Recent News

News about POW!

Exhibit Workshops in China

At the beginning of November 2017, Paul Orselli will be presenting a series of exhibition design and development workshops for ICOM China at The Palace Museum in Beijing.

 

"In Harms Way" Exhibition

POW! created interactive exhibit components for the "In Harm's Way" exhibition opening in October 2017 at The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook, NY.

 

ASTC Conference

Paul will be speaking at the Annual Conference of the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) in San Jose, California from October 21-24, 2017.
Follow this link for more information about the Conference Program.

 

The Children’s Museum in West Hartford

A new exhibit at the Children’s Museum in West Hartford, which caters to preschool and elementary school-aged children, has created an interactive exhibit ‘Dinosaurs in Your Backyard: A Portal to Past Worlds,’ premiered on Feb. 18, 2017. The dinosaur exhibit that opened to the public isn’t filled with reconstructed dinosaur skeletons to be seen and not touched.“The scenes are reflective, to the best of our knowledge, of what Connecticut, even West Hartford, might have been like millions of years ago,” said Paul Orselli, who designed the exhibit for The Children’s Museum.

 

Busy 2016 Conference Season!

Paul Orselli, principal of POW! is delighted to be an invited speaker at the 2016 conferences of the Association of Children's Museums and the Association of Science-Technology Centers.  Paul will also be a discussant for the symposium celebrating  the 25th anniversary of the MFA program in Museum Exhibition Planning + Design at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

 

DoSeum opens in San Antonio

One of the largest new Children’s Museum projects in the United States, DoSeum, has opened to great acclaim in San Antonio, Texas. POW! was happy to provide consulting, training, and staff development expertise to the project.
>> VIEW MORE

 

Muzeiko museum project opens in Sofia Bulgaria!

After many enjoyable years of being part of the primary project team for Muzeiko, POW! is delighted to announce that Bulgaria’s first Children’s Museum opened to the public on October 1st, 2015.  Here is a Google Maps walkthrough of the entire Muzeiko building and exhibits:
>> VIEW MORE

 

More Museum News and Views

Check out more of what’s going on in the museum biz, as well as exhibit tips and tricks of the trade on the ExhibiTricks blog:
>>VIEW MORE

ExhibiTricks blog

  • Discovering the Power of Podcasting at Museums: A Guest Post by Hannah Hethmon



    Hannah Hethmon is an independent museum consultant specializing in podcasts, social media, and other digital communication tools. She is the producer and host of Museums in Strange Places, an award-winning podcast about exploring the world through it’s the museums, and the author of Your Museum Needs a Podcast: A Step-By-Step Guide to Podcasting for Museums, History Organizations, and Cultural Nonprofits. She recently completed a Fulbright Fellowship in Iceland, and currently lives in Warsaw, Poland.



    Discovering the Power of Podcasting at Museums



    Having just released a whole book dedicated to teaching museums, history organizations, and cultural nonprofits how to produce their own podcast in-house, I wanted to step back in this post and share my journey from casual podcast listener to museum podcast advocate. It was during this evolution that I saw how perfectly the medium of podcasting suits the needs of museums and how podcasts can help us in the ongoing effort to go from walled-off elite institutions to permeable community structures.


    My own podcasting journey started when I accepted a Fulbright Fellowship to spend nine-months in Iceland studying the Icelandic language and researching Icelandic museums. I had been working at the American Association for State and Local History, and in my capacity as Marketing Coordinator, I was constantly thinking about ways to connect with AASLH members digitally and how the engagement techniques I was learning and testing could be used by our member institutions to expand their mission beyond their physical space.




    As I thought about how I would begin my investigation of Icelandic museum culture, I decided it would be practical to buy a recorder so I could easily transcribe my conversations later. It was only a short mental hop from there to completely discarding the idea of formal research; instead, I would start a podcast that explored the museums of Iceland through interviews and storytelling. Though I didn’t realize it just yet, I would be collecting and interpreting the museums of Iceland, rather like they were doing with their own communities and areas of focus.


    By the end of my time in Iceland, I had recorded episodes at twenty-one Icelandic museums for Museums in Strange Places. The most powerful stories I recorded were the stories of how these unique institutions were founded and the passionate people who made them a reality. I found the same when I recorded at twenty-two museums in Maryland for Season 2 of the podcast (coming late 2018). It’s not that these museums aren’t producing excellent exhibits and programs and tours; it’s that we, as a field, are not fully communicating to the public the incredible passion, dedication, and expertise that goes into even the smallest museum.




