Exhibit Resource List

The Great Big Museum Exhibit Resource List

The idea for this list started with Kathy Krafft as part of a conference presentation she gave several years ago. Shortly after, I offered to host the initial collection of sources on my website. Over time, the list expanded with my input and that of the late David Taylor, and was included in the "Handbook for Small Science Centers" book. Now, the Great Big Exhibit Resource List has become a way to keep track of "trusted sources" for museum exhibit designers, developers and fabricators, and is freely shared with colleagues. The GBER List continues to expand with input from museum "makers" from around the world. If you have additions, corrections, or comments, please send them to: paul@orselli.net and help this resource grow!

LOCAL SOURCES

1. Visit your local stores, and set up accounts; you may get contractor’s rates.

Check out plumbing and electrical and hardware and lumber and paint supply stores. Sometimes places like plumbing supply stores will let you behind the counters to look in their bins. Most stores are very supportive of local non-profit organizations, and enjoy the challenges of helping you when you are doing weird things in building exhibits.

2. Find out when it is quiet to get extra suggestions—not first thing in the morning when contractors are getting the parts they need for the day.

3. Never categorize or stereotype your stores—in exhibit fabrication you may well find what you need at strange, unexpected places. So visit, and see what is in stock at auto supply places (12 volt fans for your hand-powered generator, for instance) floor covering, fabric stores, office supply places, etc.

THE BIG THREE NATIONAL SOURCES

(If you don’t have these catalogs, get them! These suppliers have local branches throughout the country. Check the phone book or the website to locate your nearest outlet. Note: Addresses and telephone numbers often change! Use websites to confirm contact information.)

McMaster-Carr: www.mcmaster.com 3500 pages of hardware, plumbing (including clear PVC pipe and fittings), electrical, materials (metal, plastics, etc. delivered the next day usually. AMAZING collection.

Grainger: www.grainger.com

MSC: www.mscdirect.com

 

ASSISTIVE DEVICES

Enabling Devices: www.enablingdevices.com
385 Warburton Avenue
Hastings-on-Hudson, NY 10706
(800) 832-8697

Flaghouse: www.flaghouse.com
601 FlagHouse Drive
Hasbrouck Heights, NJ 07604
(800) 793-7900

Maxi-Aids: www.maxiaids.com
42 Executive Blvd.
Farmingdale, NY 11735
(800) 522-6294

Patterson Medical: www.sammonspreston.com
4 Sammons Court
Bolingbrook, IL 60440
(630) 226-1300

Special Needs Toys: www.specialneedstoys.com/usa/
4537 Gibsonia Road
Gibsonia, PA15044
(800) 467-6222

 

BOOK BINDING

Perma-Bound: www.perma-bound.com
617 E.Vandalia Road,
Jacksonville, Illinois 62650
(800) 637-6581

San Val Incorporated: www.sanval.com
895 Frisco Street
Steelville, MO 65565
(800) 325-4465

 

CHEMICALS AND LAB EQUIPMENT

Cole-Palmer: www.coleparmer.com
625 East Bunker Court
Vernon Hills, Illinois 60061
(800) 323-4340

Fisher: www.fisherscientific.com
Liberty Lane
Hampton, NH 03842
(603) 926-5911

Flinn Scientific: www.flinnsci.com
P.O. Box 219
Batavia, IL 60510
(800) 452-1261

Sargent-Welch: www.sargentwelch.com
P.O. Box 5229
Buffalo Grove, IL 60089
(800) 727-4368

Sigma-Aldrich: Unusual chemicals.

 

DIGITAL AUDIO AND VIDEO PLAYBACK DEVICES

BrightSign: Digital signage solutions
12980 Saratoga Ave., Ste. D
Saratoga, CA 95070
(408) 852-9263

Eletech Electronics: www.eletech.com
16025 Kaplan Avenue
City of Industry, CA 91744
(626)333-6394

Stop & Listen: www.stoplisten.com
7515 Flint Road S.E.
Calgary, Alberta CANADA T2H 1G3
(800) 387-2365

Technovision - Custom sensors and controllers. www.technovision.com
933 Canada Ct.
City of Industry, CA 91748
(626) 839-1488

 

DIGITAL IMAGES AND PRINTING

Beyond Digital Print: www.beyonddigitalprint.com
6401 E. Rogers Circle
Boca Raton, FL
(561) 922-5250

Corbis: www.Corbis.com

Display Creatives: Pop-Up Displays and printing. www.displaycreatives.com
888-760-1612

Fotosearch Stock Photography: www.fotosearch.com
21155 Watertown Road
Waukesha, WI 53186
(262) 717-0740 (800)827-3920
(Also check out the sister site, www.canstockphoto.com)

Getty Images: www.Gettyimages.com

MegaPrint: Large format print specialists www.megaprint.com
800-590-7850

MorgueFile: www.morguefile.com Free images for your use in your creative work.

MVP Visuals: www.mvpvisuals.com
Suppliers of high-impact visuals and custom branded displays.

