The Participatory Museum, Five Years Later

Museum 2.0

This week marks five years since the book The Participatory Museum was first released. I wrote The Participatory Museum for two reasons: to explore the "how" of participatory design in museums, cultural centers, libraries, and science centers to create a version of this blog that was more "shareable" with organizational leaders and trustees By many measures, the book has been a success. I''m curious to know: has The Participatory Museum played a role in your work?

17 Ways We Made our Exhibition Participatory

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It is multi-disciplinary, incorporates diverse voices from our community, and provides interactive and participatory opportunities for visitor involvement. This post focuses on one aspect of the exhibition: its participatory and interactive elements. We experimented with many different forms of visitor participation throughout the building, trying to balance social and individual, text-based and artistic, cerebral and silly.

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One Simple Question to Make Your Work More Participatory

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Wes is an artist, and this is his first time running a museum exhibition development process. This is the question I ask myself anytime I'm working on something with a participatory intent. In the case of the exhibition process that Wes is leading, we talked about how others could be involved in an experimental exhibition/residency in which artists work with visitors in the gallery. He asked staff and artist friends for feedback on the concept.

Great Participatory Processes are Open, Discoverable, and Unequal

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He casts the whole idea of a great jazz jam in the context of the tragedy of the commons--like a poetry open mic, the jazz club is a community whose experience is fabulous or awful depending on the extent to the culture cultivates and enforces a healthy participatory process. When I think about what makes for great participatory experiences in both poetry open mics and jazz jams, it comes down to three basic things: The process is open.

Making Participatory Processes Visible to Visitors

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Let's say you spend a year working with a group of teens to co-create an exhibition, or you invite members and local artists to help redesign the lobby. In many cases, once the final project is launched, it's hard to detect the participatory touch. Not every participatory process has to scream "look at me!" But it's a shame when visitors can't experience the energy that went into the making of a participatory project--when the product of a living process is a dead thing.

Our Museum: Extraordinary Resources on How Museums and Galleries Become Participatory Places

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Most participatory projects were short-term, siloed innovations, not institutional transformations. While that was painful for the organizations involved, it also helped force the issue of whether participatory engagement could be core to a strong future business model for each organization or not. That honesty shines through in the report's clear language, specific tips, and frequent bite-sized notes of "things to watch out for" when working to become a participatory organization.

Put Down the Clipboard:Visitor Feedback as Participatory Activity

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Stacey has been collaborating with local artists to produce a series of content-rich events that invite visitors to participate in a range of hands-on activities. The event involved over fifty artists throughout the building helping visitors make their own paper, write poems, stitch books, etc. Museum of Art and History marketing participatory museum usercontentA few weeks ago, the MAH Director of Community Programs, Stacey Garcia, came to me with an idea.

Getting in on the Act: New Report on Participatory Arts Engagement

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Last month, the Irvine Foundation put out a new report, Getting In On the Act , about participatory arts practice and new frameworks for audience engagement. I've often been asked about examples of participatory practice in theater, dance, and classical music, and this report is a great starting point. It can be easy to conflate engaging activities with participatory opportunities, and I'm glad they were explicit about the difference.

Adventures in Artist-Driven Public Engagement: Machine Project at the Hammer Museum

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What happens when a formal art museum invites a group of collaborative, participatory artists to be in residence for a year? Will the artists ruin the museum with their plant vacations and coatroom concerts? Will the bureaucracy of the institution drown the artists in red tape? The 182-page book includes detailed descriptions of projects, budgets, and decision-making processes, along with extensive interviews with artists, curators, and museum staff of all stripes.

Foot in the Door: A Powerful Participatory Exhibit

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While there, I was lucky to get to experience a highly participatory exhibition that the MIA mounts once a decade: Foot in the Door. The rules are clear: anyone who lives in Minnesota and considers her/himself an artist can contribute one piece. The only thing I really wish existed were more personal stories from the artists--I would have loved to see statements and photos of them alongside their works. Tags: exhibition design participatory museum usercontent

What I Learned from Beck (the rock star) about Participatory Arts

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There are many artistic projects that offer a template for participation, whether a printed play, an orchestral score, or a visual artwork that involves an instructional set (from community murals to Sol LeWitt). Beck''s project is unusual because he deliberately resurrected a mostly-defunct participatory platform: sheet music for popular songs. One of the things I always focus on in participatory exhibit design is ensuring that everyone has the same tools to work with.

