Jack returns from Las Vegas, and has some thoughts about the city, NCPH, and how museums can better utilize data.Read More
Our own Jack Pittenger has headed to Las Vegas to attend the annual meeting of the National Council on Public History,Read More
Planned by ObjectIDEA, the facility located in North Conway, NH opened its doors in mid-February and augments the Franconia, NH branch of the museum.Read More
From October 24 – 26, museum professionals from around the world gathered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to discuss the validity of a new geological era.Read More
Don Henley traveled to Massachusetts last week to unveil some new exhibits at the Walden Pond State Reservation Visitor Center.Read More
Amherst, MA – On June 29, 2016, Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) will be visiting the Hitchcock Center’s new living building site and announcing an exciting federal grant award to the Hitchcock Center from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The Hitchcock Center has been awarded a $148,586 IMLS grant for its innovative “Learning From Nature” exhibit design plan that will capture the interpretive potential of its artifacts and objects, its outdoor spaces, and built environment as portals into knowledge, feelings, and actions.
The Center’s “Learning From Nature” exhibit plan brings together a unique collaboration between Matt Kirchman of ObjectIDEA, designLAB architects and the environmental educators of the Hitchcock Center.
The “Learning from Nature” exhibit design plan aims to render complex ecological concepts “alive” in simple, meaningful and memorable ways through interpretive and interactive displays centered on the following pedagogical framework: nature runs on sunlight, nature banks on diversity, nature demands local expertise, nature fits form to function, nature recycles everything, and nature uses only the energy it needs.
Visitors will be greeted with these principles immediately upon entering the building and will be encouraged to look, see, and learn how these principles have been put into action throughout the building and site.
Brent Johnson Design (BJD) and Hadley Exhibits (fabricators) are putting the final touches on the 10,500 square foot exhibition, The Story of Virginia. Opening August 8, 2015, the exhibit houses some 700 objects from 15 thousand years of human history.
Following intense phases of planning and design, the Virginia Historical Society is nearly complete with its $20 million renovation that has resulted in a modern new museum and a whole new experience for those interested in Virginia’s past.
ObjectIDEA served BJD and VHS as exhibition planning consultants for the Story of Virginia.
Jack and I are off to Nantucket this week to install the objects, tweak the lighting, and generate a punchlist for our latest exhibit: 20 Men, 3 Boats, 96 Days; the Story of the Whaleship Essex.
These handy benchmarks are a hit!Read More
Fort Smith residents got their first glimpse of how designers plan to tell the U.S. Marshals Service story at the new national museum.Read More
Visitors invest in the museum’s collection by projecting their own hopes, desires, concerns, and fears onto an artwork.Read More
The recent series of events, from Ferguson to Cleveland and New York, have created a watershed moment. Things must change. New laws and policies will help, but any movement toward greater cultural and racial understanding and communication must be supported by our country’s cultural and educational infrastructure. Museums are a part of this educational and cultural network. What should be our role(s)?
Schools and other arts organizations are rising to the challenge.University law schools are hosting seminars on Ferguson. Colleges are addressing greater cultural and racial understanding in various courses. National education organizations and individual teachers are developing relevant curriculum resources, including the#FergusonSyllabus project initiated by Dr. Marcia Chatelain. Artists and arts organizations are contributing their spaces and their creative energies. And pop culture icons, from basketball players torock stars, are making highly visible commentary with their clothes and voices.
Where do museums fit in? Some might say that only museums with specific African American collections have a role, or perhaps only museums situated in the communities where these events have occurred. As mediators of culture, all museums should commit to identifying how they can connect to relevant contemporary issues irrespective of collection, focus, or mission.
We are a community of museum bloggers who write from a variety of perspectives and museum disciplines. Yet our posts contain similar phrases such as “21st century museums,” “changing museum paradigms,” “inclusiveness,” “co-curation,” “participatory” and “the museum as forum.” We believe that strong connections should exist between museums and their communities. Forging those connections means listening and responding to those we serve and those we wish to serve.
There is hardly a community in the U.S. that is untouched by the reverberations emanating from Ferguson and its aftermath. Therefore we believe that museums everywhere should get involved. What should be our role–as institutions that claim to conduct their activities for the public benefit–in the face of ongoing struggles for greater social justice both at the local and national level?
