From New York? Love Museums? Check THIS Out!

An original wordle design based on my RSS feed.

An original wordle design based on my RSS feed.

The Museum Association of New York is calling for New Yorkers to share what inspires them about museums (reason 230,428,340 why it’s great to be a New Yorker)!

What’s really neat about this opportunity is that participants have a variety options of how to share this information. From  wordle (a “toy for generating word clouds” from provided text, and yes I am officially obsessed with this) and YouTube to photos and haikus, there are plenty of ways to share what you think museums do best and how museums inspire you.

Besides being wonderfully creative, participating in this opportunity may find you a bit richer than you were before… by submitting your material by July 31st you will be eligible to win an Amazon gift card.

To keep up with the latest on submissions, check out MANY’s blog.

* An interesting note and perhaps something to keep in mind, I came across this opportunity from a museum list serv and upon visiting MANY’s blog, noticed the first two submissions are from fellow professionals. Hopefully, this opportunity will reach beyond our beloved museum walls, because it really is cool!*


Doodling: Sparking Creativity & Cool Collaborations

While most of us use the Google search engine website to Google (searching for relevant resources and websites); Google is now doing the searching. In an effort to “encourage the next generation of designers and artists” Google partnered with the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum to launch Doodle 4 Google, a competition inviting children and teens to design a Google logo with the theme “What I Wish for the World.”

"Friendship Around the World" by Miriam Elizabeth Lowery of Covington, TN (age: 5). Her statement: "My wish for the world is that everyone would get along and treat one another in a nice and loving way. We could all be friends!"

"Friendship Around the World" by Miriam Elizabeth Lowery of Covington, TN (age: 5). Her statement: "My wish for the world is that everyone would get along and treat one another in a nice and loving way. We could all be friends!"

The homepage states, “Both our country and the world are undergoing significant change. At Google we believe in thinking big, and dreaming big, and we can’t think of anything more important than encouraging students to do the same.” What I think is encouraging is this great partnership between the Cooper-Hewitt and Google, a creative collaboration that I’m sure pleases the likes of educators and marketing museum folks, among others.

Although the submission dates for this year’s competition passed, you do have the opportunity to select the National Finalists by voting for your favorite logo, now thru May 21st. Wishes range from quirky and heartfelt to imaginative and inspiring; all are definitely worth checking out!

A-HA! Design Inspiration (It’s All Around Us)

I was one of the many eager AAM session-hoppers to sit-in on: Eye On Design II, a wonderful session that brought together an eclectic group of professionals to discuss where they draw their inspiration.

Hearing from other professional talk about their connections and inspiration taken from gardens, graffiti, play, children TV programs, and other imaginary and realized spaces, sparked a curiosity from within prompting me to ask myself: Well what about me? Where do I get my inspiration from? Often, I get so wrapped up with an idea or project, I do not realize or consider the connections between what inspires me and the product of that inspiration.

Happening vs. Performance

So naturally, since it’s more fun to ponder such thoughts aloud, I talked with my favorite concert-going pal. We were watching a Flaming Lips concert on TV and began to talk about our experiences at their live performances.

While some bands will perform on stage, give you good music, and maybe even some chit-chat in between songs, the Flaming Lips brings the audience into their performance; it’s about the music but it’s also bigger than the music. As so many people would agree, their concerts are more like happenings: where individuals are constantly connecting, feeling, experiencing, sharing and participating. While it may seem a bit chaotic, it is also invigorating and enlightening. The idea of a performance does not seem as powerful when compared to the thought of a happening. There is no separation between musicians and audience, rather all are participants.

This idea of happening as changing, continuous, and perhaps unpredictable inspires me.

While some projects such as community-created exhibitions and interactive exhibit components are great examples of prompting visitors to participate, is it the same as a shared happening? Do happenings happen in museums? Have you experienced a happening in a museum? What does it look like?

As such conversations were sparked during the lively AAM session, I hope you’ll share your thoughts and musings here too!

Design Competition for NMAAHC Heats Up!

I received via email a link to the Smithsonian’s Blog, highlighting the current buzz about the design competition involving a handful of world renown architects for the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). A poll on the blog asks viewers to choose which design should win the bid. I’m not sure how great of an impact the poll will have on deciding the winning design; the final decision will be announced on Tuesday, April 14 (um…. yep that’s tomorrow). Regardless, it’s really neat that the museum seeks the participation and involvement among their public and those interested in this process. With a tentative opening date slated for November 18, 2015 (a few years after the 2012 groundbreaking) it’s never too early to get started! It’s also never too late to get involved, check out the designs and vote today!

On a personal note, having worked at Amaze Design Inc., the Boston-based exhibit deisgn firm part of the fantastic team responsible for the Interpretive Master Plan for the NMAAHC, I am very happy to see this project progress and I definitely plan to stay updated on the latest news.

Artifacts at the Heart of It All

Most who love and/or work in museums are drawn to these cultural centers for the artifacts, for what’s displayed, what can be seen and what we can learn from these priceless objects.

However, for some museums, science centers, etc. it may be challenging to combine hands-off objects with hands-on experiences. A session during the MAAM Creating Exhibitions conference focused on “Bringing Back the Artifact.” Presenters from the Franklin Institute Science Museum discussed their experiences collaborating and developing the Franklin’s  latest core exhibition, Amazing Machine. I’ve provided some suggestions and tips discussed that may benefit those looking to “enrich hands-on experiences with hands-off collections.”

Regarding Artifacts

  • Don’t give up on the artifact! As reflected in visitor surveys from the Amazing Machine exhibit, artifacts are just as popular as hands-on interactives.
  • Incorporate cultural stories to help personalize artifacts and connect visitors.
  • Do not lend out artifacts. Sometimes various contractors may request artifacts to observe, photograph, illustrate or use in some capacity. If the museum is collaborating with contractors who are not in close proximity to the museum, consider alternatives to sending these partners artifacts or museum objects.

Regarding Collaboration

  • Get curators, educators and other staff  involved with the Exhibit Design team early on in the process. This will spark ideas and help keep communication open.
  • Utilize a database system for artifact tracking and record keeping that incorporates fields pertinent to all involved staff. This will allow more active communication and accurate details.
  • Teamwork and strong integration is key!

Regarding Exhibit Design

  • Integrate artifacts to support and influence 3D and 2D design. This can greatly impact graphics used, color palettes, and layout. Color scheme can also reflect certain attitudes towards artifacts. Using certain tones will support a feeling of respect towards artifacts.
  • A cost saving tip, if applicable, incorporate historic images into exhibits. These graphics may be easier to obtain without copyright restrictions.
  • Use temporary graphics for instructions. Test directives with visitors before committing to specific language. Such tactics can avoid costly mistakes.
  • Test interactive prototypes THROUGHOUT the process! Especially if the museum is collaborating with interactive consultants, be sure to continually test (even if you’re told everything is alright and not to worry).

I’m hoping to check out the Amazing Machine exhibit and see these great tips in action when I visit Philadelphia for the AAM Annual Meeting in a few weeks!

If You Design It, They Will Come

Speaking of the New York Hall of Science…..kick your creativity into high gear, the science center is “seeking a new logo.” The Request For Brilliance includes all details (but you have to sign up first and become part of the Genius Rocket community).

Submissions are due by March 12th, a piece of cake right?

Genius Rocket “connects experienced creative talent with companies seeking new marketing and advertising content.” (taken from BIG PLUG, you’re welcome GR) They have lots of other postings for different companies so good luck!