Exhibit Workshops

POW Exhibit Workshops

As the company name POW! suggests, Paul Orselli does workshops! Paul has presented workshops on exhibit design and prototyping to enthusiastic attendees at museums, conferences, and universities around the world.

Click on the images below to find out more, or better yet, CONTACT PAUL today to discuss a custom workshop for your institution.

ICOM-ITC Beijing Workshop

Paul was invited to China to be one of the two primary international instructors for workshops at the International Council of Museums – International Training Center (ICOM-ITC) headquartered at the Palace Museum in Beijing. Paul presented interactive sessions on museum exhibit design and development topics to workshop attendees from all across China, as well as such diverse countries as Kenya, Nepal, Korea, and Guatemala. Click below to read a blog post on Paul’s experiences in China:

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Tunisia Workshops

As part of grant programs through the U.S. State Department, Paul was invited twice to Tunisia to work with teachers, scout leaders, and museum professionals from Libya and Tunisia. During the immersive workshops, Paul explored with these adult leaders how museum education techniques could be used to foster a greater appreciation among the region’s young people for their own regional and national cultural heritage. Paul wrote a blog post on his first visit to Tunisia:

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Huttinger Germany Workshop

POW! was invited to give workshops to the staff of Huttinger, one of the largest exhibit fabrication companies in Europe, located in Nuremberg, Germany. While there, Paul was able to tour Huttinger’s amazing fabrication facilities and conduct hands-on sessions at Huttinger’s headquarters.

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Universities and Museums Workshops

POW! is fortunate to give interactive workshops to a wide variety of organizations around the world. In addition to being an instructor or guest lecturer at Museum Education and Exhibit Design programs at universities, Paul continues to give presentations at Museums and Conferences in North America and Europe.

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ExhibiTricks blog

  • Labor Pains: The 2018 NEMA Conference and the Museum World's Ongoing Wages and Workers Challenges



    A labor dispute happening during the recent New England Museum Association (NEMA) Conference illustrates the Museum World's ongoing challenges with workers and wages.

    Despite the fact that representatives of Unite Here Local 217 requested that all NEMA Conference attendees honor a boycott and daily picket lines against the Stamford Hilton by not entering the hotel, over 90% of the approximately 900 conference registrants entered the hotel to attend sessions and events.

    A small number of NEMA Conference attendees chose to honor the boycott and picket lines by not entering the Hilton and by holding their sessions offsite at either the Local 217 Union Hall, The Bruce Museum, or Franklin Street Works, a local not-for-profit art space. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, almost all of those offsite sessions had a social justice focus, and almost all of those offsite presenters honoring the Hilton boycott were women, people of color, or members of the LGBTQ+ communities.)

    Certainly, the decisions that everyone made regarding how to participate (or whether to participate at all) in the NEMA Conference were their own, but museum people being museum people, there was some furious parsing of union and labor terminology and some pretzel logic going on to justify some of those decisions -- which you can rehash for yourself by checking out the #NEMA2018 hashtag on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

    [And now for context, a short union terminology sidebar, speaking from my perspective as someone who grew up in Detroit in a union household and in an extended family of union members, including my immigrant grandfather who was fighting with his coworkers against Henry Ford's goons to help start the United Auto Workers (UAW) union.

    To boycott an establishment (like the Stamford Hilton) means to withdraw from commercial or social relations with an organization as a punishment or protest.  There doesn't need to be a "strike" a "labor action" or even an active "dispute" or "demonstration."  Union 217 asked all NEMA Conference attendees to boycott the Hilton by canceling their room reservations, and/or by not entering the hotel as a show of support and solidarity.

    Picketing is a form of protest in which people congregate outside a place of work or location where an event is taking place. Often, this is done in an attempt to dissuade others from going in, but it can also be done to draw public attention to a cause. Again this can be independent of any formal "strike" or specific "labor action." In this case, Union 217 held daily picket lines outside the Stamford Hilton to urge people not to enter or patronize the hotel.
    If you wait 10 minutes after a picket line stops to enter a place of business, or if you look for a side or rear entrance because a picket line is only at the front door, you "technically" did not cross the picket line, but you are also "technically" acting like a weasel.  A picket line serves the same purpose as a boycott in the sense that it is an ongoing request for support and solidarity, whether a picket line completely encircles a building and every entrance 24 hours a day or not. ]





    What happened during the 2018 NEMA Conference may be an isolated incident, but it is also reflective of ongoing challenges related to wages and workers in the museum and not-for-profit worlds and how museum workers and museum organizations need to "walk the walk" not just "talk the talk."

