) New York: Random House. ISBN 0-679-60047-7
  7. 7. In evaluating thousands of public spaces around the world, PPS has found that successful ones have four key qualities: they are accessible; people are engaged in activities there; the space is comfortable and has a good image; and finally, it is a sociable place: one where people meet each other and take people when they come to visit. PPS developed The Place Diagram as a tool to help people in judging any place, good or bad:
  8. 8. THE ENTERING SEQUENCE:considerations –What is presented outdoors that signals that it is safe to enter?What does the casual passerby understand?What is the message of marketing?What do I need to navigate through the front door? Can I see in before I enter?How am I greeted?What are the hours?Is it free?
  9. 9. Examples of entering and welcomeVF&A subway entrance:Buskers at the Centre Pompidou:
  11. 11. BUILDING COMMUNITYMultiple reasons for coming to the same spaceRepeatable social activities (food, seating, etc.)Open predictable but convenient hoursWelcoming entrance sequenceAmenities – seating, toilets, group gathering,Ability to decode without askingPlacement of help personal so that the client has to seek them out.Available for outside groups to use while retaining identity.Cultivation of “social pioneers”.
  12. 12. MULTIPLE PROGRAMS:EXAMPLES.The collections – the intended use.Program and performances: targeted useAncillary amenities – food, shop, wifi, newspapers, lounges, group gathering,Additional related and unrelated services: day care, practice rooms, study spaces, etc.Traditions and special events:The landmark – Disney’s “Weenie”.
  13. 13. FOOD AND DRINK: THE SOCIALSETTING ry/5873093308/sizes/l/in/photostream/Starbooks @N02/2086265647/in/photostream/University library N05/5185447549/
  14. 14. SERENDIPITOUS USEWhat activities are created by participants as an overlay to the intended purposes.Does the staff acknowledge, condone, facilitate, allow these activities?Who are the regulars and how do they regulate the spirit of the place?The “meet-up”.
  15. 15. THE AUDIENCE
  16. 16. FROM THE ESSENTIAL MUSEUM*“The essential museum would begin with four assumptions: 1) all people have questions, curiosity, and insights about a variety of matters large and small;2) Satisfaction of internalized questions is linked to more than fact acquisition and can include aesthetic pleasure, social interaction, and personal validation (recognition and memory);3) a museum [public space with content] could be a useful place to explore these; and4) Visitors can turn their interest into satisfied discovery if the appropriate tools are present and easy to use.* Gurian, Elaine Heumann, “The Essential Museum”, The Informal Learning Review, #89, March-April 2008, pp. 1-7
  17. 17. MULTIPLE MOTIVATIONS FORCOMING• Intentional -- to use the space for the personal quest• The group study• Getting out of the cold• Wandering about – the browsing tourist• Getting something else – the bookstore, wifi, ETC. , with only ancillary use of the material in the reading room• Copying and taking away for later use somewhere else• Social functions (using the space for outside purposes)• Meeting friends• The family adventure
  18. 18. THE QUESTThe person with a purpose (scholar, enthusiast, student – any age)The intrigued browser -- digging deeperThe regularThe short stayer – needs somewhere to startThe social group adventure – learning together
  19. 19. EXAMPLESThe Native American Tribal desire to see their own stuff.The college classroom instructors desire to restructure the collections for their own lecture.The person researching a specific subject needing to access to multi-platform multi- sensory material.
  20. 20. EXAMPLE -- THE FAMILYA social group with disparate interestsA social group interested in teaching each other and learning together some of the time.Talking and making noiceMultiple learning styles and developmental needsMultiple activities and equipment.Kelvingrove: Interactivity in the middle, adult interest on the walls.
  21. 21. EXAMPLE – THE SCHOLARNeeds:QuietWork surfaceLack of distractionsAccess to deep level of informationNote taking and copyingAccess to self- selected material
  23. 23. LAYERING: Many options with thesame material (organizing)Light FramingMore AboutOrientationAncillary materialInteractivityMultisensory platforms and delivery systemsPackaging for having the actual material available for inspectionRestructuring on demand.
  24. 24. STUDY STORAGE: EXAMPLES ts-study-storage.php whats-on/permanent-collection- galleries/study-gallery
  25. 25. ACCESS TO COLLECTIONS:EXAMPLES -storage/ ons/luce/ e/Student/302/SA_Visible_Storage.html
  26. 26. TOOLS FOR INTERROGATIONPage turnerSimple CadFacsimilesAccess to the real thingCopying material and free accessCloud and other personalizing technology for leaving behind.
  28. 28. SHARING AUTHORITYThe role of the user as contributorAccess to oppositional thoughtThe leave behind (clouds, blogs, twitters, etc.)The participatory format: i.e. talk back, story core, video studio, recombination (the swatch book)
  29. 29. PARTICIPATION FOR A PURPOSEMy personal criteria:Do not create participation or interaction for its own sake.To get me (as a user) to participate: ◦ the outcome has to seem either useful, the modality fun or both. ◦ The request must respect my experience and authority. ◦ I want to know that my product will be useful for others. And the aggregate more useful than any individual addition.
  30. 30. THE ROLE OF THE STAFFThe staff must: Like and respect the user Be interested in shared authority Passionate about the learner as much as the subject matter Retrained to be comfortable about possible modalities, learning, technology Be basically a curious learner themselves. There should not be a hierarchy or even seperation between the knowledge creators, knowledge providers and technology creative deliverers of service.