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!


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.


(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



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



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



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.



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

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



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

Can Stock Photography: www.canstockphoto.com

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

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.gograph.com)

Getty Images: www.Gettyimages.com

MegaPrint: Large format print specialists www.megaprint.com

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 Completely free public domain images and videos

Stella Color: www.stellacolor.com Sustainable Printing Solutions

Stockphoto.com: www.istockphoto.com

Shutterstock: www.shutterstock.com

Videvo: https://www.videvo.net/ Creative Commons stock video, motion graphics, music and sound effects.

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



(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.

Skulls Unlimited: www.skullsunlimited.com All things bone related.
10313 South Sunnylane
Oklahoma City, OK 73160
(800) 659-7585 (SKULL)

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



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

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

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



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



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.

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: https://bit.ly/e8RBYm
6035 Parkland Blvd.
Cleveland, OH 44124
(216) 896-3000



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

Hubert: www.hubert.com Display supplies.

Humphrey's Farm: https://www.humphreysfarm.com/ Wholesale resource for artificial display foods and drinks.

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.)



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

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

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



Carpet One (formerly Lees Carpets): https://www.carpetone.com/exclusive-brands/lees
Many sustainable flooring choices. NeoFloor is especially good for children’s areas.

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

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

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



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



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

Custom Educational Furnishings: http://www.cefinc.com/ Furniture for Maker Spaces.
2696 NC Hwy. 16S
Taylorsville, NC 28681
(800) 255-9189

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

Frog Furnishings: https://frogfurnishings.com/
15285 S. Keeler St.
Olathe, KS 66062
(913) 764-8181

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



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



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



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



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:

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



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

Citimarine: www.citimarinestore.com Marine accessories and hardware.
3300 NW 112th Ave, #4
Doral, FL 33172
(800) 766-5256

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

Marv-O-Lus Manufacturing: www.marvolus.com
220 North Washtenaw Avenue
Chicago, IL 60612-2014
(888) 840-4311

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.

SawsHub.com: www,sawshub.com/ Great hardware site with tool reviews and DIY projects.

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



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



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



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



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
22 West Huron Street, Suite 203
Pontiac, Michigan 48342
(248) 738-7600

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

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

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

Library of Congress: American Environmental Photographs

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

Lilliput Play Homes: https://www.lilliputplayhomes.com/
Miniature play houses, stores, doctor offices, etc. Including related accessories.
6114 Brownsville Rd. Ext.
Finleyville, PA 15332
(724) 348-7071

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

SPI Plastics: https://www.spiplastics.com Plastic indoor play and outdoor playground items, including slides.

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/Fog Makers: http://mainlandmart.com/
2535 Durfee Ave.
El Monte, CA 91732
(626) 258-2928

U.S. Government Surplus: www.usa.gov/state-surplus-sales
Surplus sales by State.



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)

shopPOPdisplays: www.shopPOPdisplays.com
Speciality acrylic boxes (including 5-sided boxes) and POP display materials.

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



MSDS on line: www.msdssearch.com

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



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

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



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.



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

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



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

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

  • Creative Resource: Reading Design

    Looking for creative writing about design? 

    Reading Design (R/D) is an online collection of critical writing about design. The website contains interesting entries dating from the first century BC right up to current times.

    R/D gathers papers, articles, lecture transcripts, essays, photo essays, and blog posts all in one place to build an outstanding resource for anyone engaged in, or interested in, design.  I especially enjoyed some offbeat writings gathered from lectures by Oscar Wilde.  

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  • Design Inspiration: Motoi Yamamoto's "Saltworks"

    Motoi Yamamoto is a Japanese artist known for creating art with salt. 

    His precise large-scale installations are often created in memory of his deceased sister. 

    The "saltworks" are an effort by Yamamoto to preserve memories of his sister. 

    As you can see from the images here and on the artist's website, the work is both admirable for its sensual design and for its ability to evoke deep feelings from such humble materials.

    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!

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  • Intentional Practice: An Interview with Randi Korn

    Randi Korn is a noted writer, evaluator, and intentional practice leader who has worked in, and with, museums for many years.