We urge museums to consider these questions by first looking within. Is there equity and diversity in your policy and practice regarding staff, volunteers, and Board members? Are staff members talking about Ferguson and the deeper issues it raises? How do these issues relate to the mission and audience of your museum? Do you have volunteers? What are they thinking and saying? How can the museum help volunteers and partners address their own questions about race, violence, and community?
We urge museums to look to their communities. Are there civic organizations in your area that are hosting conversations? Could you offer your auditorium as a meeting place? Could your director or other senior staff join local initiatives on this topic? If your museum has not until now been involved in community discussions, you may be met at first with suspicion as to your intentions. But now is a great time to start being involved.
Join with your community in addressing these issues. Museums may offer a unique range of resources and support to civic groups that are hoping to organize workshops or public conversations. Museums may want to use this moment not only to “respond” but also to “invest” in conversations and partnerships that call out inequity and racism and commit to positive change.
We invite you to join us in amplifying this statement. As of now, only the Association of African American Museums has issued a formal statement about the larger issues related to Ferguson, Cleveland and Staten Island. We believe that the silence of other museum organizations sends a message that these issues are the concern only of African Americans and African American Museums. We know that this is not the case. We are seeing in a variety of media – blogs, public statements, and conversations on Twitter and Facebook—that colleagues of all racial and ethnic backgrounds are concerned and are seeking guidance and dialogue in understanding the role of museums regarding these troubling events. We hope that organizations such as the American Alliance of Museums; theAssociation of Science-Technology Centers; the Association of Children’s Museums; the American Association for State and Local History and others, will join us in acknowledging the connections between our institutions and the social justice issues highlighted by Ferguson and related events.
You can join us by…
- Posting and sharing this statement on your organization’s website or social media
- Contributing to and following the Twitter tag #museumsrespondtoFerguson which is growing daily
- Checking out Art Museum Teaching which has a regularly updated resource, Teaching #Ferguson: Connecting with Resources
- Sharing additional resources in the comments
- Asking your professional organization to respond
- Checking out the programs at The Missouri History Museum.It has held programs related to Ferguson since August and is planning more for 2015.
- Looking at the website for International Coalition of Sites of Conscience. They are developing information on how to conduct community conversations on race.
Participating Bloggers and Colleagues
Gretchen Jennings, Museum Commons
Aletheia Wittman and Rose Paquet Kinsley, The Incluseum
Aleia Brown, AleiaBrown.org
Steven Lubar, On Public Humanities
Mike Murawski, Art Museum Teaching
Linda Norris, The Uncataloged Museum
Paul Orselli ExhibiTricks: A Museum/Exhibit/Design Blog
Ed Rodley, Thinking About Museums
Adrianne Russell, Cabinet of Curiosities
Nina Simon, Museum 2.0
Rainey Tisdale, CityStories
Jeanne Vergeront Museum Notes
Bottom line: the aesthetics of space matter.Read More
On April 15, 2013, two bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, transforming the city, its residents, and the runners and visitors participating in this world-famous event. Almost immediately, a makeshift memorial began to take shape, first at the police barricade at the intersection of Boylston and Berkeley Streets and later at Copley Square. People from across the globe left flowers, posters, notes, t-shirts, hats, tokens of all shapes and sizes, and—most significantly—running shoes. In June, the memorial was dismantled and these thousands of objects were transferred to the Boston City Archives for safekeeping. It is only now, after months of preservation and organization, that the collection’s meaning has become clear. Each of these objects, whether giant banner or tiny scrap of paper, store-bought or handmade, is a message of love, support, and hope for a city in mourning.
For the one-year anniversary of the bombing, selections from the memorial collection were displayed in the exhibition Dear Boston: Messages from the Marathon Memorial at the Boston Public Library. ObjectIDEA served as the exhibition developer.
This exhibition provided an opportunity for visitors to once again experience the outpouring of love that everyday people brought to Copley Square in the first weeks after the bombing. It helped visitors make meaning from this tragedy while providing a quiet public space for reflection. As they encountered the profound emotions the messages from the memorial evoked, visitors were encouraged to ask themselves what they can do to sustain and build upon these expressions of communal support, and to move forward together to heal a grieving city.