    When I visit museums to record, I can capture intimate portraits of a museum at work. I usually interview a high-level staff member, and they don’t just share what is on the walls. For example, when I visited the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Maryland, I got to speak with Katie Reichard, their Director of Programming. One moment really stood out to me: we were talking about their display on women who had secretly enlisted in the Civil War. The main panel speaks about one individual who was born with female anatomy but began dressing and presenting themselves as a boy/man in their early teens. It was only when they were sent to a nursing home in their old age that they were “discovered” to be a “woman” and forced to dress accordingly.


    Katie talked to me about the challenge of interpreting queer people in the past. In this conversation (and others), Katie’s passion for her work and the museum’s mission was unmistakable. The relevance of this discussion combined with Katie’s nuanced approach is the kind of interaction that turns a casual visitor like me into a person who really believes in the work of an institution. I think about the people Katie described to me and the museum’s efforts to tell their stories all the time. My experience at the museum deeply impacted the way I think about the Civil War and war in general, honestly.


    This has happened countless times. I visit a museum for the first time to record, thinking it seems interesting, but with no deeper attachment; I leave filled with excitement for the museum’s work and a deep affection for the institution. This is the result of intimate, relevant, one-on-one engagement with passionate museum people. It’s nearly impossible to get this experience from a visit that doesn’t provide this kind of intimate human connection.




    But it’s also nearly impossible to provide that to every visitor, no matter how much money a museum can commit to the endeavor. This is where podcasting comes in. Podcasts offer the opportunity to speak directly to an individual, on their own time. Podcasts are intimate. Regular listeners to podcasts talk frequently about the emotional connection they form with the hosts of their favorite shows. Often, podcasts are what keeps them company on long drives, during the workday, and whenever else they have access to a computer or smartphone, which these days is basically always. And when I say always....well, my husband and I fall asleep listening to podcasts every night and then get up and listen when we leave the house in the morning.


    I’ve come to truly believe that the medium of podcasting can open up incredible doors to the kind of intimate, one-on-one engagement that converts visitors to devoted fans. And, as I’ve spelled out in my new book, podcasts can be done with a lot of money and a little time OR a little money and a lot of time. So there is room for budgets of all sizes to start telling their best stories this way. I think what’s stopping a lot of institutions from starting their own podcast is a sense that this requires certain skills they don’t have or that it’s very expensive. There’s also almost no museums-specific information available that explains in detail how to start a podcast. My goal in writing Your Museum Needs a Podcast was to solve this problem, and based on early feedback, I think I’ve delivered on that goal.


    I hope to see more museums start making great podcasts. In my dream world, everyday listeners would look to museums for great podcasts, knowing that we are the keepers of some of the world’s best stories and that we’re staffed with the right people to tell those stories.





    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.

    P.S. If you receive ExhibiTricks via email (or Facebook or LinkedIn) you will need to click HERE to go to the main ExhibiTricks page to make comments or view multimedia features (like videos!)
  • Walking the Walk: Impressions of the #ASTC2018 Conference




    The 2018 Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) Conference in Hartford, Connecticut felt like an opportunity for the International Science Center Community to really "walk the walk" on a variety of topics and concerns facing museums and their communities.

    Issues of Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity were front and center during the conference, starting with the excellent opening keynote by noted science journalist Ed Yong.  (Check the talk out embedded below or via YouTube.) Yong shared his own struggles with equal representation of male and female scientists in his articles and books and then moved to broader intersectional topics of interest to museum workers and cultural institutions.  I urge you to take the time to watch Ed Yong's presentation.




    Similar diversity/equity/inclusion topics were presented during a number of sessions during the conference as well.  I attended an excellent session entitled "Creating a Culture of Gender Equity" that included five female practitioners sharing their own experiences and then offering suggestions for ways to create a safer and more inclusive environment in cultural institutions.

    Another welcome addition to this year's conference was a stronger presence by the ASTC Diversity and Leadership Development Fellows and Alumni, both in numerous sessions and in public roles as the emcees of plenary sessions, for example. In October 2001, ASTC’s Board launched a field-wide Equity and Diversity Initiative to attempt to bring balance in the disparity between the diversity of our society and the diversity of professional staff, audience, and board members of the science center field. The primary activity for addressing this disparity is the ASTC Diversity and Leadership Development Fellows Program, originally designed to support the professional growth and retention of professionals of color currently working in the field. 

