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  • 1.  Open space for groups to gather in an exhibit

    Posted 07-24-2019 09:41 AM
    I am thinking about leaving a large open-ish space in an exhibit to encourage groups of people to gather in that area. I am looking for examples of exhibits that tried something like this to learn from.  I would love to see what worked, and what didn't work.  

    It is important to me that the area still be part of the exhibit, not a closed off room next to the exhibit.  The space needs to be effective with or without people gathering in it.  It needs to be so inviting and irresistible people will want to go there.  The space could be used for programing, field trips, and other planned group activities.  I would like to attempt a space compelling enough it might build a group organically.  

    If you have examples I would love to hear about them or even better see photos.  

    Jeni O'Malley
    Sr. Exhibit Designer
    Minnesota Historical Society
    Saint Paul MN

  • 2.  RE: Open space for groups to gather in an exhibit

    Posted 07-25-2019 10:35 AM
    Edited by Melanie Greenaway 07-25-2019 10:35 AM
    Hi Jeni,

    We often leave open spaces in exhibits for groups to gather for programmed activities but haven't seen it done in a way that encourages gathering outside of programming events. Interesting idea. I would think that seating would be a great attraction. This is a missing component in so many exhibit spaces. It would send a strong signal that guests are encouraged to hang around and enjoy the surroundings.

    Would love to hear how it turns out! Best of luck.

    Melanie Greenway
    Double Dare Design

    Melanie Greenaway
    Exhibit Designer
    Double Dare Design
    North Vancouver BC

  • 3.  RE: Open space for groups to gather in an exhibit

    Posted 07-26-2019 10:38 AM
    Hello Jeni,
    Our education department uses such spaces for their programs.  Often they will take groups of folks to different areas of the gallery, stopping at  various exhibits to discuss them. We consider that in the design process and leave room for that to happen.  I've noticed that regular visitors seem to gravitate to those spaces, especially if they're travelling in large-ish groups.  
    Years ago while visiting museums with my then very pregnant wife, we noticed that most museums don't provide enough places to sit and rest.  Since that time, I've always tried to incorporate seating devices, and we'll often leave old ladder-back chairs in strategic spots for people to rest on. 
    Whenever we plan a video as part of an exhibit, we try to build in a bench or seating feature, often disguised as part of the exhibit.  A pile of crates at a comfy sitting level in a train station, period inspired benches in front of a slide show, or a church pew in front of a video in a religious themed exhibit.  All that to say, if you want folks to linger and enjoy, give 'em a place to light down and rest a while, and give them something to look at, a reason to stay. This can be worked into the exhibit theme with a little creativity.
    Hope this helps,

    Curtis Morris
    Exhibits Manager
    Shiloh Museum of Ozark History
    Springdale AR

  • 4.  RE: Open space for groups to gather in an exhibit

    Posted 08-01-2019 06:15 PM
    We have a "Reflection Circle" in our semi-permanent exhibit -- see pix below. (Originally it had a projection of water flowing around the rock in the center, with accompanying sounds, but we abandoned that when the projector bulb died and we couldn't get the lift into the space to change it.) People definitely use this space to sit and rest, chat, wait for someone else to be done reading something, check their phones while their kids romp around, etc. And our school tours gather in that space for sure. Ironically, I think we will lose the reflection circle when we update the gallery in a year or two. I'd say it's been a success, though!

    Mikala Woodward
    Exhibit Developer
    Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience
    Seattle WA

  • 5.  RE: Open space for groups to gather in an exhibit

    Posted 08-27-2019 05:00 PM
    Edited by Randal Powell 08-27-2019 05:47 PM
    Hi Mikala,

    I think the design of the "Reflection Circle" is awesome. It would be a bummer to see it go away. If you're still interested in returning the projector to service in the exhibit, I might have a solution for your projector access conundrum.

    See if you can rent an indoor type rolling scaffold. As in the example listed below, it can "straddle" the rock and provide a working platform directly above it (where I assume the projector to be). You can rent or buy them through many home improvement stores or scaffold rental businesses.