    Salary transparency is an example of one small way to increase awareness and equity for museum workers. While many national museum organizations like the Association of Children's Museums (ACM) and the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) along with numerous regional, state, and local museum organizations have required that salary ranges be part of every job posting, some other museum organizations (including NEMA) have chosen not to honor this simple requirement asked for by members, including some of their own board members.  (You can find out more about the campaign for museum salary transparency at the National Emerging Museum Professionals Network's website.)


    If we want fair pay and better working conditions for ALL workers, including museum workers, and if we want to make museums welcoming places for ALL people, not just a small subset of our communities, how will we ACT when given the chance to show support and solidarity for those ideals? 



    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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  • Impressions of MuseumNext NYC 2018



    I attended my first MuseumNext Conference that just happened in Manhattan.  MuseumNext often bills itself with the tagline "The Future of Museums" and while this NYC edition had a decidedly digital bent, I was pleased to discover that not everything in the museum world's future appears to be digital.

    First, a few general impressions before I highlight a few specific sessions that struck me.

    MuseumNext NYC had a relatively small number of participants (around 300) although they hailed from 15 different countries in addition to attendees from North America.  The presentation format is TED style, so all MuseumNext attendees see the same presentations all together in rapid succession (there is a lunch break and a short afternoon coffee break, but otherwise the sessions move right along.)

    While this format has benefits, as an attendee if you don't like a presentation you are stuck -- there are no other concurrent sessions to jump to.  And this was a problem for me during the 2-day conference because several presentations were more "sales pitch" than sharing of expertise and experiences.  That's fine, and to be expected, in the case of MuseumNext sponsors who were given the stage, but it felt a little slimy in the case of the other presentations.

    My other quibble with the MuseumNext NYC schedule was that there was not enough time for socializing and networking.  I would have appreciated the opportunity to spend a bit more time with more of the very interesting attendees!


    Below are some takeaways and impressions of some MuseumNext NYC presentations that particularly appealed to me. (You can find many of the MuseumNext presentations and slides here.)

    Hannah Fox from the Derby Museums in the UK led off the first day of presentations by sharing the approaches that bring the Derby Museums and programs such acclaim.  I was particularly struck by how often the word "prototype" came up in Hannah's presentation! The Derby Museums try out everything with their visitors and community partners.  I also appreciated how often Derby's cross-disciplinary teams pushed back on the “it would just be better if I did it myself” approach.




    Laura Flusche from the Museum Of Design Atlanta (MODA) explained how she and her staff create a "maker museum" that constantly uses design thinking and "radical friendliness" to incorporate visitor feedback into their process. In a simple equation, Craft + Activism = Craftivism at MODA. So, letting visitors create at MODA to express their stories. (I also loved the corridor of pool noodles from the “Designing Playful Cities” Exhibition!)



    Christian Rohner from the Museum of Communication in Berne, Switzerland explained how their museum re-allocated budget to switch from volunteers and part-time “communicators” to all permanent staff and how the redesign of the MoC made sure every object was coupled with a human story.



    (I also loved how children could follow a graphic "squirrel story" without words to experience the Museum of Communication.)



    Victoria Travers from the Auckland Museum explained how the museum staff used Facebook as a means for collecting objects from current events (like the worldwide Women's Marches following Donald Trump's election.) The Auckland Museum also did a lot of prototyping and shifting of exhibit experiences based on visitor feedback. (In the picture below, the upper left image shows how staff thought visitors in Auckland would use a feedback experience, and the other images show how visitors took over the whole feedback experience and space!)





    One of my favorite quotes on Day 1 came from the engaging presenter Liat Rosenthal, curator of Uniqlo Tate Lates (evening events at the Tate Modern.) She and her colleagues think about a museum as "a university with a playground attached."



    Day 2 at MuseumNext NYC 2018 featured two very different, but equally strong, digital museum experiences:

    ReBlink at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) used Augmented Reality (AR) technology to help visitors engage more deeply with a small selection of paintings from the permanent collection. Working with creative company Impossible Things, the AGO was able to create deeper visitor engagement by introducing modern images and ideas into classical artworks. (Evaluation shows that visitors shifted from spending two seconds (on average) with AGO paintings to 4-9 minutes with ReBlink paintings.) Here's a video teaser of ReBlink (below or on Vimeo)




    The folks from Impossible Things also gave a pop-up demo of ReBlink during the lunch break.



    Ann Neumann from the MIT Museum shared the lessons learned from the development of the immersive Virtual Reality (VR) project, "The Enemy" developed with Camera Lucida. By juxtaposing the stories of combatants from conflicts around the world the MIT Museum asks whether VR can be a tool to expand our moral imaginations?




