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  • chrislarry 3:37 am on October 12, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: participation, ,   

    A great summary of some of the museum fields best thinkers discussing participatory culture.


    • chrislarry 3:41 am on October 12, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      might be interesting if some of you posted comments directly on the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s blog.

  • sdaugherty28 4:07 am on October 10, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: participation   

    Participation is all around us! 

    Hey everyone,

    I am in Chicago for fall break and wanted to share my experience at the Art Institute of Chicago.

    While viewing the Impressionist works, I noticed a group of young kids (probably 5 years old) wearing yellow shirts. They were part of an “art and creativity” education program. The children were accompanied by adult educators and gathered around examples of Monet’s paintings. After asking the group questions about specific paintings, the educators encouraged the children to draw in their sketchbooks. It was great to see the children engaged with pieces of art in the gallery.

    This was a great example of Simon’s book in action.

    • sdaugherty28 4:10 am on October 10, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Sorry my pictures are gigantic!!

      • lleamuseum 3:49 pm on October 10, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

        That is fanatics to see that they are allowed to explore the space that way. I would be excited just to squirm around on the floor. I followed your lead and looked at their web site. They are not only encouraging people to participate but they comprehensively give you the tools. Under their families section they provide some great structured activities, and dialogue that carry through to the home and community. Great stuff!

    • erinlbradford 8:37 pm on October 10, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Were they holding hands while walking around the museum and was The Smiths playing in the background?! Please say yes!

      • ktkeckeisen 1:30 am on October 11, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

        There should be a badge just for making semi-obscure Ferris Bueller quotes!

        • erinlbradford 3:27 pm on October 11, 2011 Permalink

          hahaha! Oh good! I was so nervous after I posted that that no one would get it! Thank you!

  • klparman 3:20 pm on October 6, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: participation, plains art museum   

    I just came across this very relevant article on Real Clear Arts. The Plains Art Museum in Fargo is opening an exhibit that was curated by the public through multiple rounds of voting. The public will also be allowed to vote on art during the exhibit and will be allowed to place post-it notes in the gallery. The staff at the Plains also wants to display this works in different ways, including on the ceiling and at different angles. This article tears apart their exhibit concept and suggests that the Association of Art Museum Curators speak up about the curators at the Plains “devaluing the curatorial profession.”  The author understands the desire to involve people in art, but doesn’t find this method appropriate. He even compares it to voting on what is taught in schools and voting on medical treatment. I think he’s a bit over the top and assume I’m not alone here. What do you think?


  • chrislarry 7:35 pm on October 4, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: participation, ,   

    Nina Simon pos-book discussion thread: Putting theory into practice 

    As we discussed in class we will use this thread (and this thread alone, just “reply”) to discuss our reactions to Participatory Museum, especially in relation to Nina’s new role as Director of the Museum of Art & History in Santa Cruz, CA.

    Here are some links that details this work that you should read to prompt a discussion of her ideas as presented in the book, and now her short track record as director.

    Cover article feature in Good Times Santa Cruz magazine


    Some of her Museum 2.0 blog posts releative to her new(ish) job (pick some that look interesting to you)

    On Saying Yes: http://museumtwo.blogspot.com/2011/09/on-saying-yes.html

    Does Your Audience Really Need to be Hip: http://museumtwo.blogspot.com/2011/09/does-your-institution-really-need-to-be.html

    Fundraising as Participatory Experience: http://museumtwo.blogspot.com/2011/09/fundraising-as-participatory-practice.html

    Public Service http://museumtwo.blogspot.com/2011/07/public-service-advocacy-and.html

    Empowering Staff to Take Creative Risks: http://museumtwo.blogspot.com/2011/05/empowering-staff-to-take-creative-risks.html

    Find your own!

    • Pam Schwartz 11:26 pm on October 5, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      In keeping with her book Simon makes an interesting comment in reply to other readers’ comments on her more recent blog post:


      She states, “We need to be more than just field trip places to check off certain standards–we need to be part of the bigger conversation about what it means to be educated, to learn, and to have access to the tools necessary to do so. I suspect this is the big problem that most museums are most comfortable tackling as education has been core to the mission for so long. ”

      It might be what museums are most comfortable with but is it something they are truly excelling at? Are museums becoming just field trip spots or are we going beyond that to become participatory, learning institutions that visitors take something away from after their initial visit?

