Thursday, March 6, 2008

CAM 2008 Session: Re-imagining the Museum in the 21st Century and Improving Exhibits

Carlos Ortega of BRC Imagination Arts mentioned in his presentation for "Re-imagining the Museum in the 21st Century" six methods for improving any museum exhibition. Here is my take on his six methods:

1. Emotional Before Intellectual
Museum visitors respond to emotional pleas and resonate more with feelings rather than ideas.

2. Visual Before Verbal
One of the strengths of exhibitions as educational tools is that multiple senses and (not to beat a dead horse) multiple intelligences can be appealed to. If visitors really wanted to do a lot of reading, they could have just stayed home and read a book. Besides, every picture is worth 1,000 words.

3. Tell Less, Intrigue More
This hearkens back to the timeless writing advice: "Tell less, show more." Again, museum exhibitions are not and should not be text books. Besides, what better way to draw in your audience and really make them care than by adding a little mystery, wonder and intrigue?

4. Think Big
This stems from one of the basic principles of brainstorming: start big; you can always get smaller and more focused later, but it's impossible to start small and then grow an idea larger. When dreaming up exhibits--or engaging in any form of brainstorming--let your imagination run wild and do not automatically say "No" to any idea just because it seems too outrageous, impractical or, well, big.

5. People Like People--Use Them
Visitors are more engaged, more attracted to stories about people. After all, personalizing and humanizing ideas and concepts makes them more relevant to the lives and experiences of visitors. So use the story of a particular individual to help relate your exhibit themes.

6. Shorter Attention Spans
It has been said many times: we live in a bite-sized, snack culture. You can blame MTV for this if you like, but at this point it really doesn't matter why people have short attention spans; it's only important to know that they do. If you can't convey what you need to in the first paragraph, your message will be lost. (Yes, I recognize the irony of my typing this with my proclivity for long posts.)

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