The Public Domain Project: www.pond5.com free Completely free public domain images and videos

Stella Color: www.stellacolor.com Sustainable Printing Solutions

Stockphoto.com: www.istockphoto.com

Shutterstock: www.shutterstock.com

Walsworth Printing and Publishing: www.walsworth.com
Printers of custom books and periodicals.

 

EDUCATIONAL AND CLASSROOM SUPPLIERS

(Visit your local schools- they have lots of catalogs!)

Acorn Naturalists: www.acornnaturalists.com
Good source of animal footprints and casts, plus lots of other biology and botany stuff.

Childcraft: www.childcrafteducation.com
P.O. Box 3239
Lancaster, PA 17604
(800) 631-5652

Creative Health Products: www.chponline.com Weight scales, other health products.
5148 Saddle Ridge Road
Plymouth, MI 48170
(800) 742-4478

Discount School Supply www.discountschoolsupply.com

Educational Innovations: www.teachersource.com
362 Main Avenue
Norwalk, CT 06851
(203) 229-0730

Edmund Scientific: www.scientificsonline.com Magnets, polarizing sheet, all kinds of science stuff.

Edmund Industrial Optics: www.edmundoptics.com lenses, optical parts.

ETA/Cuisenaire: www.etacuisenaire.com Math manipulatives, posters.
500 Greenview Court
Vernon Hills, IL 60061
(800) 875-9643

Haba: www.habausa.com

Health Edco: www.healthedco.com

Lakeshore: www.lakeshorelearning.com Early childhood materials.

Woodworks Ltd: www.craftparts.com
4521 Anderson Blvd.
Fort Worth, TX 76117
(817) 581-5230

 

ELECTRONICS

Adafruit Industries: www.adafruit.com
80 Nassau Street, #4C
New York, NY 10038
(646) 248-7882

Allied: www.alliedelec.com
7410 Pebble Drive
Fort Worth, Texas 76118

Anatek: www.anatekcorp.com Video and TV related electronics.
P.O. Box 1200
100 Merrimack Road
Amherst, NH 03031
(603)673-4342

BG Micro: www.bgmicro.com
3024 Lincoln Ct
Garland, Texas 75041
(800) 276-2206

Digi-key: www.digikey.com
River Falls, MN 56

Happ Controls: www.happcontrols.com Pushbuttons, pinball accessories, etc.
106 Garlisch Drive
Elk Grove, IL 60007
(888) BUY-HAPP

Hosfelt Electronics: www.hosfelt.com
2700 Sunset Blvd.
Steubenville, OH 43952
(888) 264-6464

Jameco: www.jameco.com
1355 Shoreway Road
Belmont, CA 94002
(800) 831-4242

MakerSHED: www.makershed.com DIY Kits + Tools + Books + Fun from the MAKE Magazine folks

Markertek: www.markertek.com Cameras, cables, tools, audio equipment.
Great source for video production equipment and unusual stuff.
812 Kings Highway PO Box 397
Saugerties, New York 12477
(800) 522-2025

Mouser: www.mouser.com
1000 North Main Street
Mansfield, Texas 76063
(800) 346-6873

Newark: www.newark.com
4801 N. Ravenswood
Chicago, IL 60640-4496
(773) 784-5100

Radio Shack: www.radioshack.com

Ramsey Electronics: www.ramseyelectronics.com
Good source of electronics kits that can be turned into exhibits.
590 Fishers Station Dr.
Victor, NY 14564
(800) 446-2295

Solid State Advanced Controls: www.ssac.com
Sometimes the only source for hard-to find electronic timers and other modules that do switching, current measuring, etc. generally for 120VAC circuits.

SparkFun Electronics: www.sparkfun.com
6175 Longbow Drive
Suite 200
Boulder, CO 80301
(303) 284-0979

String Pots: www.stringpot.com
String Potentiometers = Potentiometer + Spring-Loaded Pulley.

Supercircuits: www.supercircuits.com Video and security equipment.
One Supercircuits Plaza
Liberty Hill, Texas 78642

Tapeswitch: www.tapeswitch.com
100 Schmitt Boulevard
Farmingdale, NY 11735
(631) 630-0442

 

EXHIBIT RENDERING TOOLS

SketchUp: www.sketchup.com Excellent free rendering program.

 

EXTRUSIONS

80/20 Inc: www.8020.net "The Industrial Erector Set"
1701 South 400 East
Columbia City, IN 46725
(260) 248-8030

FlexPVC: www.flexpvc.com Amazing array of PVC shapes and fittings.
1-888-PVC-FLEX

MayTec: www.maytecinc.com
901 Wesemann Drive
West Dundee, IL 60118
(847) 429-0321

MicroRAX: www.microrax.com Miniature extruded aluminum t-slot framing
Twintec, Inc.
1510 Boundary Blvd., Suite 100
Auburn, WA 98001
(800) 979-9645

Octanorm: www.octanormusa.com
701 Interstate West Parkway
Lithia Springs, GA 30122
(800) 995-2995

Parker’s Industrial Profile Systems: http://bit.ly/e8RBYm
6035 Parkland Blvd.
Cleveland, OH 44124
(216) 896-3000

 

FAKE FOODS

Fake-Foods.com: www.fake-foods.com
204 North El Camino Real, #432
Encinitas, CA 92024

Hubert: www.hubert.com Display supplies.