Dear Boston: Messages from the Marathon Memorial was organized by a partnership that included the Boston City Archives,Boston Art Commission, New England Museum Association, and Boston Public Library. It was made possible by the generous support of Iron Mountain. The exhibition was on view from April 7 through May 11, 2014, at the Central Library in Copley Square, located at the finish line of the Boston Marathon and steps away from the original memorial.
How can museums use their collections, interpretations and traditions of encouraging debate to help people re-imagine and reshape their lives in a world profoundly altered by climate change?
In October of 2013, ObjectIDEA attended Collecting the Future: Museums, Communities, and Climate Change, a workshop at the American Museum of Natural History In New York City. The workshop brought together curators, educators, historians, anthropologists and other scholars and practitioners from around the world to explore how museums can move beyond a singular focus on science education to address and integrate the physical, social, cultural and emotional dimensions of climate change. It provided a stimulating forum in which to explore how our institutions can contribute to building communities able to engage and respond to profound transformations of social and ecological systems around the globe.
As part of a research trip with a current museum client and their architectural team, I recently had the pleasure of exploring a few of the newest natural history and nature and science museums. Our entourage of about 10 museum professionals acted as both visitors and guests; we explored the museums from the public side, and received organized, generous and informative back-of-house tours.
Exhibits at the Utah Museum of Natural History, are housed in elegant and evocative, “canyonesque” architecture, built into a hillside such that each of the museum’s floors engages the landscape outside. Exhibits are able to refer directly to views of the bench-like mountains that step up to the east of downtown Salt Lake City and fall away to the Great Salt Lake Basin to the west. Numerous portals invite visitors to step outside the galleries and appreciate fresh air, indigenous plantings, and the sounds and smells of nature. Rarely have I experienced a museum that acknowledges and incorporates its ecological, geological, and cultural context like this one does.
The museum is on the campus of the University of Utah, and it showcases the strengths of this partnership in amazing ways: stunning collections, scientists in residence and in the field, and real projects in action on the exhibit floor.
The permanent exhibits are punctuated by highly flexible venues: a weather terrace; a drop-in naturalist’s nook; and lab spaces that reference a cave and a geologist’s workroom. My initial criticism of the apparent expense and permanency of the highly integrated, architectural exhibits was quickly quelled when I discovered how these and other venues accommodate staffed programs, floor talks, nature walks, and impromptu demonstrations. The Utah Museum of Natural History has made the commitment to provide dynamism and flexibility through real people versus installations.
As much as the Utah Museum is about the “place,” Dallas’ newest museum, it seems, is about the “package.” In Dallas, the Perot Museum of Nature & Science, takes a more universal look at natural science, although the building, with its interesting escalator and LEED -certified status is (according to the museum’s website and map) its most important exhibit and its most advertised feature.
Housed within this intriguing architectural cube and set upon a near-5-acre site, the exhibitions are arranged on 6 levels. Each bears a distinct design look and feel. Unaffiliated with a university, the Perot is less focused on collections and less committed to its local natural history. It is therefore more free to expand its exhibition program to ideas as far as the origins of the universe and outer space to the inner workings of the human body – and nearly everything in between. A self-proclaimed family attraction, the museum offers playful exhibits like media-based “Soar Like a Bird” and “Race Against a Cheetah,” (my titles) and inventive tinkering spaces where groups and individuals can make remotely controlled vehicles and create digital art.
Visiting these museums – one after the other – made me really aware of the distinctions between a regional natural history museum and a general museum of nature and science. Where the Utah Museum of Natural History feels at home in its environmental context, the Perot feels like an invasive species. Where the Perot offers energetic play and creative simulation, Utah offers spaces for authentic encounter and contemplation.
One museum shouts the comprehensive story of the earth in loud colors; the other shares its indigenous story in soft tones.
Neither is bad...They’re just different.
Just as Silent Spring jump-started a national conversation, so has Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods.Read More
We closed 2012 by seeing a "once in a lifetime" installation:The Invention of Glory at the Peabody Essex Museum in our home village of Salem, Massachusetts. Monumental in scale and meticulous in construction, the Pastrana Tapestries are one of the finest examples of Gothic tapestry in existence.
The four, 36-foot-long tapestries are on view together for the first time following an extensive restoration project.