      Also in the post about Saying Yes, I think its interesting that Nina shifts from talking about visitors participating in the institution to the institution participating in the community and the most effective ways to do that. I feel museums will find themselves asking the same questions about how to do this as what they ask in the most effective way to get visitors to participate.

      • sdaugherty28 9:37 pm on October 10, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

        I think Simon brings up a really good point about museums only being field trips. When I was younger, we went to the Metropolitan, the Museum of Natural History, and the Liberty Science Center. These field trips were something already planned; all fourth graders went to the Met. In these days, I was not the museum enthusiast that I am today. I saw these field trips as formalities rather than educational opportunities. I do not think I was given the right context to take full advantage of our visit. With that being said, I think most museums are making efforts to become more participatory. I saw this firsthand at the Art Institute of Chicago (see October 10th blogpost)

    • haljust 5:44 pm on October 6, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I found this quote interesting in the interview that Simon had with Dunn:

      “I want a bumper sticker that says “I Heart Small Museums.” I’ve spent my whole career in mid-sized and large museums, where it takes five meetings just to change a wall color. Here at the MAH, we’ve made some big changes with a five-minute conversation. We only have seven people on staff, which means we can function as a team in a very personal, active way. Like any small company, we can innovate faster. We can be scrappy. We can take risks. And I believe that means we are going to become a leading institution in this new world of audience participation.”

      Does this mean that many mid-sized and large museums will just never fully be able to incorporate participation in their museums? If it takes so much time to vote on a new wall color or any kind of change in the museum, how will incorporating participation become a realization. It would take an incredible amount of time and many museum employees might just not want participation in their museums. So does this mean that only smaller museums will be able to incorporate participation. Is their size the reason for success in community participation?

      I also found this viewer’s comment very interesting:

      “What an appalling piece of self-serving claptrap. This egomaniac is only out to serve her own ends–doesn’t know diddle about local history, or art for that matter. It’s the Museum of Dumb-and-Dumber. It’s only participatory if you agree with Her Highness! What a shame.”

      He/she must have a pure hatred towards Simon or just hates to participate. I just don’t think that this person knows how much Simon has helped this museum.

      • chrislarry 5:59 pm on October 6, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

        Wow nice find, sounds like a laid off staffer or volunteer that no longer felt like they had a place their. Definitely has personel taste to the bile. I am sure her approach ruffles feathers and causes a few enemies along the way. True innovators draw passionate responses (See Jobs eulogies) Anyway H8trs gonna H8 right?

      • Pam Schwartz 5:52 pm on October 7, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

        I’ve worked in several small museums and a few large and I don’t think the size necessarily denotes how fast things can be done. Small museums are usually able to work faster (less people who need to agree) but I’ve also seen small institutions with WAY TOO MUCH red tape. Smaller museums (often less crowded) I feel have an easier time implementing participatory exhibitions/activities because of volume, or possible lack there of.

        Sounds to me somebody’s ideas were scorned in lieu of Simon’s.

    • melbump 1:37 am on October 7, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      One of the underlying themes in Nina Simon’s book, blog and actions as Director at MAH, is to take risks and trust in others. In order to encourage participation you have to have confidence in the participants. Whether it is allowing visitors to leave messages on notes, encouraging photography, or saying yes to community partnerships, Nina’s philosophy requires trust that participants will not abuse the offers. “Effective collaborations are built on mutual trust, shared understanding of the project’s goals, and clear designation of participant roles.” (Simon, pg 232)

      Many of the elements Nina discusses challenge the current established rules, and policies set by many museums. Some of the projects Simon discusses in her book can be perceived as controversial, relying heavily on the visitor’s voice, and incorporation of new community groups. These ideas force museums to relinquish some perceived control to visitor contribution.
      “One of the most frequent concerns staff members voice about contributory platforms is the fear that visitors will create content that reflects poorly on the institution… Fundamentally, this concern is about loss of control.” (Simon, pg 222.) “The U.S. is getting younger and more diverse and our audiences are going in the opposite direction. That doesn’t bode well for the future of museums. The answer is to create genuinely compelling, on-mission programming that is relevant to younger audiences.” Good Times Santa Cruz interview.

