Exhibition Issues at Big Museums


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Talk delivered to Tufts Museum Studies students as part of a panel, highlighting process and pitfalls of making exhibits at a large institution.

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Exhibition Issues at Big Museums

  1. 1. Exhibitions at a BIG Museum
  2. 2. Boston Children’s Museum History <ul><ul><li>The Museum was founded in 1913 by Boston public school teachers. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>One of the oldest and biggest children’s museums </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Hands-on learning exhibitions were pioneered by Michael Spock, Museum Director from 1962-1986 </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. Boston Children’s Museum History <ul><li>In 1979, the Museum moved to its present location to be become more accessible to people from Boston’s diverse neighborhoods </li></ul><ul><li>Major expansion and renovation completed in 2007 </li></ul>
  4. 4. Mission <ul><li>Boston Children's Museum exists to help children understand and enjoy
the world in which they live.  </li></ul>
  5. 5. Profile <ul><li>BCM is a private, non-profit, educational institution that is recognized internationally as a research and development center and pacesetter for children's exhibitions, educational programs and curriculum. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Outcomes for Our Visitors
  7. 7. What this Means… <ul><li>5 Friends from Japan </li></ul><ul><li>Kid Power </li></ul><ul><li>Children of Hangzhou </li></ul><ul><li>Art Studio </li></ul><ul><li>Teen Tokyo </li></ul><ul><li>KidStage </li></ul><ul><li>Access/Ability </li></ul><ul><li>PlaySpace </li></ul><ul><li>Science Playground </li></ul><ul><li>Arthur </li></ul><ul><li>Peep and the Big Wide World </li></ul><ul><li>Blue Man Group: Making Waves </li></ul><ul><li>The museum isn’t “about” anything specific </li></ul><ul><li>Almost all exhibits fit into at least one pieces of the “pie,” often more than one </li></ul>
  8. 8. BCM’s Audience <ul><li>They’re young (0 - 12) </li></ul><ul><li>They’re old (50% are adults!) </li></ul><ul><li>They’re everything in between </li></ul><ul><li>400, 000 to 500,000 per year </li></ul>
  9. 9. Some Audience Driven Considerations <ul><li>Be aware of the relative attention span of adults and children </li></ul><ul><li>Prototype and build to last, including materials that can be cleaned!! </li></ul><ul><li>Give an explicit role for adults in each exhibit; </li></ul><ul><li>Find ways to make kids the experts; </li></ul><ul><li>Guide observation and interpretation. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Attention Span Attract, Hold, Communicate
  11. 11. Prototyping - Cheap and Fast
  12. 12. Prototyping - Complex
  13. 13. Durability
  14. 14. Durability – Uh Oh…
  15. 15. Little Shop of Horrors
  16. 16. It Takes a Team to Build an Exhibit! <ul><li>Exhibit content developer </li></ul><ul><li>Collections manager or curator </li></ul><ul><li>Exhibit designer </li></ul><ul><li>Exhibit builder </li></ul><ul><li>Educational program developer </li></ul><ul><li>Media planner </li></ul><ul><li>Project manager (that’s me!) </li></ul>
  17. 17. And a LOT of Vendors! <ul><li>Exhibit Designers </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Design + Communication, Montreal, Canada </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Exhibit Technology </li></ul><ul><ul><li>XYZ Cultural Technology, Montreal, Canada </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Exhibit Fabrication </li></ul><ul><ul><li>BCM Design and Production, Roxbury, MA </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mystic Scenic Studios, Norwood, MA </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Blue Rhino Studios, Eagan, MN </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Other Boston based cabinet maker </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Boston based metal artist and welder </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Graphic Design </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Busy Bee Printing Press, South Hadley, MA </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Scrim Artwork </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ms. Lin, China </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Graphic Production </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Olsen Images, Watertown, MA </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>FOLIA Industries, Huntingdon, Canada </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Translations </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Linguistic Systems, Inc., Cambridge, MA </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Theatrical Curtains </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Major Theatre, Boston, MA </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Video Production </li></ul><ul><ul><li>China based film crew </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Teri Serafini, Boston, MA </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Photographs </li></ul><ul><ul><li>China based photographer </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Various stock photo agencies </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Zeff Photo, Boston, MA </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Computer Interactives </li></ul><ul><ul><li>State Street Technology Center, Hangzhou, China </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>KidZibits, Minneapolis, MN </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>RedPost inc., Goshen, IN </li></ul></ul><ul><li>3-D Imaging </li></ul><ul><ul><li>3-D Concepts, Carlisle, MA </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Additional Cartography </li></ul><ul><ul><li>DesignMaps, Oakland, CA </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Costumes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Chinese based vendor </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>CostumeWorks, Somerville, MA </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Exhibit Props </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Numerous China based suppliers </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Exhibit Packing and Crating </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Beauregard Exhibits, CT </li></ul></ul>
  18. 18. Who Do We Work With? <ul><li>Internal staff experts </li></ul><ul><li>Scholars and other experts (Harman/JBL) </li></ul><ul><li>Community groups </li></ul><ul><li>Advisory boards </li></ul><ul><li>For profit companies (Home Depot) </li></ul><ul><li>Entertainment industry (Blue Man Group, WGBH) </li></ul>
  19. 19. Exhibit Team Workshop
  20. 20. Exhibit Design Drawings
  21. 21. And What About Collections? <ul><li>We actually have a large collection! </li></ul><ul><li>Actively incorporate real objects into most exhibits </li></ul>
  22. 22. Fabrication - In-house and Vendors BCM Vendor
  23. 23. Construction and Installation BCM Vendor
  24. 24. And What if it Travels? <ul><li>BCM rents and travels 5 exhibits </li></ul>
  25. 25. And of Course, We Evaluate! <ul><li>Front-end, to find out what people know or want to know </li></ul><ul><li>Formative - prototyping exhibit elements, text, graphics </li></ul><ul><li>Summative - how well did we do? (we don’t do this as often as we should) </li></ul>
  26. 26. After That, the Party!
  27. 27. Thank You James Jensen Director, Project Management James @bostonkids.org
  28. 28. First 4 Tips <ul><li>Establish exhibit goals for your audience; </li></ul><ul><li>Think about kids’ interests and what they like to do; </li></ul><ul><li>Remember that kids of different ages think and respond differently; </li></ul><ul><li>Figure out if you need a facilitator. </li></ul>
  29. 29. Next 3 Tips <ul><li>Let kids make choices; </li></ul><ul><li>Depend on real experiences; </li></ul><ul><li>Think about hands-on, inquiry based learning. </li></ul>