I recently read Museums at Play: Games, Interaction, and Learning edited by Katy Beale over my Spring Break travels to NYC. The book is incredibly straightforward with simple 5-7 page chapters, each illustrating an example of an interactive experience (some low-tech & some very hi-tech). Because this is what I study – visitor engagement with collections – in traditional or digital spaces – I was very aware of several of these examples, but a few were new and very surprising.
Two (of the many) that struck my fancy:
- Art Heist at the New Art Gallery Walsall
- Playing With Light – An Interactive Science Exhibition [SciTech Australia]
Take away points from the book:
- Keep designs simple – the more complexity that’s added to a game, the more likely it will only work for subset of your audience, will be too time consuming, or will be confusing to pick up. Simple is better.
- Test prototypes on your audience several times – almost every chapter discussed how testing the product on families, kids, parents, or students revealed problems, challenges, and outcomes that were unexpected and required going back to the design boards – all of which ended up being instrumental to the success of the product.
- Never design for users coming up with “right answers” – the exhibits that made the interaction a contemplative experience were the most successful. They allowed different people to build off the ideas of others, which led to longer, more rewarding museum visit experiences. One chapter discussed the use of a large, unstructured space devoted to white legos, where users spent exorbitant amounts of time playing, redesigning, and engaging socially with others.
Totally loving this interactive web scavenger hunt for free tickets at the SAM! It has a little bit of a ‘Golden Ticket’ effect ala Charlie & the Chocolate Factory – totally renewing the sense of the quintessential treasure hunt and all of the associated feelings of being wanderlusty and childlike no matter your age! A beautiful example of simple, well-designed participatory experiences.
I like it because: SAM carefully planted a way to get visitors to re-visit them – in several different ways. They’re using their Twitter page to advertise clues on their Facebook page, to then get visitors to visit the physical museum. Different access points will work better for different people, and this allows them to reach a wider audience. From the patron point of view, visitors are able to see the wide reach the SAM has on their community and beyond it: they’ll see failed attempts to find the tickets, interpretations of the clues being retweeted, & people in the museum casually (or frantically) searching to score the free tix!
This simple message has created a dynamic, multifaceted social experience and simulatneously broken down the traditional museum space from a formal, ridged, high-brow space to one of play and discovery.
Recently saw a temp. exhibit at the Toledo Museum of Art called Small Worlds.
The exhibit was quaint, and stuck with me because it did such a fantastic job at incorporating technology in the right way: an interactive way. The exhibit is perched on philosophical statements explaining the reality of our humanity’s small-size in comparison with the grander scale of the universe. To bring it into perspective, the exhibit has chosen tiny dioramas and displays that bring humans’ smaller scale to light, allowing us to see our ‘ourselves’ with distant eyes.
[the exhibit] brings together intricate, charming, disquieting, and thoughtful works of art on the smallest of scales. Each of the engaging works creates an intimate space or environment and shows scenes which are familiar, but perhaps slightly askew. – Exhibit description from the museum website
Smartphones can be incorporated into the experience – in fact, they have to: Some of the dioramas can only be seen with bright light or cameras pointed directly through a tiny hole into a house or tiny structure to see the detail inside. It’s brilliant because it requires interaction. And, while you have your phone out, you can also scan QR codes, tweet brief statements about your experience, & tag yourself alongside friends at the museum on facebook or another social media outlet.
Joe Fig's Self Portrait. Interior view. 2007.
Lori Nix's: Church, from The City series. Chromogenic print, 2005
I love that patrons are so engaged in this exhibit! What fun!
Short post, but worth pointing out:
A case study of a good example for highly accessible, visible, and legitimately helpful resources for visitors with disabilities is front-and-center in the Museum of Modern Art’s web presence. Double high-five, MoMA!
This is so important, and I commend them on implementing a variety of resources that can make the museum a more fun, rewarding, educational, and memorable experience for patrons of all types, shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and abilities!
The only thing that might have been even more helpful, is giving a phone number for more specific advice, pointing to times when the museum is less or more crowded (in general) for visitors who might have a preference one way or the other, and pointing these visitors to a way to organize group visits or to correspond with someone on setting up exactly what they need in order to visit & have the same experience as everyone else :)
On the overall, though – it’s a nice, full-frontal tackle of an issue that a lot of institutions and organizations forget about or gloss over! Hip-hip, hooray!