Incredible Inedibles: www.incredibleinedibles.net

Iwasaki Images: www.iwasaki-images.com
630 Maple Ave.
Torrance, CA 90503
(800) 323-9921

Forbex: www.forbex.com Fake grass.

(Childcraft also sells inexpensive collections of fake foods.)

 

FIBERGLASS AND MOLDMAKING

Aircraft Spruce & Specialty: www.aircraft-spruce.com
Fiberglass supplies, Kevlar, aviation instruments, the entire world of aviation fasteners.
1-877-4-SPRUCE

Fiberglass Coatings: www.fgci.com (in St. Petersburg, FL) A great source for
fiberglassing supplies, casting resins, and knowledge.

3201 28th Street N.
St. Petersburg, FL 33713
(727) 327-8117

Fibre Glast: www.fibreglast.com
95 Mosier Pkwy Brookville, OH 45309
800-330-6368

Polytek: www.polytek.com Rubber moldmaking supplies, casting materials.

 

FLOORING

Gerbert Limited: www.gerbertltd.com Recycled flooring materials.

715 Fountain Ave.
P.O. Box 4944
Lancaster, PA 17604-4944
(800) 828-9461

Lees Carpets: www.leescarpets.com Many sustainable flooring choices. NeoFloor is especially good for children’s areas.

500 TownPark Lane
Suite #400
Kennesaw, GA 30144
(800) 523-5647

Pirelli Flooring: www.artigo.com Interesting flooring products.

 

FRAMING AND MOUNTING MATERIALS

Get Smart Products: www.pfile.com
Super cheap frames!

IKEA: www.ikea.com
It’s hard to find more attractive and inexpensive frames than those from IKEA.

Light Impressions: www.lightimpressionsdirect.com
P.O. Box 787
Brea, CA 92822
(800) 828-6216

Pictureframes.com: www.pictureframes.com
2103 Brentwood Street
High Point, NC 27263
(800) 332-8884

 

FURNITURE

ATD-AMERICAN: www.atd.com
135 Greenwood Ave.
Wyncote, PA 19095
(215) 576-1000

Community Playthings: www.communityplaythings.com
PO Box 2
Ulster Park NY 12487
(800) 777-4244

DEMCO: www.demco.com
P.O. Box 7488
Madison, WI 53707
(800) 962-4463

Gaylord Library Supplies: www.gaylord.com
Kid-sized furniture.
(800) 448-6160

Mockett: www.mockett.com
Hardware, pulls, wire grommets.

Smith System: www.smithsystem.com
PO Box 860415
Plano, Texas 75086
(800) 328-1061

Worthington Direct: www.worthingtondirect.com
6301 Gaston Ave., Suite 670
Dallas, TX 75214
(800) 599-6636

 

GEARS, CLUTCHES, SHAFTS

Atlanta Belting: www.atlbelt.com Conveyor belt-- smooth, textured.

Boston Gear: www.bostongear.com
14 Hayward Street
Quincy, MA 02171
(888) 999-9860

Emerson/Morse/Browning: www.emerson-ept.com
WM Berg: www.wmberg.com
499 Ocean Avenue
East Rockaway, NY 11518
(800)232-BERG

 

GLOW-IN-THE-DARK STUFF

ABET Laminati: www.abetlaminati.com Lumiphos laminate material.

Educational Innovations: www.teachersource.com Check out their glow-in-the-dark pigments.
362 Main Avenue
Norwalk, CT 06851
(203) 229-0730

Flinn Scientific: www.flinnsci.com Small sheets and paint.
P.O. Box 219
Batavia, IL 60510
(800) 452-1261

Glow Inc: www.glowinc.com

Hanovia: www.hanovia-uv.com
6 Evans Street
Fairfield, NJ 07083
(973) 651-5510

Jessup Manufacturing: www.globritesystem.com
2815 West Route 120
McHenry, IL 60051
(815) 385-6650

Shannon Luminous Materials: www.blacklite.com
304 A North Townsend
Santa Ana, CA 92703
(800) 543-4485

 

GRAVITY WELLS

Divnik International: www.SpiralWishingWells.com
321 Alexandersville Road
Miamisburg, Ohio 45342
(937) 384-0003

 

GREEN EXHIBITS MATERIALS

Build it Green: www.builditgreen.org

Environmental Home Store: www.environmentalhomestore.com
The Environmental Home Store
550 Carpenter Lane at Greene Street
Philadelphia, PA 19119
(215) 844-GREEN

Green Exhibits: www.greenexhibits.org

Center for Neighborhood Technology, Green building resources:
www.building.cnt.org

Yemm & Hart: www.yemmhart.com Recycled building materials.
1417 Madison
Marquand, MO 63655
(573) 783-5434

 

HARDWARE AND TOOLS

Ballew Saw and Tool: www.ballewsawandtool.com Sharpens saw blades, sells blades and bits.
325 S. Kimbrough
Springfield, MO 65806
(800) 288-7483

Carbide.com: www.carbide.com Router bits, etc.