    To be honest, Randi and I tried (twice!) to have a video conversation via Zoom as part of my Museum FAQ series on the POW! YouTube channel, but technology let us down.  So instead, we have created this hybrid interview that tries to capture the flavor of our previous conversations and also includes a short video (below) of Randi and myself modeling an exercise from her recent book, Intentional Practice for Museums: A Guide for Maximizing Impact.


    What’s your educational background? 
    I have a BFA and focused on design while in undergraduate school.  I thought I was going to be a painter or a potter, but after taking a design class, I was intrigued by the problem-solving approach design offered.  I found it intellectually rigorous.  I always viewed design as a communication tool, and exhibition design was no different.  In practice, though, I wondered why some design solutions attracted people and others did not.  To satisfy my curiosity, I enrolled in a museum studies graduate program specifically designed for people who didn’t want to stop working (now there are several of those, but back then, there was one).  The program was at a big university so I had access to professors from many disciplines.  I chose to focus my studies on educational research methodologies that I could then apply to a museum environment.  For my thesis, I did original research that tested two interpretation strategies in a botanic garden—where I happen to be working at the time.

    What got you interested in Museums?
    Ahhh.  Great story!  I wanted to leave undergraduate school after my second year to see if what I was learning was at all useful in the real world.  A professor told me that he looked forward to working with me next year (what was to be my junior year), and I told him that I wasn’t returning.  When he asked what I was going to do, I answered him honestly; I had no idea.  He wrote someone’s name and phone number on a piece of paper and told me to call this person because she might need someone like me.  Of course, I did what most 19-year-olds did with such a suggestion: I made a mental note and then discarded the piece of paper.  

    A month later I went to visit a filmmaker friend who needed a poster designed for his new film.  I had my portfolio with me, and visiting him was another friend of his.  So, both of them looked at my portfolio, and his friend said, “you should really call my boss; we are looking for someone with your skillset.”  She wrote down the name of her boss, and it was the same name that the professor gave me!  This time I thought, “Okay, don’t be an idiot; just call this lady”—who happened to work at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the (now defunct) Department of Urban Outreach.  She had just received an NEH grant to collaborate with five ethnic communities in Philadelphia to develop and design an exhibition about each community’s rites of passage.  I was hired to photographically document Jewish rites of passage for the Jewish community in Philadelphia and work with the designer to create the exhibition.  That experience changed my life.

    What prompted you to start your own business?  
    Before I moved from California to DC in 1989, I had been employed by at least half-a-dozen museums around the country.  I had held diverse positions ranging from executive director, to evaluator, to designer, to interpretive program manager.  I loved each and every job!  Like a lot of people between jobs, I started working on projects independently when I arrived in DC.  I was having fun working on a lot of different projects—so much fun that I turned down a job that Kathy McLean offered me when she was at the Maryland Science Center.  Crazy, I know!  Kathy was understanding, as she too had worked on her own intermittently.  She said, “Well, can I hire you as a consultant?”  One thing led to another.  I worked by myself for two years, then I hired someone to assist, and the business grew slowly from there.

    Can you tell us more about your recent book, Intentional Practice for Museums?
    Sure.  First I’ll explain why I wrote it and then I’ll explain the concept of intentional practice.  There were a few historical moments that were building up in my mind, and collectively, they pushed me.  The first: the result of the 1994 election. It was the first time in 40 years that the republicans seized control of the House and the Senate and Newt Gingrich created the Contract for America (some government workers called it the Contract on America).  There was a chopping block in that Contract and it included IMS (now IMLS), NEH, and NEA.  It was the first time these museum-funding agencies were in danger of disappearing since they were created in the ‘60s.  Remember, back then the Internet was not the powerhouse it is today, so the response from the field was painfully slow, and the museum community started looking for evidence that museums make a difference in people’s lives.  Lo and behold—they found nothing—no reports anywhere!  The second event, so to speak, happened 10 years later—the Wallace Foundation commissioned the Rand Corporation to conduct a thorough review of publications, etc., to report on the value of the arts to communities.  

    Gifts of the Muse, published in 2004, is a great read.  There was data about the economic benefits of the arts (to municipalities and business), but scant data on the value of art to people.  One could extrapolate (which the authors did), but that wasn’t quite as good as having concrete data; they and everyone else knew it.  The voice in my head kept saying, “the party is over,” and I distinctly remember saying that on an AAM panel at one point.

