Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Student Exhibit Prototypes

If you could make any kind of exhibit for the Hempsted house what would it be?

Got an idea?  Great!

You need to make it in the next three hours. Here is some foam core, markers, string, paper, and other stuff let’s see what you can do.

That was the charge we gave the Writers Block students at an exhibit prototype session we developed for them earlier this summer. At that point, they had spent time in different kinds of museums and they were very familiar with the content of the Hempsted House. What would they come up with?  

I have done this workshop with museum professionals as a way to get them to quickly think through some of the implications for creating more visitor focused exhibits, using family learning criteria such as PISEC and prototyping ideas. After making a foam core exhibit, groups typically present to each other, find out what works and what doesn’t, and make changes to their exhibit.

My goals for the students were very different. I want to see what kinds of materials they would want to interact with and to hear what content interested them the most.

Here are some clips of the students describing their exhibits:

The students created a variety of prototype exhibits:
  • Two board games
  • Two model houses
  • A comic book
  • A newspaper about ghost sightings
  • A display of some of the pages of the Hempsted diary
  • A poster/display that asked visitors to help determine if the house was a stop on the Underground Railway

The content that some of the students focused on were the questions or mysteries. The students did tie Adam Jackson and Joshua Hempsted together-even as spirits from the afterworld. The two house models were seen as guides to the house for the students that created them.

What was most interesting to me is how the student work differed from how adults have taken on this challenge in past workshops. When I ask adults to do this activity, they invariable want to add a computer screen. I did let the students know that this was an option, but none of the students’ exhibits included technology.  

Additionally, the students’ content was not linear while adults often try and tell a story or control the user experience – first you do this then that. Even the newspaper exhibit about ghosts was designed to be accessed randomly.

The students were also interested in unresolved questions and creepy places. Neat and clean both physically and intellectually is just boring for them, and, maybe, lacks authenticity. I think they have a point.

Robert Kiihne of RK Exhibits will be participating in the teen audience research this summer and will draft the exhibitions component of the interpretive plan in the fall.

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