    Here is a rental example from Home Depot (you'll need to select a local store to get their rental pricing):

    They also sell scaffolding, with prices starting at $200 for a basic one-level scaffold with wheels (similar to the rental example).

    I hope this helps!

    Randal Powell
    Multimedia Artist/Developer
    San Diego CA

  • 6.  RE: Open space for groups to gather in an exhibit

    Posted 08-02-2019 11:47 AM
    Hi Jeni,
    My recollection of one brilliant exhibit gathering space is in your back yard, at The Science Museum of Minnesota's Race: Are we so different? A space seamlessly built into the exhibit that encouraged folks of all backgrounds to gather and talk like they would in a neighborhood.
    Place to gather in exhibit

    We also included a simple sitting/reading area that we called the 'Labyrinthian Library' in our Mazes & Brain Games exhibit. It's a great place for parents or kids to take a break, read, focus on a puzzle or wait while others continue to explore the exhibit.
    Mazes & Brain Games

    Kelly Fernandi
    President/Creative Director
    Minotaur Mazes
    Seattle WA

  • 7.  RE: Open space for groups to gather in an exhibit

    Posted 08-27-2019 05:46 PM
    Edited by Randal Powell 08-27-2019 05:49 PM
    Hi Jeni,

    I love Mikala's "Reflection Circle" example. It seems to have all of the elements you want to include in your own "open space", and is very nicely designed. To me, the rock in the center with the video projection is a wonderfully low key visual and auditory enticement for visitors to sit in the circle. While thematically connected to the exhibit, it's also not an "in your face" display - a very nice balance. And of course the circular seating provides an opportunity for visitors to interact with one another (should they choose to do so).

    Likewise the "reading steps" in the SMM "Race" exhibit. Again, it's very nicely integrated into the exhibit, while not overtly calling attention to itself. Although it doesn't provide a direct face-to-face orientation like a circle, having a nice wide set of steps for people to share provides a common space that supports side-by-side interaction. The steps also provide terraced seating for group presentations.

    I have seen similar arrangements as shown in the "Labyrinthian Library" example. These arrangements, with a simple low table at the center, allow visitors opportunities for relaxation, interaction, and deeper engagement with the subject when the tabletop offers books or other exhibit-related materials for perusal. This approach strikes me as a basic, flexible, inexpensive, and all-around dependable choice to achieve your desired ends.

    While each of these styles nicely demonstrates an area with clustered seating for visitors, to me, the key element to fostering visitor interactivity is some sort of "anchor", which entices people to gather in that space. My suggestion would be to thematically focus that anchor and use it to encourage further interaction.

    It might be a digital interface, like a touch screen tabletop, or a physical "casino wheel" that encourages people to spin it. Whether digital or mechanical, it would relate to the exhibit content - and rather than "state facts" it would pose questions and promote engagement between the visitors gathered around it. For example, it might take a visitor's input (spin or screen tap) and then present an exhibit-related question - but encourage them to ask the person to their right or left for their personal response.

    Make it fun: Ask about noteworthy history and individuals, obscure but interesting history and individuals, and of course local mythology!

    A digital interface (essentially just a website, hosted on the device itself) might allow a group of individuals to be "polled" for their responses to a particular question or issue. Collaborative group input might be required to "address a challenge" (e.g. How to provide public utilities, based on technology of the time). A web-based digital interface also provides the flexibility to have different functions (tailored for specific group types) accessed on the same display device, along with easily updated or changed content.

    Hope this helps...

    Randal Powell
    Multimedia Artist/Developer
    San Diego CA

  • 8.  RE: Open space for groups to gather in an exhibit

    Posted 08-28-2019 04:28 PM
    We also use ground corncob. As added bonuses it absorbs liquid very quickly in case of (ahem) accidents AND it's compostable!

    Kate McNeece
    Facilitator, Smead Discovery Center
    Cleveland Museum of Natural History
    Cleveland OH