    The third event, as it were, was the realization that my chosen profession—evaluation—hadn’t produced any reports either. Why was it that I hadn’t conducted any studies on the value of museums to people?  The simple answer was that no one had asked me to.  I started exploring possible funding options and learned that no one was interested in such a study (things have gotten better since then).  Evaluation in museums was driven by exhibits, programs, and funders’ requests, and no one was asking questions about the whole museum.  While evaluation has done a great deal to strengthen individual exhibit and program teams, it had done little to inform museums and others about the effect of the whole museum on people and communities.

    As my interest in wanting to help museums measure their impact on people deepened, I realized this: in my work with museums as an evaluator, my colleagues and I ask a lot of questions.  One question we always ask is: what do/did you want to achieve with this exhibition/program?  What is/was your intent?  More times than not, these questions were met with an awkward silence.  If museums stumbled with these questions about a project, I surmised that asking about the intent of the whole museum also would be met with a deafening silence.  That left me with realizing that if I wanted to help museums, I needed to create strategies to help them articulate their value—and intentional practice was born.

    So, what is intentional practice exactly?
    Intentional practice is a way of thinking and a way of working, and in many ways, it is a philosophy.  A museum’s work towards intentionality is ongoing.  I’ll use The Cycle of Intentional Practice below to explain the components of intentional practice.  While the graphic is neat and tidy, it is a very complicated process.  If I created a cycle that reflected what the process is really like, people would flee.  Like exhibition planning—intentional planning is just plain messy!  

    There are five primary elements: Plan, Evaluation, Reflect, and Align, which are placed around a centerpiece—impact.  A museum interested in pursuing intentional practice has to first define its intended impact, and that intended impact becomes the engine that drives all the museum’s work across the quadrants and the gauge of success. Work that ensues—evaluating new strategies, reflecting on the work so staff can learn from their work, and strengthening alignment between the actions and results—should be the only work of the museum. Work that does not help the museum achieve impact, wastes resources, the most valuable of which is staff time.  

    Because of the messiness, I tightly facilitate the process; if I didn’t, again, people would flee.  People have told me that the tightly-run workshops are a huge relief to them because then they can focus on the assigned tasks, all of which are hard.  Seats are assigned because workshops are attended by people from across and up and down the museum, and if I left people to their own devices, curators would sit together, educations would sit together, etc.  Working groups are predetermined and we place staff in interdisciplinary groups, often working with people who they do not know.  Interdisciplinary collaboration is one of the seven principles of intentional practice.  

    I can’t really explain everything in this post, but I would like to share what comprises an impact statement.  Essentially, the first workshop includes three exercises: a passion exercise (because your passions drive your work and the excellence you put forth every day); identifying the museum’s distinct qualities (so the museum can always play to its strengths); and visioning outcomes for three target audiences (so staff can focus their work on achieving those outcomes [which will lead to achieving impact] on those audiences.  All the exercises I have done as of two years ago when the book was published are in Chapter 5.  I have left nothing out, and my intent is that people will feel inspired to do this work with their museum.

    Perhaps I should do the passion exercise with you, Paul, to demonstrate how it could work.  First, to provide context: you would be in a group with 4 or so other people—from a board member, to a community representative, to staff from different departments, and a group member would pose these very simple questions to you and another would volunteer to take notes.  I would collect all the notes when the exercise is complete.  I analyze those notes along with the work from the other two exercises that staff will do to develop a draft impact statement that is vetting and discussed with staff the next time we meet.   

    And so embedded below, and here on the POW! YouTube channel you can see a short video of Randi and myself going through the passion exercise featured in Chapter 5 of Intentional Practice for Museums: A Guide for Maximizing Impact.

    Why do so many museums place such an emphasis on admissions numbers?
    Because most people can count; it is easy, and for whatever reason, many humans take the road most easily traveled.  As we now see in COVID times, numbers are irrelevant—they no longer can be used as a measure of success. Thank goodness!!!  I wrote about this on our blog; in a post titled “Zero.”  I have long argued that numbers are not a measure of success—technically, they are an output, not an outcome. And pragmatically, numbers say nothing about the quality of an experience; they only mean that people came.  AAM and the like enjoy touting that museums contribute to local economies.  They may, but how are they contributing now?  We need measures that will serve us well in good and bad times.  