    2018 ASTC Diversity and Leadership Development Fellows


    Of course, it wouldn't be an ASTC Conference if there weren't some opportunities for hands-on science activities! This year's conference featured an excellent Pop-Up Maker's Space (#MakerSpaceASTC) that was assembled on-site in the Exhibit Hall by members of the ASTC Making and Tinkering CoP (Community of Practice). #MakerSpaceASTC was filled with free-form activities, comfortable seating areas and stations to solder, laser cut, and 3D Print! Kudos to all involved in what I hope becomes an annual feature at the ASTC Conference!





    Per usual during an ASTC Conference, there were also lots of fun opportunities for socializing and networking.  Andy Lloyd from the Centre for Life in the UK hosted an all-star roster of Science Center performers for a rollicking (one could say almost "hypnotic") evening of "Stand-Up Science"





    One of my other favorite ASTC Conference moments (based on my #ASTC2018 Twitter feed at least) was a very quotable (and actionable) session entitled Identifying the Creativity Involved in Managing a Creative Team.” In addition to the quotes I live-tweeted from the session (shown below) the panelists called out two books for creatives and managers -- "The Checklist Manifesto" and "Creativity, Inc."




    This ExhibiTricks blog post only scratches the surface of #ASTC2018 so I would suggest clicking over to ASTC's Blog Page, Main Conference Page, or YouTube site for even more glimpses of what went on in Hartford. Our hosts at The Connecticut Science Center as well as the entire ASTC leadership team and staff should be extremely proud of putting together such a well-executed conference and one that truly "walked the walk" not just "talked the talk"!

    I'm a little wistful that I will be leaving the ASTC Conference Program Planning Committee after a six-year term, but I know my colleagues who are continuing on with the CPPC are already planning #ASTC2019 in Toronto!

    The 2019 Conference promises to be spectacular since 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of two influential science centers, The Exploratorium in San Francisco, and The Ontario Science Centre, which will serve as our host in Toronto. Appropriately, considering the first Moon landing also happened in 1969, the theme of #ASTC2019 will orbit around the notion of moonshots -- ambitious, yet achievable, goals that leverage science and technology to solve difficult problems.  You can get a sneak peak of the call for proposals by clicking here.




    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.

    P.S. If you receive ExhibiTricks via email (or Facebook or LinkedIn) you will need to click HERE to go to the main ExhibiTricks page to make comments or view multimedia features (like videos!)
  • Building Your Museum's Internal Capacity Through Workshops



    Over the past few years, a big part of my consulting practice has involved presenting workshops to help museums and museum-oriented companies build up their internal capacity to develop and design exhibitions and programs.

    In just the past year or two, I've been fortunate to give workshops to colleagues around the world in Beijing at the ICOM International Training Center at The Palace Museum, in Tunisia on behalf of the U.S. State Department, in Germany with Huttinger, one of Europe's largest exhibit fabrication companies, and most recently in Detroit for an all-day exhibits workshop for the Michigan Museums Association.

    Here are 4 positive outcomes toward building internal capacity (with links to related ExhibiTricks posts) that consistently come out of POW! workshops for participants:


    1) Focus on BIG IDEAS  Focusing on your core ideas -- whether for a single exhibit component or for an entire museum program is essential.  The process of building an exhibit or program doesn't become clearer if you start with a bunch of fuzzy ideas.




    2) An Appreciation for Iteration Try, try again!  Prototyping ideas quickly with simple materials then adjusting based on feedback is a great technique to bring into every project.




    3) Stronger connections to clients and communities When you bring focused, tested messages outside your museum it is easier to find the places for strong, authentic connections between creative partners.



    4) Adding to your professional toolbox  Every workshop includes simple techniques and tips that workshop participants can use right away in their museum or company.



    The concentrated experience of the workshop setting really brings people together in a fun and focused way -- without the myriad distractions of their normal workplace.

    Send me an email so we can talk about bringing a POW! workshop to your museum or company!




    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.

    P.S. If you receive ExhibiTricks via email (or Facebook or LinkedIn) you will need to click HERE to go to the main ExhibiTricks page to make comments or view multimedia features (like videos!)
  • Which Books Would You Recommend to An Emerging Museum Professional?


    A colleague recently emailed me to ask about book suggestions for a newcomer to the museum field.

    After I sent off the list, it occurred to me that not only did I find all of the books on the list excellent references, but that I had also written blog posts about each one!

