79. The Future of Hands-On Museum Exhibits with Paul Orselli
Welcome to museum archipelago. I'm in Elsner. Pews Eum archipelago guides you through the rocky landscape of museums. Each episode is never longer than fifteen minutes. So let's get started. The Modern Museum invites you to touch a rather it would if it wasn't closed due to the cove nineteen outbreak the screens inside the fossil hall at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC. Say Touch to begin to an empty room. The normally cacophonous hands on exhibits at the exploratorium in San Francisco. Sit eerily silent and the please touch museum in Philadelphia which is inviting you right. There in its name has presumably stopped running commercials. No need to keep your hands by your side here. Exhibits are rich in detail encouraging children to touch feel and see the way everyday things in our lives. Were to learn more and plan your visit. Go to please touch museum dot. Org Interactivity in museums in the form of hands on exhibits has been the trend since nineteen sixty two when Michael Spock director of the Boston Children's museum removed do not touch signs. From the display cases since then hands on exhibits have served as a way for museums to indicate their free of their paternalistic. Pasts knowledge doesn't come from on high but instead it comes from the visitors own curiosity investigation and play additionally in science centers. There were all these science content that lent themselves to visit goal and interactive demonstrations. And in a children's museum. They were very much concerned about sensory approaches engaging different types of learning styles. You know full body and kinesthetic when the bulk of your audience's preschoolers they can't read so you need to engage them in some other way. I think that's traditionally where interactive said lived in science centers. Children's museums this is Paul or Sally of Policy Workshop who knows a lot about science centers and children's museums. Hello my name's Paul or Selley. I'm the chief instigator at how polar satellite workshop. That's my company that specializes in museum exhibit development in consulting before I started running my own business and I worked inside museums. I sort of oscillated back and forth between the Science Center world and the Children's museum world but hands on exhibits spread further than science centers and children's museums. Art Museums History museums and natural history museums. To I think the reason the interactive approach expanded was that those other types of museums realized that this interactive immersive approach helped them reach a broader audience as lorrimore museums become more and more concerned with reaching a broader audience. One of the opportunities for them to explore or one of the tools in their toolbox are interactive exhibits and experiences. So the question is will visitor. Still want to use hands on exhibits. Once museums opened again is the trend that started in nineteen sixty two over as a museum designer and as a visitor the last thing I think I want to do immediately after museums open up again is to rush into a super crowded museum. Were sort of training people in the era of cove in nineteen and maybe future pandemics to socially distance and be careful about touching surfaces and objects and so on and so forth. Part of me wants to say especially as it relates to children's museums even before covert nineteen. It wasn't like they were the most rigorously cleaned places in the world. So the thing is it's kind of hard for my friends in the Museum. World with a straight face to say well. We're just GONNA be more rigorous with our cleaning schedules in our cleaning Richmond. I mean are you really going to trail after hundreds of visitors in a decent sized museum and sort of wipe down everything? They've touched after they touch that. One thing that we can see happening is that hands on exhibits will need to work a little harder to justify themselves during exhibit planning stages. He sees the end of so-called empty interaction. There are lots of good examples sir but but maybe there are also some examples of things that I would consider primarily empty interaction and a good example of that is a flipped label. You know here's one piece of text and information on a little flap or a door and to encounter the rest of the information or to get an answer to a question. You have to open up the flap. I mean that's interactive's in the sense that you had to do something to complete the informational circuit but that may be about the lowest level of interaction possible. When I teach graduate students the one thing I often say is the flip. Label is the last vestige jump on exhibit Scoundrel. You know it's like somebody who's now really. Somebody's not really putting in the the work you know they just sort of mailed it in no we can put a bunch of flipped labels here we can put a flip label here and then. That's something for kids to do. It's sort of a challenge you because now that I mentioned that about flip labels it's sort of like well could you actually design a flipped label experienced that is moral ended or engaging in terms of an intellectual sense and not just sort of this base level tattle or mechanical sense and. I'm sure you can. It's that when it's sort of misused or thoughtlessly used leeann results are bad. We can't just so glibly and unthinkingly employees something like a push button as we did before and I am honestly. I don't know that that's a bad thing. Because then it sort of forces us to think. Well how could we provide a satisfying experience in? What are the interfaces or other kinds of opportunities that we could provide them with you? Carry the content that will carry the emotional ideas that we want to carry across in episode. Twenty seven of this show. I get that. There's a certain type of content. That digital media is best suited to system simulation understanding concepts like climate change requires thinking about how complex systems interact with one. Another and computer simulations allow that type of inquiry. It's almost like a video game. Visitors tried to find the edge of the rules of the world except in an exhibit about climate change. Those rules are the rules of atmospheric and Oceanic physics. Right now the best understood and most common interface to digital media is a touchscreen. There is a certain segment of people who love their touchscreens. They're museum with touchscreens. They would do it. I'm agnostic touchscreens. In touch tables they're amazing tools but now we have to be realistic. So now you're gonNA bring somebody into a new museum and asked them to crowd around with several other people and poke at a touchscreen after what has just happened in the world. That's a that's a that's a toughie interfaces allow visitors to interact with digital media without a touchscreen and without requiring the vizier to touch anything with their hands. And if I think for example of a large floor projections system where you could even just tap with your foot to control some different parameters or different people may be on the different corners of this huge. You know large projection could be controlling in real time different parameters could imagine that actually being positive and a worthwhile experience that still takes into account a social aspect but also social distancing aspect as well as you know something that is sort of full body doesn't involve people touching their hands on that you don't have to sort of sanitized floor because people are tapping it with their feet and doing things in his most optimistic moments or sally hopes that the new approach to hands on exhibits can bring Universal Design Front and center flexibility or control with something like tapping of foot which could easily also be. Somebody wheeling their wheelchair over the active area too. I mean I think this brings the notion of universal design to a different place in a positive place. You know these these limitations in this triangulation between posts Cova nineteen perception and the notion of universal design. I'm going to be optimistic. Maybe that puts us in a better place in a more thoughtful place in more satisfying place alternately in terms of interactive experiences for visitors which. I suppose is really what the sort of all boils down to how supported our museums as institutions in various countries or parts of the world where they exist or how resilient are particular museums or museum structures that led them withstand the sort of events. But they're sally sees a silver lining an end to all those mini grocery store exhibits at children's museums. Finally be a good reason for all the children's museums in world to get rid of those horrible mini grocery store exhibit small room filled. With lots of tactile objects kids are just constantly pawing over and checking out and throwing into their many baskets and then they get put right back on the shelves already already. It's a gigantic entropy experiment. So if you're gonNA keep that experience after everyone has touched something. Hundreds of things. White and disinfect. Them all and then replace them for people to just do this. I think constraints are good thing for creativity and now we've just been thrown some public hell in perceptual constraints. We have to think about that because certainly our visitors are going to be thinking about that. If we don't show that at least we're sensitive to that our visitors could rightfully think that we are insensitive. Not only to those design constraints in those design considerations but insensitive to them as people who want to have fun and want to be safe if you haven't checked out club archipelago now is a great time. My favorite episode of Our Museum Movie Review Series Archipelago at the movies is now completely free. Join Rebecca we've seen and I as we break down two thousand four national treasure discussing the tropes of museum films now museum. 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