Cherry Tree: www.cherrytree-online.com Wood balls, parts.
408 S Jefferson Street
Belmont, OH 43718
(800) 848-4363

Enco Tools: www.use-enco.com Tools, general selection & large tools.

Fastenal: www.fastenal.com Industrial and construction supplies.
2001 Theurer Blvd.
Winona, Minnesota 55987
(507) 454-5374

FastCap: www.fastcap.com Check out "speed tape".

Grizzly: www.grizzly.com Large and small tools, bits, supplies, wood samples.

Hafele: www.hafele.com
Huge assortment of hardware for furniture making.

Harbor Freight: www.harborfreight.com
Inexpensive tools ,variable quality on some brands.

JC Whitney: www.jcwhitney.com Automotive supplies.

Klingspor: www.klingspor.com
Woodworking: sandpaper in bulk (belts, drums, disks, sheets.)

Lee Valley: www.leevalley.com Woodworking tools, also cheap source for small neodymium magnets.
P.O. Box 1780
Ogdensburg, NY 13669
(800) 871-8158

Lehman’s: www.lehmans.com Old time tools, blacksmithing supplies.
One Lehman Circle
P.O. Box 321
Kidron, OH 44636
(888) 438-5346

Northern Tools: www.NorthernTool.com
2800 Southcross Drive West
Burnsville, Minnesota 55306
(800) 221-0516

Roberts Plywood: www.roberts-plywood.com Curved plywood, large wooden tubes.

Southco: www.southco.com Latches, cabinet hardware.

Tool Parts Direct: www.toolpartsdirect.com Parts for tools- with diagrams for identifying the part!
6620 F Street
Omaha, NE 68117
(866) 597-3850

West Marine: www.westmarine.com Marine supplies.

Woodcraft: www.woodcraft.com Tools and supplies.
(800) 535-4482

Woodworker's Supply: www.woodworker.com

 

LIGHTING AND LIGHTS

Bulbs.com: www.bulbs.com
40 Jackson Street
Worcester, MA 01608
(888) 455-2800

Bulbman: www.bulbman.com

Interlight: www.interlight.biz
7939 New Jersey Avenue
Hammond, IN 46323
(800) 743-0005

Topbulb: www.topbulb.com
5204 Indianapolis Boulevard
East Chicago, IN 46312
(866) TOP-BULB

UV SYSTEMS: www.uvsystems.com A great source for UV lighting and components.
16605 127th Avenue SE
Renton, WA 98058-5549
(425)228-9988

 

MAGNETS

Adams Magnetic: www.adamsmagnetic.com

Kling Magnetics: www.kling.com Magnetic Paint.
343 Rt. 295 - PO Box 348
Chatham, NY 12037
(518) 392-4000

Force Field: www.wondermagnet.com
2606 West Vine Dr.
Fort Collins, CO 80521
(877) 944-6247

 

METALS

McNichols: www.mcnichols.com Perforated sheet metal, steel grating.
5505 West Gray Street
Tampa, FL 33609-1007
(813) 282-3828 x 2100

Murphy-Nolan: www.murphynolan.com

OnlineMetals.com: www.onlinemetals.com Stocks and sells a variety of metals; including small orders
1138 W. Ewing Street
Seattle, WA 98119
(800) 704-2157

 

MISCELLANEOUS

Archie McPhee / Accoutrements: www.mcphee.com Wacky products!
2428 NW Market Street
Seattle, WA 98107
(206) 297-0240

Bry-Tech Distributors: www.bry-tech.com Upholstery Materials & Supplies
1143 Haines Street
Jacksonville, FL 32206
(800) 329-7283

Company Folders, Inc. www.companyfolders.com Folders and Presentation Materials
3297 Orchard Lake Rd, Suite 203
Keego Harbor, Michigan 48320
(248) 738-7600

Displays 2 Go: www.displays2go.com Small sign holders, stands, displays.
55 Broad Common Road
Bristol, RI 02809
(800) 572-2194

Engineered Etchings: www.engineeredetchings.com Etched granite and marble plaques and displays
Cookeville, Tennessee 38506
(931) 267-1542

Ecospheres: www.eco-sphere.com Self-contained ecosystem spheres.
4421 N. Romero Rd
Tucson, Arizona 85705
(800) 729-9870

Fake Earth: www.polypavement.com

Freund Cans: www.freundcontainer.com Containers of all sorts.
11535 S. Central Avenue
Alsip, IL 60803
(800)363-9822

Hobby Express: www.hobbyexpress.com

Hobby People: www.hobbypeople.net Small motors, controllers for models.