    Of course, after learning about two wonderful app-based projects, JiaJia Fei from the Jewish Museum in NYC gave a wonderfully contrarian and compelling argument against apps in museums! Basically, visitors to the Jewish Museum access web-served audio guides once they connect to the museum’s free WiFi — no downloads or apps. (A major limitation of the use of apps in museums is the minuscule percentage of visitors who actually are willing to download an app onto their devices.)


    One of my other favorite presentations from Day 2 came from Tim Powell of the Historic Royal Palaces (HRP) in the UK. Tim shared several of the exciting ways that HRP are using an R&D approach through collaboration with artists, and by gaining audience input from the start.



    I'll end my impressions of MuseumNext NYC 2018 with this image of Rolf Coppens from Grrr creative agency in Amsterdam. I think the qualities of pushing boundaries, working together, being demanding, and keeping users first were certainly captured in many of the presentations (and my takeaways) from the conference. MuseumNext was definitely not a typical museum conference, and I would encourage ExhibiTricks readers to check out a future edition near you if the opportunity arises.




    You can check out additional impressions of MuseumNext NYC 2018 by searching for the hashtag #MuseumNext on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.


    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!)
  • Reasons To Be Cheerful and The Happy Museum Project



    I've decided to take a little "break" from paying too much attention to the news because it makes me unhappy.

    So for this post, I've decided to highlight two different museum/cultural projects that focus on the happiness and well-being of museum visitors and cultural consumers.



    The Reasons To Be Cheerful website is an interactive mapped compendium of projects around the world arranged by topics such as Energy, Health, Culture, and Education. You zoom around the map to find out more about the people and groups moving projects forward to make a better world.

    Worth checking out by clicking here.





    As stated on the Happy Museum website, the project "supports museum practice that places wellbeing within an environmental and future-facing frame, rethinking the role that museums can play in creating more resilient people, places and planet. Through action research, academic research, peer networking and training it supports institutional and community wellbeing and resilience in the face of global challenges."

    The Happy Museum website is well-stocked with resources and thoughtful findings that can provide ways of moving your institution or personal practice toward supporting institutional and community wellbeing and resilience in the face of global financial and environmental challenges.




    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!)
  • Do We Need More Museum Teams or More Museum Auteurs?



    I recently visited the excellent John Waters exhibition at the Baltimore Museum of Art, and as I was walking around the rest of the BMA, admiring site-specific pieces like Tomas Saraceno's "Entangled Orbits" (pictured at the top of this post) I started thinking about how exhibitions (and entire museums) get put together.

    One thing I've noticed about truly unique and ground-breaking museums (like AVAM, City Museum, The Exploratorium, and Museum of Old and New Art) is that many of the most interesting things inside are the products of strong-minded individuals, not teams.  Which begs the question:

    Do we need more museum teams or more museum auteurs?

    It seems a lot more straightforward, if less democratic, to pursue one person's design vision than to sit through endless meetings trying to come to agreement among staff and advisors on the direction of an exhibition, or a set of exhibitions, in the case of a new museum.

    Most granting agencies have essentially mandated an approach that makes all sorts of consensus-building techniques an essential part of the "creative" process --- but has this approach resulted in more interesting exhibitions and museums?

    Art Museums seem more willing to turn over their galleries to individual artists for installations, usually with very good results. How can less "auteur" minded institutions like Science, History, and Children's Museums take advantage of a strong-minded individual driving the exhibit process forward, rather than the oft-venerated "Exhibits Team"? (I'd love to see Olafur Eliasson put together an exhibition at a Science Center!)

    The "Creative Team" Conundrum also rears its ugly head when thinking about visitor studies and that Web 2.0 favorite, "crowdsourcing".

    In the case of visitor studies, most visitors are only able to come up with variations of exhibits and exhibit themes they are already familiar with. Every museum stocked according to audience surveys would likely include a rocket ship or train, a dinosaur skeleton, and a mummy --- not bad, necessarily, but not exactly moving the exhibits field forward either.

    Crowds and focus groups are notoriously bad at choosing innovations, which is why companies like Apple don't use them. Apple’s attitude is that sometimes, to truly innovate, you’ve got to go beyond giving people what they say they want. Building consensus often builds mediocre, and "safe" (rather than interesting) design decisions.

    Maybe we need to bring in more "trouble makers" like Fred Wilson to shake up our staid exhibition development models. As Kathy McLean said in a previous ExhibiTricks interview, "I don't really need a lot of money or time to do my dream exhibitions ... I need organizations that are interested in presenting unusual, thought-provoking experiences."

    What do you think? More museum teams or more museum auteurs? Let us know in the Comments Section below. (If you don't see the word "comment" at the very end of the post just click on the link that shows the posting time.)


    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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  • 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!)