Category Archives: Exhibit Design

The Museum of Our Soul

“That which we elect to surround ourselves with becomes the museum of our soul and the archive of our experiences.”Misattributed to Thomas Jefferson

It’s a lovely thought though, isn’t it?

In a recent outreach program I brought a selection of teaching collection items from the museum to an after school program. These included some animal bones and American-Indian pottery. During the program the kids (aged 5-10, a bit of a range) in the outreach wore nitrile gloves and explored these objects, taking notes on their observations. I gave some prompting questions – but really left it to the group to gather data and clues and try and decipher what each object was etc (The lion skull was a hit.) Following this exercise, and after we identified the materials, I asked, “Now, why do you think the museum has these objects?” The answers ranged from a simple “Because” to “So we can learn” and to a hesitant and questioning “No one else does?”

I created this mini lesson with the goal of getting the group to think about museums and what exactly museums do, and how visitors (i.e. they) can fully engage with museums. Because of the group’s age and time limitations with the outreach, I emphasized hands-on activities and lots of brainstorming with group discussions. We had a great time thinking about all the museums the kids had visited (or seen on tv and in movies), and I highlighted some unique (some would say “weird”) museums and museum collections across the country and globe – i.e. the Museum of Salt and Pepper Shakers. The kids had a blast with this part. Following this activity, I utilized some images from a very cute and clever sketchbook titled My Museum (which I found in our museum’s store and promptly suggested we invest in additional copies for educational purposes). Using some blank pages with empty galleries, cases, and shelves – we designed our own museums. We discussed what was important to us now, and what type of collections we would want to share with people in town, across the world, and in the future. All the kids came up with great ideas and their exhibit sketches were inspiring.

At the close of the outreach, each member of the group presented on his or her museum to the audience – which was another exercise for the group in presentation skills and listening. Here are some of the brainstormed museums:

  • The Museum of Fruits and Veggies
  • Historic Girl Clothing and Makeup and Hair
  • Museum of Carrots
  • Ninja Museum
  • Museum of Cars
  • Animal Bone Museum

What do you think? This was my first time bringing the program out – any tips or suggestions on how to improve? I am excited to tinker with this concept – especially continuing to develop more object-based activities.

 

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Twister, anyone?

My sister is visiting from Chicago, so it has given me the chance play tourist with an actual tourist to the area. We’ve been able to visit serval fun stops in the last few days, including art galleries, historic sites, and probably too many restaurants. One of the places we’ve explored is the Historic Arkansas Museum. Part of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, the mission of the Historic Arkansas Museum (or H.A.M.) is to “communicate the early history of Arkansas and its creative legacy through preserving, interpreting, and presenting stories and collections for the education and enjoyment of the people we serve.”  

While at H.A.M. we enjoyed several of their permanent and temporary galleries, an orientation video, a tour of several historic homes, and the museum store. Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, I was really impressed with my visit, and I can’t wait to return as a visitor – or perhaps a volunteer, if they’ll have me!

I wanted to take  a quick moment and highlight an awesome interactive we enjoyed at the Historic Arkansas Museum in a hands-on children’s gallery. 

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Arkansas Twister

I love this interactive.

It’s quickly identifiable to the popular game Twister, requires limited instruction, educational (left foot in Texarkana!), and definitely combats any museum fatigue. (There is seating nearby for caregivers or family members to watch players from a safe distance.) Throughout the rest of the galleries there are several hands-on opportunities – many digital and computer based, but something about this “Arkansas Twister” stood out to me. From an exhibits stance, the construction and fabrication of this seems fairly basic – as does the upkeep. From an educational perspective, the color, left v. right coordination, and map are all awesome aspects that are neatly included. Looking at this interactive further, I wondered about year of the map (my Arkansas state history is a bit rough…), but was very impressed about all these connections. And, it was 100% on mission.

What do you think? Are there any children’s exhibits that have stood out to you? Any that I should check out?  

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Words of Wisdom

Words of Wisdom

Indiana Jones AND Steve Martin assist with studying for oral exams.
I’m in good company.

Planning for People in Museum Exhibitions (1993)
Kathleen McLean

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