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.

The Matter of Museums

Museum 2.0

This month we’ve been thinking about “What is a museum?” (I'm I’ve been visiting museums my whole life. Does that make me the best judge of museums? People are the defining characteristics of museums. I’ve worked with and at plenty of museums that can sometimes feel empty. When the galleries are quiet, with my clipclop shoes the only sound, the museum feels dead. Her answer is what many a museum professional would want people to say. Museum matter.

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One Simple Question to Make Your Work More Participatory

Museum 2.0

Photo by CLoé Zarifian, MAH Photo Intern We're working with a guest curator, Wes Modes , on an upcoming experimental project at our museum. 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. But even developing that open call was a participatory process: Wes worked with other staff to think through how the residencies could work.

17 Ways We Made our Exhibition Participatory

Museum 2.0

It made me think in ways that I haven't before about the relation of art--as expressive culture--to democracy. Helene Moglen, professor of literature, UCSC After a year of tinkering, the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History is now showing an exhibition, All You Need is Love , that embodies our new direction as an institution. It is multi-disciplinary, incorporates diverse voices from our community, and provides interactive and participatory opportunities for visitor involvement.

Great Participatory Processes are Open, Discoverable, and Unequal

Museum 2.0

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.

Balancing Engagement: Adventures in Participatory Exhibit Labels

Museum 2.0

We’ve been doing a little experiment at our museum with labels. The Santa Cruz Surfing Museum recently loaned us some fabulous surfboards that tell the co-mingled history of surfing and redwood trees in Santa Cruz. In our quest to make the public areas of the museum more reflective of Santa Cruz culture, we moved these boards from a comprehensive display in the history gallery into a main stairwell, prominently visible from the lobby and throughout the building.

Book Announcement: The Participatory Museum is now available!

Museum 2.0

As many of you know, I've been working for the past year+ on a book about visitor participation in museums, libraries, science centers, and art galleries. The Participatory Museum is a practical guide to visitor participation. The Participatory Museum is an attempt at providing such a resource. I hope it opens up a broader conversation about the nuts and bolts of successful participatory projects. While the book draws heavily from the Museum 2.0

Will They Play in Pyongyang? Culture, Geography, and Participation

Museum 2.0

During a workshop on museum visitor participation, someone spoke up and objected: "this might work in California, but it will never work in Texas." I saw how participatory techniques were working in diverse museums around the world. It is not culturally-determined. What may be culturally-determined, however, is HOW people want to participate. For example: American museum visitors often feel comfortable sharing their own opinions/stories/creative expression.

Participatory Moment of Zen: Diverse Visitor Contributions Add Up to Empathy

Museum 2.0

This person is writing about a participatory element (the "pastport") that we included in the exhibition Crossing Cultures. Crossing Cultures features paintings by Belle Yang that relate to her family''s immigration experiences. design exhibition Museum of Art and History participatory museum usercontent Whoever wrote this comment card: thank you. You made my month.

Opening Up Museums: My TEDxSantaCruz Talk

Museum 2.0

It gave me a chance to really think about how we have been opening up our museum and what it means for our community. Museums can be incredible catalysts for social change. We can change that by embracing participatory culture and opening up to the active, social ways that people engage with art, history, science, and ideas today. We're doing it in Santa Cruz and it has absolutely transformed our museum into a thriving community institution.

The Participatory Museum Process Part 3: My Experience

Museum 2.0

This is the third in a four-part series about writing The Participatory Museum. When I decided to write a book about visitor participation in cultural institutions, I knew I'd do it in a way that reflected the values behind the book itself--transparency, inclusion, and meaningful community participation. This post covers my personal process of encouraging--and harnessing--participation in the creation of The Participatory Museum.

Foot in the Door: A Powerful Participatory Exhibit

Museum 2.0

I spent last week working with staff at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA) on ways to make this encyclopedic art museum more open to visitor participation across programs, exhibitions, and events. While there, I was lucky to get to experience a highly participatory exhibition that the MIA mounts once a decade: Foot in the Door. All artworks delivered to the museum during the submission period will be accepted and presented; no one is turned away.

