Free Exhibit Resources

Exhibit Resources from POW!

Introduction to The EXHIBIT CHEAPBOOKS

The Exhibit Cheapbooks have always celebrated the “worldwide” nature of museums. You will find varied exhibit ideas from museum colleagues from around the world inside each volume.
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Paul Orselli Talks Museum Exhibit FAQs

We started the library of Museum FAQ videos and have received some great reviews, click below to see our informative videos of "Frequently Asked Questions" and interviews.
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The Great Big Exhibit Resource List

A constantly updated compendium of resources for museum design and exhibit fabrication (including websites and contact information.)
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Donor Recognition Examples

This is a PDF of examples of Donor Walls and other recognition devices in museums that were featured in an ExhibiTricks blog post. It's a BIG file so be patient as it loads.
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POW! in The New York Times

A nice review of a children's interactive art exhibition I created for the Nassau County Museum of Art.
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Downloadable Exhibit Articles by Paul Orselli

"Converting Museum Visitors into Fans Is Mission Possible"

An article about Paul Orselli and his work as a museum exhibition designer and his goal of to turn museum visitors into loyal fans.
>> View Article on Website

"Creating the ‘Wow-Aha!’ Exhibit"

Paul Orselli was interviewed in the Association of Children's Museums (ACM) journal, Hand to Hand, about developing museum exhibitions and what a post-COVID future might hold for interactive experiences.
>> download the PDF now

"Can Museums Really Change?"

In this article from the Informal Learning Review, Paul Orselli questions whether museums can really make the changes needed to move into the post-COVID world.
>> download the PDF now

"Producing Great Exhibits on a (Not So Great) Budget"

My article from the January/February 2014 issue of ASTC's Dimensions magazine. Some simple, inexpensive ways to add to your exhibits program.
>> download the PDF now

"Green Design Nuts and Bolts"

An article jam-packed with resources and techniques to help you expand your green exhibit design toolkit.
>> download the PDF now

"Million Dollar Pencils and Duct Tape: Some Thoughts on Prototyping"

Concrete examples and tips about how to move through each phase of the exhibit prototyping process.
>> download the PDF now

"Good Things Come In Small Packages" (Small Museums Article)

Lessons learned from a quarter century of working with a variety of different types and sizes of museums.
>> download the PDF now

"Do You Really Need a 3D Printer, and Other Essential Questions You Need to Ask about a Museum’s Makerspace"

5 questions to consider when creating (or updating!) a Makerspace or design-based learning environment at your museum.
>> download the PDF now

ExhibiTricks blog

  • Exhibit Design Inspiration -- Decisions, Decisions!



    Sometimes as part of a museum exhibit experience, we'd like the users to make a choice of some sort -- "Which historical figure do you want to find out about?"  "Choose one of these six minerals to test ..." "Did your animal survive the winter?" and so on.

    While these kinds of decision points as part of an interactive experience can be handled by a digital/computer device or (gasp!) some sort of Artificial Intelligence application, I'm a big fan of a decidedly more "old school" analog approach -- incorporating the devices used in board games (dice, spinners, flippers, carnival wheels, etc.) to provide different content or experiential choices for museum visitors.

    Why use things like dice or spinners in an exhibition instead of a randomized digital equivalent?

    Here are a few reasons:

    SOCIABILITY 
    Watching a spinning carnival wheel or having several people throw dice to make a choice in an exhibition is inherently a more social experience than one person hunching over a touch screen.

    SUSTAINABILITY
    Spinners or dice don't need to be plugged in.

    ACCESSIBILITY
    Physical selection devices can be used by people with a wide range of abilities.  For example, all these "old school" game devices can be set up so that users with low or no vision can still participate.

    SCALABILITY
    Game elements can also easily scale up or down. Large-scale game elements add to the "sociability" factor mentioned above.

    Check out this example below from a nature game (about geese!) I saw during my last trip to Bulgaria.



    TESTABILITY
    Simple selection devices can be easily mocked up when testing exhibit prototypes, or just by doing a quick Google or Amazon search for "game piece suppliers," you can find lots of good places to buy all sorts of pieces to use for testing or in finished exhibit components.

    In that regard, while researching this post, I came across a great website boardgamegeek.com. In addition to having all sorts of information about, and reviews of, board games, the site also has this handy webpage that provides an alphabetical listing of online outlets that sell game pieces and related materials. 