      As Simon expresses in her blog, it is not always easy to take risks and say “yes” all the time. It was interesting being able to see Nina Simon’s reaction to taking her own advise in blog post “On-saying yes.”
      “Being nimble and open to a bit of chaos is a luxury that comes with being a small institution on a mission to be a community hub. It’s exciting to have someone approach us on a Tuesday with a great idea for Saturday, and as much as possible, we try to say yes.” -“I can see how it gets easy for an organization to get in the habit of starting from “no” instead of “yes.” Chaos can be stressful.” “I don’t want to get there. I believe that we’re doing our best work when we are able to say yes to people who walk in the door with good ideas and real community needs to be met. And I feel like we’re most fresh and dynamic when we can keep being responsive to the next idea.”

      I found the Participatory Museum an inspiring book and I hope to incorporate many of Nina’s philosophies into my actions as a museum professional.

      • Pam Schwartz 5:57 pm on October 7, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

        In going with your comments about worrying that a visitor will create content that reflects poorly on the museum… I feel in the past many museum employees have sort of stood in the background. They want to create the content and hide in the office while visitors view it. This has suited them just fine. Visitor content can make a world of difference and often spice up an exhibition experience for others, but often employees don’t want to take the time to instruct and/or moderate.

        Many museum employees are often underpaid and overworked so nobody wants to take on the extra responsibility of screening visitor comments or submissions, but I also don’t think they understand how valuable it can be to actually step out of the office and become engaged with your visitors (you know, the reason you created the exhibition in the first place.)

    • vshoffner 8:29 pm on October 8, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I thoroughly enjoyed The Participatory Museum, as well as Nina Simon’s blog Museum 2.0. I plan to continue following her writings on the blog even after our class is over.

      I enjoyed reading the article from Good Times Santa Cruz magazine in which she is asked how to initiate a shift from the typical white/older audience demographics for museums. She responds by saying:
      “The answer is not to package traditional museum offerings in some slick marketing lingo to entice the young folk. The answer is to create genuinely compelling, on-mission programming that is relevant to younger audiences. For example, this September, we’re partnering with Santa Cruz NEXT on an event called Race Through Time. It’s an urban scavenger hunt where people go out on bikes on a Friday night to try to find as many hidden historic landmarks in Santa Cruz as they can. This kind of event lines up 100 percent with our mission to connect people to local history. We’re just doing it in a different way, at a different time of day, with bikes and (post-biking) beer.”

      I then read the “Does Your Audience Really Need to Be Hip” post on her blog about the Race Through Time event and how it went. In it she states that the results were slightly unexpected. The event did attract a younger audience in their 20s and 30s than usual. But she also noticed that it attracted elderly couples in their 70s and grandparents with their grandchildren. She wrote: “there was also the couple in their 70s who told me this was the most fun they’d ever had on a Friday night in Santa Cruz. And from my perspective, it was this diversity that made the event unique–and made me rethink the way that cultural professionals typically approach audience development.”

      I appreciate the way she is so adaptive to things and willing to change her perspective when things turn out differently than she expects. I also appreciate the fact that she is willing to share that with us on her blog, and we learn as she lives through the trial and errors of implementing the ideas in her book.
      She poses these interesting questions at the end of this blog post: “Do our institutions really need to be hip to be successful? Or do they just need to be welcoming, open, comfortable places that offer a diversity of experience? What do you think?”

      I found a link to several interesting PowerPoint presentations by Simon here

      I also found her post titled “An Open Letter to Museums on Twitter” from 2008 to be still relevant and interesting. It includes a list of suggestions that may improve the way museums think about twitter.
      I particularly like suggestions 4 – Tell me something I can’t find on your homepage, and 6 – Respond to people.

    • ktkeckeisen 10:35 pm on October 8, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      One thing I’d love to see Simon actually talk about is how to be a “risk-taker” in a non-risk-taking museum. We brought up this issue in our class discussion a few weeks ago; about how some museums will have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century. In the book and on her blog she really pushes for the museum to have free thinkers and to take risks and try new things; shake things up as it were. But there are plenty of places, both small and large, that have staff that were trained under a totally different system of museum studies. I’ve had a few discussions with Stephanie about this, since she works at the National Park Service-controlled Washington’s Headquarters and how hard it is to get people to do some of the simple things that Simon advocates.