    So please find below a list of books that I would recommend to any museum professional (emerging or veteran!) If you click the title of the book, it will bring you to the related ExhibiTricks post or interview, and there is a link to purchase each book after the accompanying short descriptive blurb. 

    Happy reading!

    RECOMMENDED BOOKS FOR MUSEUM PROFESSIONALS


    "Steal Like An Artist” by Austin Kleon 

    Some books just leap out at you and make you read them. "Steal Like An Artist" by Austin Kleon has been one of those kinds of books for me --- packed with ideas, quotes, and anecdotes that really resonate with me and my creative practice.

    [Purchase the book here.]




    Inside this pithy volume, Weinschenk gives 100 examples of the psychology of design and why some design choices work better than others.

    Dividing her 100 examples into thematic sections such as "How People See" and "How People Remember" the author not only provides illustrated examples of design approaches but provides links to research, websites, and online talks that let you explore specific design topics in more depth.

    [Purchase the book here.]  




    The "Creating Exhibitions" book is a "must buy" for any museum professional involved in designing or developing exhibits.

    [Purchase the book here.]




    "Of course, there's a more personal reason I started the Museum 2.0 blog. I'm a free choice learner. I didn't want to go to graduate school, but I did want to pursue my own education in museums and learn enough to have something to say to some of the really smart people I was meeting at conferences. The blog really started as a personal learning device. It continues to be that for me, but now there are more co-learners involved."

    [Purchase the books here and here. You can also read the books online here and here.]




    In Margaret Kadoyama’s vision, cultural organizations are vital members of their communities and are actively involved in community revitalization.  Margaret works collaboratively with museums and cultural organizations to create strategic community involvement and audience development plans, assess programs, and plan for sustainability.

    [Purchase the book here.]




    "The first edition of Exhibit Labels was a follow-up on my book published by the Association for State and Local History (AASLH) called “Making Exhibit Labels: A Step-by-Step Approach.” I wrote that in 1983, before I’d ever done much work on exhibition planning and design, although I had a background in museum education.

    I had a master’s degree in science teaching in non-school settings, and I’d worked as the curator of education at the Shedd Aquarium for eight years. I was in charge of programs, not exhibits. I kept pushing for more interpretive stories in the labels of the Shedd’s galleries, but that wasn’t my job."

    [Purchase the book here.]




    "Fostering Active Prolonged Engagement" is a book about an NSF-funded project at the Exploratorium that digs deeply into how exhibit components can foster "APE behavior." (APE is the acronym for Active Prolonged Engagement.)  Namely, how can exhibits be developed (or in many cases, re-designed) to allow visitors to take active roles in creating their own experiences in ways that compel them to spend longer periods of time at the exhibits?

    [Purchase the book here.]




    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.

    P.S. If you receive ExhibiTricks via email (or Facebook or LinkedIn) you will need to click HERE to go to the main ExhibiTricks page to make comments or view multimedia features (like videos!)
  • Why We Work; Messy and Collaborative Exhibition Development



    Beth Maloney is the Director of Interpretation at the Baltimore Museum of Industry and an Instructor with the Program in Museums and Society at Johns Hopkins University. Beth is Past-President of the Museum Education Roundtable, Former guest editor for the Journal of Museum Education and a Mentor with AAM’s EdMEM programMore information about her work can be found at www.bethmaloney.com

    Beth was kind enough to share her thoughts about the development of the recent Why We Work exhibition with ExhibiTricks readers.


    Why We Work

    In my job at the Baltimore Museum of Industry, I look for ways to build visitor interaction and engagement. As an instructor with the Johns Hopkins University Program in Museums and Society, I teach courses that bring students into museum work. During the fall of 2017, I embarked on what seemed like an ambitious but straightforward plan – to teach a class about interactive spaces and then, with generous funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, create a temporary exhibition at the museum reflecting students’ vision and ideas. I had very few parameters to work with - an empty gallery space, a timeline, and faith that the semester would yield something compelling. This simple plan quickly got complicated but in the end, resulted in a project I could never have imagined.


    Starting in the classroom

    Because my students were not all familiar with museum work and none of them were historians, we started the semester with a series of readings and discussions about exhibition design, visitor studies, and museums. And we purposefully explored the question of what elements support engaging, relevant and successful interactive spaces.

