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ExhibiTricks blog

  • Leave No Holes!



    It's interesting to me how often in museums I visit  (especially places with lots of hand-on exhibits) that there are "holes" in their exhibits or exhibit galleries.

    By this, I mean that some part of an exhibit (or an entire exhibit piece) was sufficiently annoying, or problematic to keep repairing, and so was simply removed -- without providing any sort of replacement activity or substitute exhibit component.

    This often leads to extremely confused visitors looking for tools or parts of an activity referred to in an exhibit label that are no longer physically there.

    Believe me, I know from hard-won experience how difficult it can be to maintain a large set of interactive exhibits, but for the sake of your visitors please LEAVE NO HOLES!



    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.

    Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

    If you enjoy the blog, please help support ExhibiTricks through our PayPal "Tip Jar"
  • Don't Be An RFP Weasel



    An emerging museum recently asked me to review an RFP document they were preparing. 

    Unfortunately, a part of their boilerplate text outlined a number of tasks (basically "free work" like sketches, complete interactive exhibit descriptions, etc.)  that they expected RFP respondents to complete as part of their submission.

    I immediately informed the museum's staff that not only was speculative work (especially included as a requirement for an RFP) inappropriate, but it was unethical.

    Initially, the museum's response was defensive --  "we are just using verbiage that we copied from other RFPs."  My rejoinder was that making a copy of something that was bad to begin with, doesn't make the new document better!

    Fortunately, the National Association for Museum Exhibition (NAME) (one of the Professional Networks of the American Alliance of Museums)  has posted an Ethics Statement on their website that clearly addresses this issue. Item #4 of the Ethics statement states:

    No member shall solicit free or speculative designs or plans from independent designers or exhibit fabricators. Members should discourage the submission of speculative designs from these outside sources.


    In this case, once the folks at the emerging museum read the "official" ethics document from NAME they did the right thing and completely removed the offending language from their RFP.

    Unfortunately, requests for "spec work" still regularly show up in RFPs -- either by accident or design.  Sometimes respondents don't feel comfortable confronting (or ignoring) such RFP requirements/requests, but unless we help the folks issuing RFPs understand that speculative work is inappropriate (and also whenever possible calling out such RFPs) this practice will not change.

    Maybe once we eliminate spec work requests from RFPs we can also get museums to drop the stupidly archaic (and decidedly non-environmentally friendly) requirement for multiple paper copies of RFP submissions in addition to digital documents. How about if you want paper copies, you just print a few copies of them out at your museum to share with staff? (And do you really need paper copies?)


    While we're on the subject of RFPs, I'd be remiss not to point another great FREE resource (also courtesy of NAME) which is an entire online issue of articles (and "dos and don'ts") about RFPs including bonus downloadable documents related to the RFP process. Click on over to the NAME website to find the RFP Issue there.



    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.

    Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

    If you enjoy the blog, please help support ExhibiTricks through our PayPal "Tip Jar"
  • Off to Bulgaria!


    Muzeiko Building Exterior

    Through an award from the U.S. State Department's Fulbright Specialist Program, I'll soon be off to Bulgaria to work with wonderful colleagues at Muzeiko, the amazing children's science museum located in the capital of Sofia.

    My work in Bulgaria will focus on increasing internal capacity at Muzeiko, especially as it relates to exhibit design and development.

    If you'd like to keep track of my trip and what I learn in Bulgaria, check out my Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram pages!



    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.

    Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

    If you enjoy the blog, please help support ExhibiTricks through our PayPal "Tip Jar"
  • Re:Frame -- The Smithsonian's Smart New Video Series About Art (and More!)



    Re:Frame is a smart new video series from the Smithsonian American Art Museum (or SAAM for short)  that helps viewers find the interconnections between art and other disciplines.

    From their YouTube channel description:

    Re:Frame is a video series that brings together art historians and researchers from across the Smithsonian–think zoologists, geologists, musicologists, and astronomers–to explore art’s many meanings. Join host Melissa as she crisscrosses the Smithsonian making connections, exploring diverse perspectives, and proving that American art is for everyone.

    One of my favorite episodes of Re:Frame is the one that explores the physical properties of graphite (with a Smithsonian geologist!) in relation to the work "Nocturnal (Horizon Line)" by Teresita Fernandez and how she employed those same physical properties in her artwork.

    (Watch the entire Graphite! video on YouTube or embedded below.)





    Re:Frame does what every great method of museum interpretation does, namely, helps the visitor better appreciate and understand a museum object or experience.

    I'd highly recommend clicking over to the Re:Frame YouTube channel to experience all the short, insightful, and well-produced videos in the series.





    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.

    Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

    If you enjoy the blog, please help support ExhibiTricks through our PayPal "Tip Jar"
  • Museum/Exhibit/Design Inspiration: Music Animation Machine



    Composer, musician, and software engineer Stephen Malinowski invented a cool way of visualizing music called the "Music Animation Machine."

    Basically, Malinowski creates visualizations of music using a system of colored shapes, taking information from a MIDI file.  You can see a still frame of one of his Music Animation Machine videos above, representing a section of Bach's Double Violin Concerto in D Minor.

    What I like most about the Music Animation Machine presentations is that they help viewers/listeners appreciate what may be very familiar pieces of classical music in very new and different ways.

    For me, a non-musician, listening and viewing really helps me appreciate the structure of a composition and the interplay of different instruments even more forcefully than simply listening alone.

    Malinowski's work certainly makes me think of the possibilities for museum exhibitions, but also helps me consider how to engage multiple senses of visitors in my work.

    Click over to YouTube to experience a whole series of Music Animation Machine videos. (I've also embedded a nice example below.)





    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.

    Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

    If you enjoy the blog, please help support ExhibiTricks through our PayPal "Tip Jar"