Guest Post: Community and Civic Engagement in Museum Programs

Museum 2.0

Visitors bond and bridge through participatory experiences at MAH. Writing my masters thesis for Gothenburg University’s International Museum Studies program while also working four days a week as the Director of Community Programs at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History this spring was certainly a challenge but also an incredible opportunity. I chose to focus my thesis on Community and Civic Engagement in Museum Programs.

Participatory Internships in Santa Cruz this School Year

Museum 2.0

At the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History, we take our interns seriously, give them real responsibility, creative challenges, and meaningful work opportunities. I'm particularly excited about two internships that relate to participatory exhibition design. First, there is the Participatory Exhibit Design Internship. These interns work with our curatorial team to develop interactive and participatory components for upcoming exhibitions.

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

Museum 2.0

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.

How Different Types of Museums Approach Participation

Museum 2.0

Recently, I was giving a presentation about participatory techniques at an art museum, when a staff member raised her hand and asked, "Did you have to look really hard to find examples from art museums? Aren't art museums less open to participation than other kinds of museums?" In my travels and research, I've seen all kinds of museums be incredibly successful--and incredibly uncomfortable--with visitor participation. Projects participatory museum

Year Three as a Museum Director. Thrived.

Museum 2.0

I''ve now been the executive director of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History for three years. We talk a lot at our museum about empowering our visitors, collaborators, interns, and staff by making space for them to shine. We work hard to name and build our culture in many ways. Institutional culture is something I never really understood before and I am now completely fascinated by how it can shape work. Participatory work can be very labor-intensive.

Why Are So Many Participatory Experiences Focused on Teens?

Museum 2.0

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. Even the most traditional museums often manage educational programs in which teens develop their own exhibits, produce youth-focused museum events, or provide educational experiences for younger visitors. Why are teens over-represented in participatory projects?

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

Museum 2.0

One of the greatest gifts of my babymoon is the opportunity to share the Museum 2.0 First up is Beck Tench, a "simplifier, illustrator, story teller, and technologist" working at the Museum of Life & Science in Durham, NC. As a person who works for a science museum, I work in an environment that supports play. But at my museum , the support doesn''t stop at our visitors. And my museum, and this new model, as a space for them to do so.

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Year One as a Museum Director. Survived!

Museum 2.0

Today is my one-year anniversary as the executive director of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History. A year ago, I put my consultant hat on the shelf and decided to jump into museum management (a sentence I NEVER would have imagined writing five years ago). We went through a dramatic financial turnaround and redefined our relationship with our community through a series of experimental participatory projects and new programmatic approaches.

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

Museum 2.0

Beck''s project is unusual because he deliberately resurrected a mostly-defunct participatory platform: sheet music for popular songs. In his thoughtful preface to this project, I reconnected with five lessons I''ve learned from participatory projects in museums and cultural sites. In my experience, the best participatory experiences are as constrained and clear as possible in the invitation offered, and as open-ended as possible in the outcome generated.

Goodbye Consulting, Hello Museum of Art & History!

Museum 2.0

Dear Museum 2.0 As of May 2, I will be the executive director of the Museum of Art & History at McPherson Center in Santa Cruz, CA (here's the press release ). I am closing down my consulting business at the end of April, but the Museum 2.0 Because of the increased workload I expect in the months to come, as well as the likely possibility that we will start a Museum of Art & History blog, I'm lowering my Museum 2.0 Museum of Art and History

Reimagining Museums with Latin America Leading the Way

Museum 2.0

Courageous speakers from dozens of countries described bold, participatory projects. El Museo Reimaginado is a collaborative effort of museum professionals in North and South America to explore museums' potential as community catalysts. Here are some of the things that made El Museo Reimaginado so special: It seems that Latin American museums are more vigorously pursuing community-based work than institutions elsewhere in the world. Pioneers of communitario museums.

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

Museum 2.0

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? But for museum and art wonks, it could be. The Machine Project and the Hammer Museum have just released an incredible ebook documenting Machine's year-long residency at the Hammer in 2010.