      When I read “Empowering Staff to Take Creative Risks”, I felt that this was a little bit of what I was hoping Simon would talk about. In this blog post, she address that to be a risk-taker, you need a space-maker to have your back, to stand up and vouch for you when the powers-that-be start to question what you’re doing. But, what happens if you want to shake things up and pretty much everyone is pushing against you?

      Her museum in Santa Cruz seems really neat and cool and hip, and I think she’ll do a great job here. But when, in her blog she asks people who say they don’t have this type of support system why they stay, I would say it is because this type of museum, where people seem to really want to push the envelope is the exception, not the rule. Call me pessimistic, but I think it takes a lot of time and energy to get a more traditional (read: staunch) museum to become more invested in participation from the community. I’m even finding it hard, as a Registrar-in-training, to re-train my brain to understand how a museum wouldn’t mostly be centered around the objects and their care. That was the main question rolling through my head while I was reading the book: “Wow, that sounds cool! But how the hell would you make that work in any other museum?”

      So, that’s the next thing I’d like her to tackle in some form, be it blog or book: how do you start to take these sorts of participatory risks in a museum that sees “risks” as a dirty word?

    • erinlbradford 7:07 pm on October 9, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      After reading Simon’s book and her blog I think she has a lot of great ideas and intentions in designing participatory and interactive exhibits and making museums and communities more relevant to each other. It was a whole new approach and outlook for me to read about her thoughts and concepts, as a hopefully future registrar my focus is primarily on objects so this is truly a different world to understand. So running the risk of playing devil’s advocate I guess I will choose to disagree on something I read in the posted links.

      I disagree on her program she discussed called “Creativity Under the Influence”. In her blog post discussing the “Race Through Time” event Simon said:

      “But we also saw something else: parents and teenagers, grandparents and grandkids, elderly couples, out for a fun scavenger hunt evening. Yes, there was the 40-ish lawyer who effused that she’d never seen so many young people in the museum before. But there was also the couple in their 70s who told me this was the most fun they’d ever had on a Friday night in Santa Cruz. And from my perspective, it was this diversity that made the event unique–and made me rethink the way that cultural professionals typically approach audience development.”

      So for one event it was the diversity that drew in success because Simon didn’t really discuss what the people took away from the event just that a large amount of diverse people came out for the event and she thought it was successful or ‘unique’. And I would agree I think that sounds like an amazing program that ties into the mission of the museum, intriguing the community and has participatory elements. But for “Creativity Under the Influence” a museum programmer is targeting a specific (legal) age group being over twenty-one. So that diversity of getting parents and children out to this program is gone. And Dunn (the interviewer) commented that

      (In referencing First Friday)
      Dunn: “To be honest, it was the promise of beer and wine that got me out.”
Simon: Hence the increase in programs we’re doing that will include them. We’re doing a four-part series this fall called Creativity Under the Influence that invites people to drink and draw—to pair wine with art. If we want to be a social place, we have to provide social amenities as part of the experience.

      I am unsure of how measure the success of a program like this aside from looking at attendance and numbers – maybe by the amount of work that is created? So I guess I would need to know more about the program with what the museum will do with the art and how these people will be associated with it after the event. Simon mentioned that a lot people do not retain information from reading exhibit labels… I don’t retain a lot of things when I’m drunk. The program seems like an endeavor to get people to come to the museum and interested in the programs but does not offer the same prospects as the “Race Through Time” program might and other programs that she has mentioned. I get the concept of getting people out into the museum’s programs and fusing art and a social atmosphere – maybe its the title that I am hung up on that the museum is encouraging a program that lets people drink and then acknowledges that because of the popularity of the activity of drinking there will be more programs that will have it. So I agree and enjoy Simon’s readings apart from this one idea. Like I said before this is a whole new idea for me so sometimes I still feel like an outsider in understanding the concepts. I guess my disagreement stems primarily from the fact that I think she is creative and smart enough to create programming with more substance and not something that will just get people to come to drink because its offered.

      • sdaugherty28 12:06 am on October 13, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

        I agree, Erin. I was quite skeptical when I read about “Creativity under the Influence.” In her interview with Hunn, Simon states that if you want the museum to be a social place, you must provide social amenities.

        This makes me wonder what the larger goal is: Should a museum be social, participatory, or both?

        However, I think I would have to go to this kind of event in order to judge it.