JML Direct Optics: www.jmloptical.com Parabolic mirrors.
76 Fernwood Ave.
Rochester, NY 14621
(585) 342-8900

Just Plastic Boxes: www.justplasticboxes.com Plastic boxes of all types.
2535 Bing Miller Lane
Urbana, IA 52345
800-736-0651

Library of Congress: American Environmental Photographs
www.memory.loc.gov

LED Light Stick Art: www.subliminaryartworks.com
Bill Bell
139 Davis Ave
Brookline MA 02445
(617) 277-4719
billbell@subliminaryartworks.com

M. Jacobs & Sons www.mjacobandsons.com All sorts of bottles and jars.
31700 Middlebelt Rd., Suite 165
Farmington Hills, MI 48334
(248) 737-9440

Oriental Trading Company: www.orientaltrading.com Cheap multiples. Craft and party items.

PilotVials.com www.Pilotvials.com Clear and amber glass vials, plastic jars for all your packaging needs.
2965 Valley Vista Drive
Sedona, AZ 86351
(928) 254-0533

Radiant Manufacturing www.radiantmfg.com Giant Sequins and "flutter discs" for Air Cannon exhibits.
(877) 787-8880

Rhode Island Novelty: www.rinovelty.com
19 Industrial Lane
Johnston, RI 02919
(800) 528-5599

Sand & Solutions: www.waupacasand.com
Rubber mulch. (For clean “sandboxes” and playgrounds.)
(715) 258-8566

Scent Machines: www.scentair.com

Stella Color: www.stellacolor.com Images on carpet; interesting mural wallpaper.

Strapworks: www.strapworks.com
All kinds of webbing, strapping ropes, etc.
3170 Elmira Rd.
Eugene, OR 97402
(541) 741-0658

Toysmith: www.toysmith.com

Ultrasonic Mistmakers: www.mainlandmart.com
MainlandMart.com
2535 Durfee Ave.
El Monte, CA 91732
(626) 258-2928

 

PLASTICS

AIN Plastics: www.ainplastics.com

Curbell Plastic: www.curbell.com
7 Cobham Drive
Orchard Park, NY 14127
(716) 667-3377

Outwater Plastics: www.outwater.com
Weird architectural stuff, tee molding in all sizes and shapes and colors, etc.
4 Passaic Street, Wood-Ridge, N.J. 07075
1-888-OUTWATER (688-9283)

United States Plastic: www.usplastic.com
Lots of plumbing parts, tubing.
1390 Neubrecht Rd.
Lima, Ohio 45801-3196
1-800-809-4217

 

SAFETY RESOURCES AND MATERIALS

MSDS on line: www.msdssearch.com

Arts, Crafts & Theater Safety: www.artscraftstheatersafety.org

 

SCIENCE MATERIALS SUPPLIERS

Acorn Naturalists: www.acornnaturalists.com
Good source of animal footprints and casts, plus lots of other biology and botany stuff.

American 3B Scientific: www.a3bs.com
2189 Flintstone Drive, Unit O
Tucker, GA 30084
(770) 492-9111

Arbor Scientific: www.arborsci.com
PO Box 2750
Ann Arbor, MI 48106
(800) 367-6695

Ben Meadows: www.benmeadows.com Forestry/Outdoors supplies, surveying equipment
P.O. Box 5277
Janesville WI USA 53547
(800) 241-6401

C&A Scientific: www.cnascientific.com
7241 Gabe Court
Manassas, VA 20109
(703) 330-1413

Carolina Biological: www.carolina.com Microscope slides, fruit flies and
other critters, lots more.

Copernicus Toys: www.copernicustoys.com
1012 C Druid Ave
Charlottesville VA 22902
(800) 424-3950

Kelvin Scientific: www.kelvin.com
280 Adams Blvd.
Farmingdale, NY 11735
(800) 535-8469

NASCO: www.enasco.com A site for multiple supply catalogs.

PASCO: www.pasco.com Excellent physics supplies and materials.
10101 Foothills Blvd.
Roseville, CA 95747
(800) 772-8700

Pitsco: www.pitsco.com Kits, meters, etc.
915 E. Jefferson
P.O. Box 1708
Pittsburg, KS 66762
(800) 835-0686

Science Kit & Boreal Laboratories: www.sciencekit.com

SEIDAM: www.seidam.com
Kelvin Building
University of Glasgow
University Avenue
Glasgow, SCOTLAND
G12 8QQ
+44 (0)141 330 2047

Steve Spangler Science: www.stevespanglerscience.com
4400 South Federal Blvd
Englewood, CO 80110
(800) 223-9080

Ward’s Natural Science: www.wardsci.com
PO Box 92912
Rochester, NY 14692
(800) 962-2660

 

SCROLLING IMAGE SIGNS AND LIGHTBOXES

Bowman Displays: www.bowmandisplays.com
648 Progress Avenue
Munster, IN 46321
(800) 922-9250

Dick Blick: www.dickblick.com
P.O. Box 1267
Galesburg, IL 61402
(800) 828-4548

Warwick Products Company: www.warwickproducts.com Store fixtures, displays.