Where's the Community in the Crowd? Framing and the Wall Street Journal's "Everybody's a Curator"

Museum 2.0

Two weeks ago, my museum was featured in a Wall Street Journal article by Ellen Gamerman, Everybody''s a Curator. I''m thrilled that our small community museum is on the map with many big institutions around the country. I''m glad to see coverage about art museums involving visitors in exhibitions. It''s the work we feel driven to do to build a museum that is of and for our community. I meet them everyday in our museum. Core Museum 2.0

Thoughts on 3six5, a Successful Participatory Project

Museum 2.0

Yesterday, I had the delightful opportunity to participate in the 3six5 project , a yearlong participatory project in which 365 people write 365 journal entries for every day of 2010. 3six5 has all the hallmarks of a good participatory project: It offers an enjoyable activity that is scaffolded by simple specifications without prescribing any particular result. Participating in this made me wonder: could a museum or library run a project like 3six5?

Guest Post: One Museum's Experiment with Threaded Comment Stations

Museum 2.0

Jasper Visser and his colleagues at the not-yet-physically-open National Historisch Museum of the Netherlands have impressed me with their innovative, thoughtful approach to developing a dynamic national museum. Last weekend my museum presented itself at the Uitmarkt in Amsterdam. The Uitmarkt is an annual festival that opens the new cultural year. I thought it was a perfect chance to put one of the ideas in Nina Simon’s book The Participatory Museum to the test.

Rowboats and Magic Feathers: Reflections on 13 Years of Museum 2.0

Museum 2.0

Dear friends, This is my last post as the author of Museum 2.0. I'm thrilled that Seema Rao is taking this blog and museum community into its next chapter. You can find all my archived Museum 2.0 Today, I want to share a bit about what Museum 2.0 When I think of Museum 2.0, I started the Museum 2.0 2006 was a good year to start a museum blog. I became a kind of "it girl" for museum participation. I am incredibly grateful to Museum 2.0

What Do You Need to Make the Argument for Participatory Design?

Museum 2.0

As many of you know, I’m writing a book about participatory design for museums. The book is intended to be a practical guide to participatory museum experiences focused on design strategies, case studies, and activities. I believe that demystifying participatory design and encouraging professionals to try it is the most important step towards its evolution as a museum practice. The WHY of participatory design is really important.

Joint Statement from Museum Bloggers and Colleagues on Ferguson and Related Events

Museum 2.0

When basketball players are offering more cogent commentary on racial issues than cultural institutions, you know we have a cultural relevance problem. Gretchen Jennings convened a group of bloggers and colleagues online to develop a statement about museums'' responsibilities and opportunities in response to the events in Ferguson, Cleveland and Staten Island. Museums are a part of this educational and cultural network. Where do museums fit in?

Participation, Contemplation, and the Complexity of "And"

Museum 2.0

"The words we use in attempting to change museum directions matter. We need translators within each cultural context. And a good thing, too." --Elaine Heumann Gurian, The Importance of "And" Recently, I''ve been embroiled in local and national conversations about the relationship between active participation and quiet contemplation in museums. Our museum in Santa Cruz has been slammed by those who believe participatory experiences have gone too far.

Platform Power: Scaling Impact

Museum 2.0

Our county board of supervisors had brought their official meeting to the museum. In it, I argued that museums could give up control of the visitor experience while still maintaining (a new kind of) power. Museums could make the platforms for those experiences. This argument became one of the foundations of The Participatory Museum. Traditionally, museums and cultural organizations offer programs. This is the participatory platform model.

Building Community: Who / How / Why

Museum 2.0

These are the slides and notes for the talk I gave at the American Alliance of Museums conference on Monday, April 27 about the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History. When I became the director of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History four years ago, I took this work with me. We invited community members in, to be active contributors, collaborators, and co-creators in our museum space. culturally curious but maybe not inclined to walk into a museum.