    • lleamuseum 5:27 pm on October 10, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Nina Simon Blog

      Throughout all of her work Nina promotes acceptance, guidance and encouragement. Working to provide a space that allows the exploration of thoughts around many ideas or projects. All inclusive! And I question is it too much all the time? After having read the articles, specifically about “On saying Yes” and “Empowering Staff to take Creative Risks” it seems that she has ideas that are great and push the needs of our 2.0 society, but as what expense?

      The best contexts to what I am asking can only be observed in time as she transitions from her role as consultant to Director. It is a little easier to come in, develop a project and rally a team around that project. The staff feels rejuvenated and passionate about new and different ideas. However people often lack endurance. Or sometimes they just simply need a rest. Nina seems to be blessed with the ability to go hard all the time. And I wonder when you rely on a group effort where the common ground is. What will be the sustainability of her drive, her staffs and ability to support both?

      She spoke in the article titled “encouraging staff” that she initially took the “blame me” approach. Wow that is tuff and at the same time easy when you are on a contract and can walk away at some point. She has since been conversing with herself and others to figure out better or more effective approaches, and challenges us to question what type of leader we are.

      When I first read that article my initial reaction was take a hike. Having to go on a hike especially with other people who have different learning styles, comfort levels and communication abilities will really give a person perspective on how to lead people ( see attached photo). We should realize that while we have common goals there are different approaches to getting there.

      I feel perhaps we sometimes need to camouflage ourselves to what type of leader we need to be rather than what we want to be. In other words what helps to get all people on board. Some people do better if a project is discussed one to one while others are ok and thrive in a group. I am really interested and would almost like to be a fly on the wall to see the reaction of the staff in the long run. It is great to have a strong charismatic leader and that is often what drives a group. However the encouragement, guidance and acceptance to the staff long term, I feel is key! Equal to the participant!

      I also think it’s funny that when you Google her name she gets mixed in with Nina Simone the Queen of jazz soul. Boogie on down Museums!

    • sarahadlis 1:24 am on October 11, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      As pretty much everyone else has indicated, I really enjoyed The Participatory Museum. Simon does such a great job of writing clearly and conversationally, and provides excellent examples to back up her more theoretical, hard to understand points. I’ll definitely be taking this book with me into the professional world.

      Of the blog links above, the one that got me thinking the most was her comment on saying ‘yes’. I agree with her statement that you should say yes whenever possible- to an extent. I love the idea of museums being able to partner with as many outside as groups as possible in order to further create bonds within the community, making museums increasingly more relevant to ever-larger portions of the population. Simon brings up logistical issues such as budget, over-involvement with other parties, space, etc. as possible reasons to say no, but she doesn’t really touch on the issue of institutional mission. For example, I’ve been looking into the South Orange Public Library recently, and their programming schedule reads very much like they’re embracing a “come one, come all” sort of philosophy in regards to pairing with groups of people and organizations; they host regularly scheduled meetings for everything the expected kid’s reading hour to Lego Group and Craft Hour. http://www.youseemore.com/southorange/calendar.asp

      The library, much like many museums, is a public institution geared toward community involvement. However, it is in the library’s mission statement to “programs for all ages that encourage reading, and provide intellectual stimulation and cultural enrichment “, meaning that their opportunities for partnership and diverse programming options is hampered only by the practical concerns that Simon referred to. Legos have nothing to do with books, but if the library has the space and staff to host Lego Team meetings, it is perfectly within their mission to provide Lego programming. Unlike the South Orange Public Library, many museums do not have the directive or latitude within their mission to form partnerships or programming for organizations thematically unrelated to the museum’s content. I would guess that children’s museums and science centers would be the best equipped to partner with outside groups due to often community-geared missions, but what about private art museums? Specific history museums? I once worked at the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, which deals with the life, death and legacy of JFK, and while they partner with other museums to provide programming for students, bring in speakers from the community to talk about the local consequences of the Kennedy assassination, and partner with local law enforcement to present a ‘CSI’ style program, I can’t imagine them partnering with a group as unconnected to Kennedy as a Lego Team.

      Is it the responsibility of all museums to partner with as many organizations as they can in order to create a community center? Should museums say ‘no’ if a partnership doesn’t seem to connect thematically with the museum? In order to prevent this problem and make saying ‘yes’ as easy as securing all the practicalities, should all museum missions include a clause about community involvement and service?