Guest Post by Nina Simon -- Self-Expression is Overrated: Better Constraints Make Better Participatory Experiences

Beth's Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media

When I talk about designing participatory experiences, I often show the above graphic from Forrester Research. Museums see open-ended self-expression as the be-all of participatory experiences. Allowing visitors to select their favorite exhibits in a gallery or comment on the content of the labels isn’t seen as valuable a participatory learning experience as producing their own content. Tags: guest blogging participatory

What Could Kill an Elegant, High-Value Participatory Project?

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It's my "artistic rendering" of one of the most inspirational participatory projects I know of--the Bibliotheek Haarlem Oost book drops. Too often, cultural institutions design participatory projects that require visitors to learn new tools or make sacrifices to contribute. After I got over my shock (and the urge to delete the email), I realized that this depressing coda is a great illustration of the challenges of sustaining participatory projects.

Self-Expression is Overrated: Better Constraints Make Better Participatory Experiences

Museum 2.0

When I talk about designing participatory experiences, I often show the above graphic from Forrester Research. Museums see open-ended self-expression as the be-all of participatory experiences. Allowing visitors to select their favorite exhibits in a gallery or comment on the content of the labels isn’t seen as valuable a participatory learning experience as producing their own content. Tags: design participatory museum usercontent

Making Museum Tours Participatory: A Model from the Wing Luke Asian Museum

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It incorporates work by local artists, old and new construction, and is completely gorgeous. She did several things over the course of the tour to make it participatory, and she did so in a natural, delightful way. But participatory facilitation can be taught. What kind of participatory techniques have you seen work well on tours? Tags: personalization participatory museum Last week, I visited the Wing Luke Asian Museum in Seattle.

The Johnny Cash Project: A Participatory Music Video That Sings

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This question is a byproduct of the reality that most participatory projects have poorly articulated value. When a participatory activity is designed without a goal in mind, you end up with a bunch of undervalued stuff and nowhere to put it. But the best participatory projects don't suffer from this problem, because they solicit visitors' contributions toward a very specific outcome. Are you making that shift in your thinking about participatory project design?

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What Happens When a Viral Participatory Project is Too Successful? Diagnosing the Power of the Love Locks

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And so, one of the most successful, accidental, and fraught participatory projects of the past decade comes to an end. The "love locks" are not a project with an institutional or artistic director. No one planned the love locks, but their success is rooted in the same principles that make all the best participatory projects work: it requires no instructions beyond its own example.

Why Are So Many Participatory Experiences Focused on Teens?

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Over the past year, I've noticed a strange trend in the calls I receive about upcoming participatory museum projects: the majority of them are being planned for teen audiences. And while I enjoy working with youth and consuming their creations as a museum visitor, I'd like to call into question the idea that they are or should be the primary audience for participatory experiences. Why are teens over-represented in participatory projects?

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Lessons in Participatory Design from SFMOMA's Exhibition on (you guessed) The Art of Participation

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The Art of Participation provides a retrospective on participatory art as well as presenting opportunities for visitors to engage in contemporary (“now”) works. As the museum's website puts it, "this exhibition examines how artists have engaged members of the public as essential collaborators in the art-making process." DON’T make the participatory activity too narrow or difficult. DO think about visitor flow when situating participatory experiences.

Guest Post: Restoration Artwork

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In this post, George grapples with the challenges of balancing the care for a museum collection with that of contemporary artists-in-residence who are constantly reinterpreting it. Every Saturday, the curatorial team at Elsewhere , a living museum in downtown Greensboro, NC, reviews the project proposals of its artists-in-residence. Proposals involve sculpture, performance, participatory-projects, videos, and installation that use and respond to the museum’s collection.

How Do You Inspire Visitors to Take Action After They Leave?

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This exhibition is a big accomplishment for us because it incorporates multiple ways we push boundaries at the MAH: we co-designed it with 100+ community partners (C3) , including artists, foster youth, and youth advocates, with youth voices driving the project from big idea to install to programming. Then, we worked with one of the commissioned exhibition artists, Melody Overstreet, to create an artwork that weaves all these little things into one tapestry.