    How can museums become better at measuring what matters?
    Ahhh, as you might guess at this point, the first step is that the staff have to clarify what matters to them.  Once there is a clear articulation of what matters, any evaluator worth their salt, should be able to design just the right tools to begin measuring.  However, I almost always urge museums not to measure too soon.  If you have just articulated what matters, then it is quite possible that the museum may need to examine their programs/exhibits to see if those elements, in their current form, can actually deliver. 

    Museums often jump right to the measuring part because staff are doers and they want results.  In exhibit design and development, you have the same problem: people can’t wait to start talking about the cool exhibits they want to develop—the “how” part of the work—when they haven’t spent enough time talking about the “what” and “why” parts of the work.  How to measure takes know-how, considerable time, and a willingness to accept what the data say.  In a workshop, before we were about to begin a study, I asked what people’s greatest fears were.  The director responded by saying “That we won’t like what the report says and we’ll blame you and throw the report out.”  It is true, people have to be open to what the data says; they have to be open to the reality that they might need to change a few things if they want the results they envision.

    How has intentional practice influenced approaches to evaluation?  
    That has been the most interesting and unexpected outcome of this work.  Evaluation methods informed intentional practice; for example, I view part of intentional practice workshops as an evaluation project; that is, —I use them as opportunities to collect data from staff rather than visitors. .  The most significant influence that intentional practice has had on evaluation is that now we include reflection in our evaluation projects.  Reflection is about stepping back and learning from the work.  We assign exercises where staff are asked to refer to the data so they can practice how to use data so they can experience its value as a decision-making tool.  We infuse reflection when needed into client meetings; for example, if we meet regularly via telephone, the agenda will include a 15-minute reflection at the end of the meeting.  I am working with a small nonprofit now, and I start our meetings with a 15-minute reflection and I might end it with asking people to identify a new or different action they will take based on what they have learned.  So intentional practice has helped us strengthen our evaluation work and our clients.

    How can intentional practice and evaluation help museums navigate a post-COVID world?
    At the end of the day—whether before COVID-19 or now, achieving impact on people is paramount—however the museum defines impact, and along with that definition, staff need to decide whom the museum wants to impact, and “everyone” is not an adequate response.  No doubt, museums are making tough decisions every single day.  An impact statement can be used to determine what the museum should be doing and what it need not do anymore.  Intentional practice is very pragmatic.  Two fundamental, interconnect beliefs are woven throughout intentional practice work to demonstrate its pragmatism: Less is More and Museums can’t be all things to all people and achieve impact.  These hard times require pragmatism. 

    What are some of your favorite museums or exhibitions? 
    It is really hard to narrow down, but I’ll try.  I used to say, the Picasso Museum in Paris, but they redid it, and I haven’t seen the new iteration.  What I liked about the old one was how the architecture and interior exuded Picasso’s often earthy palette and the use of organic shapes.  But since I know it may not be like that anymore, here is another favorite.  There is a museum in London that blew me away. Sir John Soane's Museum.  It is like the old cabinets of curiosities, except the museum was an enormous cabinet.  Their website has two three-dimensional videos (you can view them here and here.)  

    I did not feel museum fatigue; I was continually mesmerized by everything I saw.  My favorite local DC museum is the Renwick Gallery—the national museum of crafts.  Once a very traditional place, when it reopened after a few years of closure, they outdid themselves!  Every time a visitor came in from out of town, that’s where we went!  The lines were around the block, but they did not deter.  The installations were creative and took the notion of craft to a new level.

    If money were no object, what would your “dream” museum project be?
    I am very committed to intentional practice.  My dream project is something that I am so fortunate to be involved with, and the only reason I can work on it is that money is no object; I am not being paid, which is very freeing.  I sit on a board of a small nonprofit and I have been working with the staff team since last year.  Originally, I was to help them develop an intentional plan for the next three years, but it has morphed into a full intentional practice project, and I am delighted.  The essence of intentional practice is about learning—personal learning, professional learning, and organizational learning.  What’s so great is that I am learning, too.  I am working with staff to strengthen them as a team so they can achieve their intended impact.  It is a great experience and opportunity to test new intentional practice ideas and approaches.

    Thanks again to Randi for sharing her thoughts with ExhibiTricks readers! 