 

SURPLUS SUPPLIERS

American Science and Surplus: www.sciplus.com Weird collection of small parts.
P.O. Box 1030
Skokie, IL 60076
(847) 647-0011

Herbach and Rademan (H&R): www.herbach.com Cheap motors, blowers, power supplies etc.
353 Crider Avenue
Moorestown, NJ 08057
(800) 848-8001

Retail Closeout Mall: www.retailcloseoutmall.com
11632 Frankstown Road #310
Pittsburgh, PA 15235
(412)734-5849

Surplus Shed: www.surplusshed.com
1050 Maidencreek Road
Fleetwood, PA 19522
(877) 7-SURPLUS

 

THEATRICAL SUPPLIES/FABRICS

Ahh.biz: www.ahh.biz Specialized Textile Outfitters.
American Home & Habitat
Route 4, Box 86
Squires, MO 65755
(417) 683-1838

Dazian Fabrics: www.dazian.com Theatrical and Outdoor Fabrics

Fred Krieger Fabrics: www.fredkriegerfabrics.com
420 Jericho Turnpike
Jericho, NY 11753
(800) 892-8142
Pro Sound & Stage Lighting: www.pssl.com Audio, video, party lights.
11070 Valley View Street
Cypress, CA. 90630
1-800-268-5520

Rosco: www.rosco.com Specialized lighting fixtures and gels (colored mylar sheets), hardware.

Rose Brand: www.rosebrand.com Theatrical Supplies

Sam Ash: www.samash.com Musical Instruments, Sound equipment.
(800) 4-SAMASH

Seattle Fabrics: www.seattlefabrics.com Theatrical and Outdoor Fabrics
Seattle, WA. 98103
(206) 525-0670

Sew What?: www.sewwhatinc.com Custom-sewn theatrical drapes and fabrics
1978 Gladwick Street
Rancho Dominguez, CA 90220
(310) 639-6000

ExhibiTricks blog

  • Add Numberphile to Your Creative Toolbox!



    I've recently fallen down the rabbit hole of Numberphile, a great math-oriented website and related YouTube channel filled with all sorts of clever ideas that should be of interest to educators and exhibit designers alike.

    One of the things I like best about the Numberphile videos is that each mathematician is so enthusiastic, you can't help but get excited and interested in things like "circle inversions" that you might not have even given a passing thought to before.

    While I've honestly enjoyed every Numberphile presenter I've seen, some are particular standouts.

    Tadashi Tokieda often relates his math talks to toys or familiar materials.  Here's a video (embedded below or on YouTube) that shows all the fun topological ways to play with a strip of paper, some paper clips, and rubber bands.



    Hannah Fry is a funny presenter who often ties the mathematics of game theory to real life situations like winning Rock, Paper, Scissors (video below or on YouTube) or Secret Santa, or making the best online dating profile.



    If you are a bit "math shy" or even an avowed mathphobe, click on over to Numberphile!  I'm sure you will find something to pique your interest there.



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  • Can Laughing Cups Help Libya?



    My work brings me to many unexpected places around the world, but I just returned from what may be my most interesting trip so far --- working with folks from Libya, but in Tunisia!

    So how did I end up in Tunisia?  Earlier this year, I was contacted by Professor Susan Kane of Oberlin College.  Susan told me about her project through the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, U.S. Department of State to work with Libyan educators, scout leaders, and museum folks.
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    The point of this particular project being to bring together Libyans from different parts of the country who work with young people to help foster national reconciliation, and to create a greater appreciation for the importance of Libyan cultural heritage --- both tangible (think historic structures and archaeological sites) as well as intangible (things like music, dance, and poetry.)

    Now we need to stop the story to fill in a couple of important details.  First off, given shifting events and unrest in Libya over the past few years, our U.S. Embassy to Libya is currently located in neighboring Tunisia, not Libya (see map below.) So that's why a State Department workshop with participants from Libya was happening in Tunisia.  (Also U.S. citizens are currently advised not to travel to Libya.)



    Secondly, why ask ME to give this workshop that, at least partially, concerned itself with cultural heritage and Libyan national reconciliation?  Several kind museum colleagues pointed Susan in my direction, and together we crafted a plan to share my ideas about open-ended activities for children, quick and cheap exhibit prototyping, and developing pop-up or temporary museums in schools and community centers with the workshop participants.

    After the initial excitement of traveling to Tunisia wore off, I honestly began to worry --- would my information and activities with simple materials actually be useful to Libyans concerned with reconciliation and cultural heritage? I continued to think about this from the time I started planning activities and gathering materials in the U.S. all the way until I arrived at the hotel on the outskirts of Tunis where the workshops would be held.

    Fortunately, the Libyan men and women in my workshop were very enthusiastic and welcoming.  It was clear (once we got into the groove with our helpful translators!) that everyone at the workshop was hungry for activities to share with the students, scouts, and children they worked with.  I deliberately chose topics and activities that I thought could be used in a wide range of situations.