Interpretation of the tapestries is quite simple: a single panel (posted in two locations) is offered at each of four tapestry panels and "decodes" the scenes depicted in the works of art. Photographic reproductions of the tapestries with detail highlights (seen in the photo) invite visitors to seek and find interesting and relevant details. Adjacent walls address the making and restoration efforts through photos and video.
Interpretation was refreshingly minimal and interesting, and directly interrogative. Early Renaissance music played ambiently and softly, setting a respectful tone.
Commissioned by Portugal's King Afonso V (1432-1481) and expertly woven in Belgium's Tournai workshops in the late 1400s, the Pastrana Tapestries are singular for their depiction of a contemporary subject: Afonso's military campaigns in North Africa. Through vibrantly colored wool and silk threads, a vivid scene of military pomp and conquest emerges — knights in full regalia raise their swords to the sky, royal trumpeters sound their advance, ships' masts punctuate the horizon and scenes of battle teem with valor and might. PEM is the exclusive Northeast venue forThe Invention of Glory
. The exhibition is organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., and the Fundación Carlos de Amberes, Madrid, in association with the Embassy of Spain, the Spain-USA Foundation and the Embassy of Portugal, and with the cooperation of the Embassy of Belgium and the Embassy of Morocco in Washington, D.C., as well as the Diocese of Sigüenza-Guadalajara and Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, Pastrana, Spain.
The First Nations Garden Pavilion at the Montréal Botanical Garden minimally intrudes the native landscape. Vertical surfaces, including transparent “glass sandwich” cases (featuring material cultural objects made from plant materials) are minimized to limit visual impact. Building materials are left in an unfinished state, including the poured-in-place concrete roof that exposes the wood formwork.
Architects: Saucier + Perrotte
With a goal of nurturing students to become ecoliterate, the Center for Ecoliteracy has identified five vital practices that integrate emotional, social, and ecological intelligence. They are described at greater length in their book,
Ecoliterate: How Educators Are Cultivating Emotional, Social, and Ecological Intelligence
(Jossey-Bass, 2012), from which the excerpt below is taken.
The Center for Ecoliteracy works to inspire teachers to use a variety of learning opportunities that help students consider and apply these practices in a diverse range of contexts. These practices allow students to strengthen and extend their capacity to live sustainably. Upon discovering this organization and these principles, we are inspired to keep these five practices in our “back pocket” and refer to them when planning nature center and natural history exhibitions:
1. Developing Empathy for All Forms of Life
encourages students to expand their sense of compassion to other forms of life. By shifting from our society's dominant mindset (which considers humans to be separate from and superior to the rest of life on Earth) to a view that recognizes humans as being members of the web of life, students broaden their care and concern to include a more inclusive network of relationships.
2. Embracing Sustainability as a Community Practice
emerges from knowing that organisms do not exist in isolation. The quality of the web of relationships within any living community determines its collective ability to survive and thrive. By learning about the wondrous ways that plants, animals, and other living things are interdependent, students are inspired to consider the role of interconnectedness within their communities and see the value in strengthening those relationships by thinking and acting cooperatively.
3. Making the Invisible Visible
assists students in recognizing the myriad effects of human behavior on other people and the environment. The impacts of human behavior have expanded exponentially in time, space, and magnitude, making the results difficult if not impossible to understand fully. Using tools to help make the invisible visible reveals the far-reaching implications of human behavior and enables us to act in more life-affirming ways.
4. Anticipating Unintended Consequences
is a twofold challenge of predicting the potential implications of our behaviors as best we can, while at the same time accepting that we cannot foresee all possible cause-and-effect associations. Assuming that the ultimate goal is to improve the quality of life, students can adopt systems thinking and the “precautionary principle” as guidelines for cultivating a way of living that defends rather than destroys the web of life. Second, we build resiliency by supporting the capacity of natural and social communities to rebound from unintended consequences.
5. Understanding How Nature Sustains Life
is imperative for students to cultivate a society that takes into account future generations and other forms of life. Nature has successfully supported life on Earth for billions of years. Therefore, by examining the Earth's processes, we learn strategies that are applicable to designing human endeavors.
Ecoliterate: How Educators Are Cultivating Emotional, Social and Ecological Intelligence
, by Daniel Goleman, Lisa Bennett, and Zenobia Barlow. Copyright © 2012 by Center for Ecoliteracy.