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Guest Post by Jasper Visser: Storytelling for Social Cohesion at Story House Belvédère

Museum 2.0

I first read about Story House Belvédère on Jasper Visser’s excellent blog, The Museum of the Future. This small, startup cultural project in Rotterdam works directly and intimately with community members to share their stories. It is a platform for social bridging and cultural exchange. In its short existence (it opened in 2013), the place has made a name for itself as a successful community-driven, innovative cultural initiative.

Blueprint Book Club Part 1: How Do You Create a Future-Thinking History Museum?

Museum 2.0

Imagine you've just been tasked with developing an innovative, future-thinking national museum for your country's history. Blueprint is the story of a group of people who tried to create a Dutch Museum of National History (INNL). The staff was fired, the digital projects divvied out to other institutions, the plans for the physical museum shelved. The Museum directors released Blueprint as a showcase for these plans. The early participatory projects are terrific.

What Does Audience-Centered Look Like? It Looks like Glasgow Museums.

Museum 2.0

When we say we want our museum to be "audience-centered," what do we mean? My career first got moving at a brilliant example of the customer-centered museum: the International Spy Museum. Many of my favorite museums, libraries, and zoos are customer-centered places. To be clear: I'm not a fan of all aspects of customer-centered museums. I believe that Dana's department store museum is best exemplified in the customer-centered museum.

Yes, Audience Participation Can Have Significant Value

Museum 2.0

For years, I'd give talks about community participation in museums and cultural institutions, and I'd always get the inevitable question: "but what value does this really have when it comes to dollars and cents?" Last week, the local newspaper did a really generous front-page story on my museum (the MAH) and the changes here over the past eight months since I started. This community was ready for a museum that reflected the unique creative identity of Santa Cruz.

The Art of Gathering: A Fabulous Book to Help You Host Better Meetings and Events

Museum 2.0

The museum was in huge financial trouble. My expertise was on inviting strangers to participate in public settings like museums. Creating event-specific rules can level the playing field, make the implicit explicit, and create a specific culture for the event. The Art of Gathering expanded my understanding of what it means to build a powerful culture of participation. design participatory museum programsI remember the first staff meeting I ever ran.

Museum 2.0 Rerun: Answers to the Ten Questions I Am Most Commonly Asked

Museum 2.0

This August/September, I am "rerunning" popular Museum 2.0 Originally posted in April of 2011, just before I hung up my consulting hat for my current job at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History. I''ve spent much of the past three years on the road giving workshops and talks about audience participation in museums. The Museum 2.0 Are there certain kinds of institutions that are more well-suited for participatory techniques than others? culture.

Answers to the Ten Questions I am Most Often Asked

Museum 2.0

I've spent much of the past three years on the road giving workshops and talks about audience participation in museums. The Museum 2.0 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). culture. why not museums? Core Museum 2.0

Personal Stories – Arts Orgs Need Not Apply?

Connection Cafe

Another idea – create an exit survey at your museum that asks simple questions like “what’s your favorite exhibit” or “how many times have you visited the museum.”. Participatory fundraising often starts with events that allow people to get involved causally with a small time commitment. This blog talks about participatory fundraising ideas and the effect of healthy competition. Annual Fund Fundraising Arts & Cultural museum

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Get on the Bus: How Mass Transit Design Affects Participatory Potential

Museum 2.0

There's a tag applied to many Museum 2.0 Posts under that tag tend to examine non-museum things, from malls to games to ad campaigns , and draw some design lessons for museums from their foreignness. Specifically, we analyze the relative social behavior of people on buses versus those on trains, and look for clues as to what design elements contribute to different kinds of participatory behavior. How can museums become part of rather than set away from the everyday?

Four Unusual Professional Development Events in 2013

Museum 2.0

Three of them are being hosted at my museum , and one at a mystery location. You Can't Do That in Museums Camp - July 10-12, 2013. In July of 2013, the MAH will host our first You Can't Do That in Museums Camp (or better name to be suggested by you), inviting 80 creative people to collaborate on an experimental exhibition. Yes you can sleepover at the museum to heighten the insanity and reduce the cost. No you don't have to be a museum professional to participate.