    For example, I introduced a number of activities that dealt with the topic of "Structures."  In dealing with open-ended design challenges involving structures we could easily discuss History, Architecture, and Engineering among other subjects.  We created bridges and buildings out of simple supplies like paper, tape, straws, and paper clips.  The workshop participants excitedly shared their own embellishments for activities with each other, and also remarked on the symbolic value of a topic like "bridges" when discussing with children how to work together to create a more united Libya.  (Given the current political climate, maybe I should introduce more bridge-building activities for my workshops in the United States!)



    Together with the workshop participants we spent one day focused on how to develop open-ended design activities and another on testing and prototyping ideas. Along the way, I also introduced fun activities like "Laughing Cups" that could quickly engage children and then lead into a broader discussion of cultural heritage topics like Music. (My new Libyan friends in the workshop called these sorts of activities Mr. Paul's "tricks.")

    Our last workshop day together dealt with the development of Pop-Up (or temporary) Museums. These sorts of temporary displays or exhibitions are great ways to engage with communities and lend themselves to being set up inside non-museum spaces like schools or community centers (or even under tents outside.)  So we ended our workshop by creating a Pop-Up Museum!



    Several workshop participants brought objects from home to share for the Pop-Up Museum, while others put displays together from materials available on-site.  One of my favorite examples of "instant exhibitry" was from Intisar, the director of the Children's Museum in Tripoli, who created a display about the different types of historical tombs found in Libya (clay for lower class, glass for upper class) using leftover chicken bones from lunch and an ashtray from her hotel room!



    As with every class or workshop I lead, I learned a lot from the participants and our work together. Perhaps foremost in Tunisia, I learned that the Libyans I met (like all people around the world) want a better life for their children, and a safe and secure place to live.

    So can Laughing Cups help Libya? In the hands of the thoughtful and dedicated people I met in Tunisia, I'm sure, in a small way, they can.



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  • Design Inspiration: Paddy Bloomer



    Paddy Bloomer is an artist inventor explorer and plumber based in Belfast. 

    He has done projects in sewers and derelict factory chimneys, alleyways, and lamp posts. 


    He has a knack for making interesting installations that either explode or are slightly dangerous (as you can see in the videos above and below.)



    It's really cool stuff worth checking out on his website or YouTube channel.


    Don't miss out on any ExhibiTricks posts! It's easy to get updates via email or your favorite news reader. Just click the "Sign up for Free ExhibiTricks Blog Updates" link on the upper right side of the blog.

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  • Add "Office Supply Ninja" to Your Exhibit Prototyping Resume



    Thomas Edison said,  "To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk."  His reference was to inventing, but he could have also been speaking about prototyping.

    To me, prototyping is an iterative process that uses simple materials to help you answer questions about the physical aspects of your exhibit components (even labels!) early on in the development process.  

    As I mentioned in a previous post, it's always a bit discouraging to hear museum folks say "we just don't have the time/the money/the space/the materials to do prototyping ..."  (By then I'm usually thinking "So how is setting an ill-conceived or malfunctioning exhibit component into your museum, because you didn't prototype, saving time or money?"  But I digress...)

    Maybe it's just me, but I can't imagine anyone fabricating an exhibit component without trying out a quick-and-dirty version first.  So in today's post I thought I'd lay out the simple steps I use to show how quickly and inexpensively prototyping can be integrated into the beginning of any exhibit development process, and how you too can become an Office Supply Ninja!


    STEP ONE:  Figure out what you want to find out.

    In this case, a client wanted me to come up with an interactive version of a "Food Web" (the complex interrelationship of organisms in a particular environment, showing, basically, what eats what.)  We brainstormed a number of approaches (magnet board, touch screen computer) but finally settled on the notion of allowing visitors to construct a "Food Web Mobile" with the elements being the various organisms found (in this particular case) in a mangrove swamp.  The client was also able to provide me with a flow chart showing the relationships between organisms and a floor plan of the area where the final exhibit will be installed.

    The two initial things I wanted to test or find out about from my prototype were:

    1) Did people "get" the idea conceptually?  That is, did they understand the relationships and analogies between the Food Web Mobile and the actual organisms in the swamp?

    2) Could they easily create different sorts of physical arrangements with the mobile that were interesting and accurate?


    STEP TWO: Get out your junk!



    As in the Edison quote above, it helps to have a good supply of "bits and bobs" around to prototype with.  You might not have the same sorts of junk that I've gathered up over years in the museum exhibit racket, but everyone should have access to basic office supplies (stuff like paper, tape, markers, index cards, scissors, etc.)  And really that's all you need to start assembling prototypes. (The imagination part is important, too.)


    STEP THREE: Start playing around with the pieces ...