    • allysonjo7787 2:28 am on October 11, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Like so many of my classmates, reading Nina Simon’s “Participatory Museum” was enjoyable but also eye opening. I liked the way Simon repeatedly tied in the way staff members could participate in the given topic. Simon wrote, ” When staff members are grounded in the institutional mission and feel supported by management, they are able to creatively and confidently explore participatory techniques in ways that benefit the institution, visitors, and themselves.” (pg. 201) For someone who doesn’t necessarily understand technology, Simon does a wonderful job giving examples if ways, as a museum employee, I will be able to utilize the techniques she writes about in this book. I might not ever be in a position to develop a program for visitors, but some of the ways that Simon recognizes staff members can get involved in museum and visitor participation will be helpful down the road.

      The Co-development projects, under two kinds of collaboration, is another example of Simon’s emphasis on staff member participation.She describes Co-development projects as, “staff members work together with participants to produce new exhibitions and programs.” (pg. 235). The extent of staff participation controls the outcomes of these new exhibitions and programs. Simon notes that these projects are best completed when they are developed with a specific framework, but are to serve larger audiences.

      Simon even writes about the troubles she had with staff member participation at the San Jose Museum of Art. It was nice change of pace to read about the author having troubles, and writing about what could have been done, in hind sight, to make the overall experience better. I decided to take a look at the San Jose Museum of Art website, http://www.sjmusart.org/, and at first glance it reminded me of MoMA’s. It’s very sleek and sharp and has a very white contrasting background. When clicking through the collection the variety of pieces was attractive and caught my attention.

      I think this is an interesting thought for all museums. Their websites are the first place a visitor is going to “enter” the museum. What gives for the white background with bright colors? Are they specific to modern museums? Or are they sending a message of pure art and nothing else? I find that I judge some places, beyond museums, based on their website. They couldn’t hire someone to develop a normal website? Yikes, they must be in some sort of financial situation. Or some higher up gave the okay for this to be published? Anyways, I think it’s something to think about. Maybe museums think more about their websites than I give them credit for, or know. But I think it is something worth looking more in to.

    • sdaugherty28 1:21 am on October 13, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I think reading “The Participatory Museum” was worthwhile. Simon is passionate about making museums more participatory by helping visitors feel comfortable sharing their views. This book has helped me think about exhibitions and museum events in a whole different light. While I was never against participation, I did not consider how many different ways visitors could engage with a museum. Simon provided a variety of examples from different institutions; however, I would have liked to see more discussion on historic houses and history museums. Although Simon provided detailed examples from art museums and science centers, I had a hard time envisioning these examples at my institution (Morristown National Historical Park). In other words, I would have liked to see more elaboration on making historic house museum tours and static exhibits more participatory.

      With that being said, I absolutely love Simon’s enthusiasm. Like Allyson, I also admired her discussion on staff member participation. The staff is the face of the museum. Often, I notice guards and front desk receptionists half heartedly invite you to the museum and don’t bother to inform you of special opportunities or exhibitions. On the other hand, the man that took my ticket at the Art Institute of Chicago was delightful. He gave us a map, directions, recommendations, etc. He genuinely seemed excited that we were visiting the museum that day. This positive encounter was a great way to start my visit.

      Simon’s blogpost on audience development was insightful. While events or exhibitions may target a specific audience, it is important NOT to exclude crowds. Museums are not about bringing one type of person together, but rather cultivating a diverse experience for all to share.

      Simon’s book and blog bring up valuable discussions in the museum field. I will continue to follow her blog and take what I have learned to my future job.

      Similarly, I have to admire the actions SImon took as the Director of the Museum of Art and History in Santa Cruz. She avoided a financial crisis and even took a salary reduction along with her staff. She’s a tough cookie!