    If you'd like to learn more about Randi and her work, just click on over to the RK&A website.

    If you would like a chance to win one of two autographed copies of Randi's book, Intentional Practice for Museums: A Guide for Maximizing Impact, here's how to enter the giveaway:  

    1) Send an email with the subject line, "I want to win Randi's book!"


    2) Become a new subscriber to the ExhibiTricks blog by clicking on the link near the top right of the ExhibiTricks homepage.

    We will randomly choose two winners on Friday, October 9th, 2020 -- one winner from the email entries, and the other winner from the new subscribers.  Good luck!

    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!   (Please note: when you click on links to books or other products featured on the blog, we may earn a small commission, but you will not incur any increase in price.)

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  • Finding Inspiration Outside (While Trapped Inside)

    As I am spending more and more time inside due to the COVID pandemic, my computer has become even more of a "window to the world" pointing me toward creative work outdoors around the world.

    I hope you find inspiration in the works highlighted below.

    Why play in a playhouse, if you can play in moon rockets, submarines, giant snail shells, clown heads, or Trojan horses? That's the question that motivates Monstrum, a group of designers and craftspeople creating unique playgrounds from their workshop in Copenhagen.  Click on over to the Monstrum website to see more images of their playful and beautiful work.

    Instead of staring out of your own window, click on over to the WindowSwap website to see views outside the windows of people from around the world. 

    Your Rainbow Panorama
    Here's a bit of museum/exhibit/design inspiration that evokes light, and the sun, and endless horizons: artist Olafur Eliasson's architectural installation entitled  "Your rainbow panorama."

    Situated on top of the ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum art museum in Aarhus, Denmark, Your rainbow panorama invites you to experience the familiar (a city skyline) in unfamiliar ways. Olafur Eliasson's creation consists of a 150-meter-long and three meter-wide circular walkway in glass in all the colors of the spectrum. 

    One Day Poem Pavilion
    Artist Jiyeon Song has created a sculptural structure that utilizes perforations carefully arranged throughout the top surfaces.  As light shines through the Pavilion's holes at different angles, legible text is created on the sidewalk underneath.  Different lines from a poem appear at different times of the day, due to the position of the sun.  What is super cool is that (again, due to the sun's position) one poem appears during the summer, and a different poem appears in the winter.

    Miguel Marquez Outside
    Michael Pederson is a street artist and photographer in Sydney, Australia. His blog Miguel Marquez Outside shows, among other projects, signs that Pederson has placed in public. They look official and offer rules, suggestions, and information about the area.

    Many of Pederson's signs twist the traditional notion of informational signs (like those found in museums!)  I wonder how we could play with visitors' expectations in outdoor exhibits by using ideas like this?

    Wind Map
    Wind Map gives a real-time visualization of wind speeds in the U.S. It's like a giant video infographic! A more three-dimensional view of wind around the entire globe is available at the earth website

    Of course, even during COVID times, the most refreshing and inspirational thing to do right now might be a short stroll around your neighborhood. So why not take a break from your computer and take a walk outside?

    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, you can help keep it free to read and free from ads by supporting ExhibiTricks through our PayPal "Tip Jar"
  • Balancing Planning and Chance

    I recently had the chance to speak with Jeanne Vergeront on my Museum FAQ YouTube series about finding the balance between planning and chance. 

    Even though I've recorded dozens of video conversations with museum colleagues from around the world over the past few months, this is one of my favorites!

    Balancing planning and chance seems like an especially timely topic given the impact of COVID-19 on every aspect of the world, including the operation of museums and the threatened livelihoods of many museum workers.

    Jeanne provided three framing questions for museum workers to consider when trying to balance planning and chance:

    1) What Do We Understand?

    2) What Matters?

    3) What's Possible?

    Jeanne and I also discussed the need for both a feeling of assurance, as well as a pioneering spirit, in every organization -- and that each type of worker personality needs to acknowledge the importance of the other.

    It's worth your while to check out Jeanne's original blog post that inspired our Museum FAQ conversation by clicking over to her "Museum Notes" site.

    Also, head on over to the POW! YouTube site to view dozens of Museum FAQ conversations, including the video that Jeanne and I recorded.

    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, you can help keep it free to read and free from ads by supporting ExhibiTricks through our PayPal "Tip Jar"