    Starting the design process in the classroom meant that we had the luxury to revisit our own experiences, explore case studies, blogs, research and advice from guest speakers - Gamynne Guillotte from the Baltimore Museum of Art, Andrea Jones of Peak Experience Lab and Mike Murawski from the Portland Art Museum. We actively defined our classroom as a lab space for thinking through possibilities, as well as different and new perspectives on process and approach. For my own part, as an instructor, maintaining this mindset cultivated transparency and heightened self-awareness about the work ahead.



    Determining the focus

    After considering examples from outside the museum, students dove into content in the museum’s galleries and archives. Their research and conversations inspired them to focus an abstract idea for this exhibition — What is the experience of work? What motivates us at work? What makes for satisfying work? How could we tie the museum’s larger focus on industry to visitors’ personal experience of industry (or work)? To do this, my students committed to centering visitor participation as the key element for the space — who better than visitors to share what contemporary work experience looks like?

    While I expected students to lean into the personal stories of work and visitor participation, they pushed things in a deeper direction than I’d initially been imagining. Letting go and giving students the space to develop what they wanted to see meant I had to work consciously and consistently to listen and work along-side them rather than pushing them in one direction or another. I found myself describing the process as “soupy” – now I see that it was also collaborative, substantive, iterative, authentic and in a true sense educational not just for my students, but for me. 



    Creating the Design

    Once big ideas were solid enough, we brought them out of the classroom and shared them with visitors in the museum. Ideas and questions that led to the most discussion with visitors eventually made it into the exhibition text – What is your favorite time of the workday? If you could describe your work in one word, what would it be? What motivates you at work – compensation, community, acknowledgment? We knew we needed an excellent design to inspire these kinds of conversations in an exhibition space not staffed by students. What kind of interactive would do the best job?





    Expanding our exhibition team even more, we invited Jeremy Hoffman and his Maryland Institute College of Art students to take my students’ content, ideas and goals for the space and develop exhibition designs. Nine different design lenses were shared – each one offering an interpretation of what might be possible for the space. Seeing their ideas reflected in so many different possibilities prompted my students to lean into and fine tune their curatorial vision.

    They were particularly drawn to two ideas offered by the design students: One that centered the personal via a portrait wall of contemporary and historic photographs of people working in Baltimore. And another that centered visitor interaction by inviting them to respond to a prompt on the wall, “leaving their mark” and creating something collectively over time. Students ended the semester with a “blueprint” for Jeremy (Ashton Design) and myself to use as we made the exhibition space a reality.



    Idea to reality

    In order to make the portrait wall a reality, Jeremy contacted local photographer Christopher Myers who generously let us into his archive of contemporary portraits of Baltimoreans at work. Working with museum staff, volunteers and my students, we also sourced historic images of workers in Baltimore from the museum’s collection, the Library of Congress, personal connections and the images of A. Aubrey Bodine. Over the course of several weeks, and through much discussion and feedback from students, museum staff, and volunteers, we narrowed down our portrait wall to 32 images.

    The rest of the exhibition space is populated with large questions inspired directly from the visitor testing students did and readings about contemporary work experience. The interactive asks visitors to take a sticker sheet from a category they feel best describes their work. Then they use three dots on that color-coded sticker sheet to plot their answers on the wall. If you imagine each sticker dot as a data point, together all these dots become a picture of contemporary work on the walls of the exhibition.





    Since we’ve opened this show, the space has become a favorite with visitors to the museum. They linger, engage in the activity, take in the portrait wall and even talk with each other about the data on the walls and their own experiences of work.




    So what?

    I truly believe that the success of this exhibition is in part due to its genesis. Born out of a semester of study, this exhibition involved successively wider circles of dynamic curatorial, audience, collegial and design engagement – first in the classroom at Johns Hopkins University, then with staff and visitors at the Baltimore Museum of Industry, then collaboration with students at Maryland Institute College of Art and finally, with visitors as their engagement literally changes what is on the walls in the exhibition.

    Though it’s harder work, getting more people involved, ruminating and revisiting ideas, testing and refining, letting go, and centering multiple perspectives can only make the final product stronger. For me, this process was a reminder that opening up, being flexible and listening can yield creative and collaborative end results that we can’t even imagine at the start. And, for me, this process also helps answer the question of why we work.






    It’s hard to describe an interactive exhibition in a written description. Check out this radio interview about the project or better yet come to the museum! Why We Work is up through April 2019.


    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.

    P.S. If you receive ExhibiTricks via email (or Facebook or LinkedIn) you will need to click HERE to go to the main ExhibiTricks page to make comments or view multimedia features (like videos!)