    Before I even start assembling a complete rough mechanism or system I like to gather all the parts together and see if I like how they work with each other.  In the case of the Food Web Mobile prototype, I used colored file folders to represent different levels of organisms.  I initially made each color/level out of the same size pieces, but then I changed to having each color be a different size.  Finally, I used a hole punch to make the holes, and bent paper clips to serves as the hooks that would allow users to connect the pieces/organisms in different ways.


    STEP FOUR:  Assemble, then iterate, iterate, iterate!


    This is the part of the prototyping process that requires other people beside yourself.  Let your kids, your co-workers, your significant other, whoever (as long as it's somebody beside yourself) try out your idea. Obviously the closer your "testers" are to the expected demographic inside the museum, the better --- ideally I like to prototype somewhere inside the museum itself. 

    Resist the urge to explain or over-explain your prototype.  Just watch what people do (or don't do!) with the exhibit component(s).  Take lots of notes/pictures/video.  Then take a break to change your prototype based on what you've observed and heard, and try it out again.  That's called iteration.

    In this case, I saw right away that the mobile spun and balanced in interesting ways, but that meant that the labels would need to be printed on both sides of the pieces.  Fortunately, my three "in-house testers" (ages 6, 11, and 13) seemed to "get" the concept of "Food Webs" embedded into the Mobile interactive, and started coming up with interesting physical variations on their own.

    For example, I initially imagined people would just try to create "balanced" arrangements of pieces on the Mobile.  But, as you can see below, the prototype testers enjoyed making "unbalanced" arrangements as well (which is fine, and makes sense conceptually as well.)   Also, we discovered that people realized that they could hang more than one "organism piece" on the lower hooks (which was also fine, and also made sense conceptually.)



    STEP FIVE: Figure out what's next ... even if it's the trash can!

    Do you need to change the label, or some physical arrangement of your prototype?  Using simple, inexpensive materials makes that easy.

    Do you just need to junk this prototype idea?  Using simple, inexpensive materials makes it easier to move on to a new idea, too. (Much more easily than if you had spent weeks crafting and assembling something out of expensive materials from your workshop...)  It's not too surprising to see people really struggle to let a bad exhibit idea go, especially if they've spent several weeks putting it together. Quick and cheap should be your watchwords early on in the prototyping process.

    In this case, I sent photos of the paper clip prototype and a short video showing people using the Food Web Mobile to the client as a "proof of concept."  They were quite pleased, and so now I will make a second-level prototype using materials more like those I expect to use in the "final" exhibit (which I'll update in a future post.)  Even so, I will still repeat the steps above of gathering materials, assembling pieces, and iterating through different versions with visitors. 

    I hope you'll give this "office supply ninja" version of exhibit prototyping a try for your next project!

    If you do, send me an email and I'd be happy to show off the results of ExhibiTricks readers prototyping efforts.


    Don't miss out on any ExhibiTricks posts! It's easy to get updates via email or your favorite news reader. Just click the "Sign up for Free ExhibiTricks Blog Updates" link on the upper right side of the blog.

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  • Does Your Makerspace Really Need a 3D Printer?



    I have a new article out in the latest issue of the Association of Children's Museums journal, Hand to Hand.

    The theme of the issue is "The Maker Movement" and my article is entitled "Do You Really Need a 3D Printer, and Other Essential Questions You Need to Ask about a Museum’s Makerspace."

    You can download a PDF version of the article via the Free Exhibit Resources section of my POW! website, but here are a few excerpts about Makerspaces (and other design-focused spaces) that I shared in my article:

    • I love the idea of 3D printers, in a Jetsons/Sci-fi/World’s Fair type of way. The promise of using a tabletop device to create absolutely anything out of any material (even food!) is pretty amazing. The reality, however, is you can spend hours designing a widget the size of a quarter that then takes even more hours to print successfully on the 3D printer… only to often find out that it hasn’t. When they work, they’re magic, but they’re not that simple to operate.

    • Forming creative partnerships with makers in the communities around your museum can be mutually beneficial. This could be as simple as recruiting artists/tinkerers to showcase their work and how they make it to your visitors. You could also recruit retired tool and die makers, seamstresses, or NASA scientists.

    • The focus on flashy high-tech gadgets exemplifies how the development of makerspaces in organizations can be susceptible to a “Ready, Fire, Aim!” mentality. Makerspaces are perceived as cool and eminently fundable, but often museums start planning spaces and purchasing equipment (Laser Cutters! 3D Printers! Robot Kits!) without considering what a makerspace is all about, and what the qualities of the most successful spaces are.

    •  An unstaffed or unfacilitated makerspace is a wasted space. The best interactions in a good maker space will certainly involve staff and visitors learning together. Does the stuff (tool and materials) you provide help foster those human connections?

    •  Many makerspaces have adopted a rough, workshoppy, “toys for boys” aesthetic that can be off-putting for many people (male or female) who are unsure of their making skills and interests. Why not mix up the look and feel of different areas in your space so you don’t stop potential makers dead in their tracks as they peek through the door?

    I hope you'll download my entire article by clicking here, and also check out the ACM website to learn how to obtain the entire "Maker Movement" issue of Hand to Hand. 


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