New Approach, Historic Mission: Remaking a Factory Museum via Community Co-Production

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In the fall of 2013, they launched Re:Make , an ambitious project to redevelop the museum, live, on the floor, with a mix of staff, guest artists, and community members. A strong participatory process is not a loosey-goosey, open the doors and do whatever strategy. It''s not a question of the participatory process being unidirectional, something that we are doing for you the community. design inclusion institutional change participatory museum Imagine a historic site.

Voting on Art and its Surprising Consequences

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Let's look at the statistics from three big participatory projects that wrapped up recently. This citywide festival showcased work by 1,517 artists competing for a $200,000 top cash prize awarded by public vote. GO invited people to visit artists' studios throughout Brooklyn over one weekend and to nominate up to three favorites; the top ten will be considered for an upcoming group show at the museum. 1,708 artists participated.

Building Community: Who / How / Why

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For example, in Santa Cruz there is a huge community of creative people who identify as artists in non-traditional media. That’s why we partner with fire sculptors, knitters, graffiti artists, and bonsai growers. They are artists whose experience deserves a home in our institution alongside painters, photographers, and sculptors. We want everyone to leave the museum feeling that they could become an historian or artist—a civic and/or creative agent of change.

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Ancient Greece 2.0: Arts Participation before the Industrial Age

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When we talk about making museums or performing arts organizations more participatory and dynamic, those changes are often seen as threatening to the traditional arts experience. What if historic arts experiences were actually a lot more participatory? In In and Out of the Dark [pdf] , Colby College professor Lynne Conner argues convincingly that the current refinement of the Western fine arts experience is an aberrant blip in a long history of participatory audience engagement.

Guest Post: Community and Civic Engagement in Museum Programs

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Visitors bond and bridge through participatory experiences at MAH. The program is an experimental playground that bridges artists, students, chefs, comedians, hairdressers, bartenders, dancers, wrestlers and even tattoo artists to produce a community-led event. For example, the MAH’s Poetry and Book Arts Extravaganza event partnered with Book Arts Santa Cruz and Poetry Santa Cruz to collaborate with 61 talented book artists and poets.

Temple Contemporary and the Puzzle of Sharing Powerful Processes

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They were there for artist talks. Every other year, they convene TUPAC, a group of 35 outside advisors, including teens, college students, Temple University professors, artists, philanthropists, and community leaders. design participatory museumThe first thing I noticed about Temple Contemporary were the chairs. Desk chairs and theater seats, sleek modsters and dilapidated stuffed things, a motley crew lined up on hooks around the room. They were charming, but puzzling.

Thinking about User Participation in Terms of Negotiated Agency

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Negotiation" implies a respectful relationship between institution (or artist) and user. Sometimes the negotiation can be exploited for artistic means. The theater is dark and the artist breaks the fourth wall and asks for conversation. institutional change relationships participatory museum Unusual Projects and Influences game visitors Early this month, I got the chance to hear legendary game designer Will Wright (Sim City) give a talk.

ASKing about Art at the Brooklyn Museum: Interview with Shelley Bernstein and Sara Devine

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Send in your question, and it can be days before the artist or curator responds with an answer. That being said, we get all kinds of questions — details in the works, about the artist, why the work is in the Museum, etc. Projects participatory museum research Technology Tools Worth Checking Out visitorsI’ve always been inspired by the creative ways the Brooklyn Museum uses technology to connect visitors to museum content.

Answers to the Ten Questions I am Most Often Asked

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I've seen this line of questioning almost completely disappear in the past two years due to many research studies and reports on the value and rise of participation, but in 2006-7, social media and participatory culture was still seen as nascent (and possibly a passing fad). In 2008 and 2009, there were many conference sessions and and documents presenting participatory case studies, most notably Wendy Pollock and Kathy McLean's book Visitor Voices in Museum Exhibitions.

A City and an Art Center Design the Future: Reflections on the Market Street Prototyping Festival

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Over three days, 52 artist teams erected experimental projects along San Francisco''s biggest thoroughfare. The result was a true experiment in designing the future--right here, right now--with artists and planners and civic leaders at the helm together. Facilitation has a dual function: the artists learn what worked and didn''t, and visitors learn what the projects are all about. creative placemaking design participatory museum public space social bridging

Fifteen Random Things I've Learned about Design for Participation This Year

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We've been offering a host of participatory and interactive experiences at the Museum of Art & History this season. I loved Jasper Visser's list of 30 "do's" for designing participatory projects earlier this month. Artists work incredibly hard to produce their work. And the crayon drawings on the fridge door in an exhibition of award-winning local artists? This isn't even participatory. Museum of Art and History design participatory museum usercontent

Why We Wrote an Exhibition Philosophy

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In particular, we want exhibition collaborators--artists, researchers, historians, collectors--to understand our goals and how we intend to steer the exhibition development process. If you are working with us as an artist or contributor to an exhibition, you should expect that museum staff will create multi-modal, interdisciplinary, participatory, immersive, and social experiences around your work.