    FAMILIARITY
    Most, if not all, of your museum visitors will automatically know how to use a carnival wheel or set of dice.

    MAINTAINABILITY
    Last but not least, these low-tech items are very durable and easily maintained or replaced.  Even better, all of these items can be self-contained -- that is, without loose parts.  Even dice can be put into spinning cages or the awesome Pop-O-Matic, so they don't go astray.



    So, why not take a chance (roll the dice!) and incorporate some "old school" physical game elements into your next exhibit design or prototyping session?






    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"
  • Successful Imperfection




    The other day one of my sons wanted to cook up a little surprise for our family.  He worked hard to make some onion bhaji based on a recipe that one of his college friends taught him.  (You can try making some of your own bhajis by following this recipe.)

    Everyone enjoyed the special appetizers and found them quite tasty, but I noticed my son was a little upset, and I asked him what the problem was.  He was disappointed that the bhaji hadn't turned out exactly how he had hoped and had actually thrown some of them away because he didn't think they were "good enough" to serve.

    We are often our own worst critics, and many times the fear of "less than perfect" paralyzes our work. 

    Sometimes parts of an exhibition or a new program won't be 100% complete or be *perfect* on opening day -- and while that might gnaw at us as creators, our visitors are usually focused on enjoying the new exhibits or programs we've created.

    Let's continue to learn from our failures, but let's also take time to savor our "imperfect" successes.



    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"
  • Do You Need Walls to be a Museum?



    Do you need walls to be a Museum?

    It's a question worth asking again, as the Rubin Museum of Art recently announced that it would be closing its New York City museum building later this year -- essentially becoming a "museum without walls."

    There are many instances of emerging museums starting out as "museums without walls," with the ultimate aim in those cases to end up inside a permanent museum home rather than reversing the sequence as the Rubin is doing.

    But really, what are the essential qualities of a "museum"?  I would say that strong museum experiences are defined by three S words: Stuff, Stories, and Social. (Note that "Structure" isn't one of those S words!)

    First, you need some kind of "STUFF," whether artifacts, collection objects, or exhibit elements.  Even completely digital museums, like the Girl Museum, still emphasize the notion of thematic exhibitions, albeit through purely online installations.

    Secondly, you should have strong STORIES to share.  The FREE THE MUSEUM project works to share stories and place their installations in and around communities in places like parks, streets, or community gathering places rather than museum buildings.

    And lastly, museums must be SOCIAL places, providing opportunities for people to gather and interact with each other.  The "new" Rubin Museum aims to provide such social opportunities for people to interact with new installations related to Himalayan Art by working with creative partners around the world.

    So I would say you do NOT need walls to create strong and memorable museum experiences. 

    However, it will be difficult for "wall-free museums" to shift the natural perception of so many members of the public who immediately think of permanent, physical buildings when the word "museum" comes up and consider museum buildings the mark of institutional legitimacy.






    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"
  • Why "Best Museum" Lists are the Worst!




    I hope your museum is better than chasing after some hokey "best of" list.

    USA Today regularly publishes multiple categories of these "Best Museum" lists.

    The whole process starts with an incredibly bad premise -- how can you compare two completely different museums, say the Museum of Modern Art and the American Museum of Natural History, and claim one of them is the "best"?

    The people who most often seem interested in these "best museum" lists are executive directors or board members begging you to vote (multiple times!) for their institution or museum marketers looking to churn out another breathless press release.

    Do we really need our work recognized by giving ourselves flimsy PR bragging rights because of some bogus "best of" list?

    You don't actually get to claim the title of "the best" for your museum with some cheesy marketing stunt -- instead, you need to try every day to create amazing experiences so that your visitors keep coming back to your museum, again and again, and telling their friends and family to do the same.








    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"
  • Cool Tool: KEEPa Magnetic Clip



    My brother-in-law recently told me about KEEPa -- a cool multi-function magnetic clip/strap device.

    A durable polyurethane strap has two super-strong magnets encased at each end, surrounded by small ridges to reduce sliding or skidding.



    KEEPa is the perfect kind of multi-purpose tool -- the more you use it, the more new ways you come up with ways to put it to use.

    Find out more about KEEPa on their website or see people putting it to use on the KEEPa Instagram page.





    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"