Facebook as Staff Backchannel: A Simple Way to Promote Transparency and Intimacy

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People use it to share surprises in the archives, inspiring meetings with artists, dead birds in the lobby, and free food in the fridge. participatory museum professional development A month ago, one of our front-line staff members, Sarah Groh, came to her supervisor and me with a concern. Sarah and some of her colleagues in visitor services feel disconnected from the work that happens "upstairs" in the office and in our creative project development. This problem is nothing new.

Yes, Visitors Can Help You. But You Have to Let Them.

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These are both busy people, and while they are very artistic, neither is a crack drawer. This experience reminded me of how much confidence it takes to say yes to any new activities (this isn't limited to participatory projects) because of unfamiliarity with the process. A participatory project is one in which visitors/users can actively contribute to make the institution better. Museum of Art and History programs institutional change participatory museum inclusion

Museum 2.0 Rerun: Inside the Design of an Amazing Museum Project to Capture People's Stories

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They designed a participatory project that delivers a compelling end product for onsite and online visitors… and they learned some unexpected lessons along the way. We invited a cross-section of artists, filmmakers, and advertisers to join us for a think tank. We have four stories up now: from a guard, a curator, a longtime museum lover, and an artist. Projects participatory museum storytelling usercontent

Guest Post: Radical Collaboration - Tools for Partnering with Community Members

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It’s not unusual for us to meet with an environmental activist, a balloon artist, a farmer, and the Mayor of Santa Cruz all in one day. When planning programs or events, we involve a combination of these groups to share and bridge audiences, bringing big, diverse crowds to new artists and ideas. Museum of Art and History programs relationships participatory museum guestpost inclusion

Guest Post: Weaving Community Collaborations into Permanent Installations at the Denver Art Museum

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The Denver Art Museum is no stranger to community collaborations, but we’ve been dipping in our toe a little more deeply when it comes to developing permanent participatory installations. Community artists gave their honest feedback, and we crafted a display based on these discussions and their contributions. Some community artists even helped install the space. exhibition guestpost inclusion participatory museum

Traveling Couches and other Emergent Surprises Courtesy of an Open Platform

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To that end, our exhibitions are full of participatory elements. Community members, artists, and organizations increasingly see our museum as a place where they can advance their own goals, and so they approach us. To me, this is an example of how the aggregation of participatory practices fundamentally changes the role that an organization has in its community. Museum of Art and History institutional change participatory museum comfort

Guest Post: A New Role for Science Museums--Playground for Scientists

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We ran with it and have since generated data about decision-making, cooperation, competition and negotiation for scientists (and also some artists) to play with. game guestpost participatory museum Unusual Projects and Influences One of the greatest gifts of my babymoon is the opportunity to share the Museum 2.0 author''s desk with brilliant colleagues who inspire me.

A Community-Driven Approach to Program Design

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We had about thirty participants ranging from MAH trustees to artists, educators to architects, moms to grandfathers. There's useful energy that arises when you put a teacher, a techie, a mom, and an artist in a group and ask them to work together. Museum of Art and History programs participatory museumHow do you develop programs that are responsive to your community in a meaningful way?

Engagement, Distraction, and the Puzzle of the Puzzle

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She is a fabulous and thoughtful artist. The same day we opened the Creativity Lounge, we opened new exhibitions throughout the building, including a paper collage show in the 3rd floor lobby by local artist Lisa Hochstein. An unnamed art museum once created an incredible interactive and participatory installation related to a temporary exhibition. Museum of Art and History exhibition institutional change participatory museum comfort

Four Unusual Professional Development Events in 2013

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We're working with participatory online artist Ze Frank on an exhibition at the MAH this winter that features the missions, creations, and explorations of his current web series, A Show. Museum of Art and History risk participatory museum professional developmentEver wish for a low-cost, energizing professional development experience where you can work intensely with diverse colleagues in a risk-tolerant environment?