    • corilinville 12:24 am on October 14, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I wanted to wait until i went until after the MAAM conference to write my blog post because she was speaking and I wanted to see if she was going to see anything that was going to be way off the mark of her book or blog.
      Saying that, I really enjoyed the book. I thought it was really a worthwhile read and I did not realize while i was reading it but it was not until i was actually in museums how much it had affected my mindset. When i would go to a museum where there was no participatory element I would actually make a comment about it because they do seem more important now that I have read the book. Though I think it does depend on what kind of museum it is. A children’s museum or a science museum needs different elements than a history museum or a historical park. I was actually talking to another student, who isn’t in this class but who is in the program, and we kept going back and forth about how participatory elements just were not acceptable for the Holocaust museum. I was trying to explain that there are different kinds of participation that can go on but he just was not having it, and seeing Nina’s presentation as your first impression probably did not help in wanting to change that view. I told him he should read the book.
      Now looking as Nina as a director she isnt so much into talking about just participatory but talking about change in general and the workings of a museum. In the lecture she started the slide show off with “Hi, my name is Nina and I want to change museums”. Very simple and straight to the point. I was ready for the next hour of Nina talk, which was filled with lots of quotes. My two favorite being- “from being about something, to being for someone, to being someone”- Stephen Weil. which is how she feels about the museum she is at right now. I feel like this is a great motto. And then the second quote being- “well behaved women rarely make history”. She also talked about the space maker –> risk-taker idea that she has, which she also talks about in this blog entry.
      And one lady who did not seem very happy actually asked Nina a question at the end of the lecture about if all museums should be participatory because she believed that history museums should NOT be and Nina replied with it really just depends on the museum but that she believed participation is positive.

      • klparman 8:59 pm on October 14, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

        I think that topics like the Holocaust are really great opportunities for participation. A lot of people are confused about their feelings and are often in disbelief about humanity and history. Museums can be really great institutions and spaces for people to deal with these emotions and to explore the events of the Holocaust. It would be a safe environment for everyone to explore ideas and I think that’s really important about participation. People will feel comfortable and hopefully learn something about their own feelings and ideas surrounding something like genocide.

    • klparman 9:27 pm on October 14, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      One of the things I enjoyed most reading Nina’s book and blog posts is how accessible she had made herself and her ideas, not only by putting her whole book on her website, but also how she writes. Because she truly believes in the benefits of participatory museum experiences, she writes her ideas for anyone in a museum, not just directors. In a truly participatory manner, she opens herself up to criticism and feedback. She is willing to say, “yeah I really didn’t do a very good job at that for this reason and this is what I should have done and you can do it too.” In her new role, she is still struggling to make the right decisions for herself and her institution. She wants other museum professionals to realize their dreams and also realize that other people are struggling with the same things.

      I think it is really effective to bring people together around these struggles. Sometimes museum professionals may not be receiving adequate support from their institutions and may need some additional support from the broader community of museum professionals (like in Nina’s blog post “Empowering Staff to Take Creative Risks”). Nina has created a place for this and this is perhaps one of her most interesting and accessible participatory forums. Not everyone is necessarily comfortable bouncing around crazy ideas with co-workers. Maybe a new employee at a museum knows they need to take some risks, but are uncomfortable getting support from people within their institution. Someone could use their anonymity on internet forums to get support and ideas. They would then have the confidence to realize their dreams and take the risks their supervisors want them to take. If successful, this could open them up to relationships or opportunities within their museums that they would not have normally had. Perhaps people are institutions not open to change. They could also use her accessible forums, blogs, and book to show examples of successful participation to higher-ups.

    • amyrt 9:09 pm on October 15, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Nina gave me a ton of ideas for what ideal museums can be. I plan to reference the book later in my career. Participation is addressed head on in her book and she challenges museum professionals to revolutionize the way they exhibit and to increase their presence in the community.

      In the book she references ways to get the community involved in creating exhibitions and programs. In the interview in Good Times Santa Cruz Magazine, she talks about how at MAH they are creating programs and events to bring in the younger audiences like a biking history scavenger hunt. Their audience has been traditionally retired old folks like many other museums in the country. But the interactive programs are reaching out to the underrepresented audience. In her book, she challenges museum professionals to engage people and be innovative but I like that she says in order for the programs/projects to be sustainable, they have to be specifically relevant to the mission of the institution and grow out of what they are already doing, she calls it part of the institutional culture. If projects seem to come out of nowhere and the staff does not feel comfortable with them then it will not last.

      I heard her speak at MAAM and she said she is starting a revolution. I think that it is revolutionary to think that museums can be informative and engage the community in participation with the exhibits and institution. MAH has become a community of it’s own it seems because of all the interactive things and programs there she has started. She told us she didn’t realize how much time she has to spend on unimportant things such as budgets and tries to make time for things she thinks are important such as staff development. She addressed some problems she had so far at MAH. One artist thought people were engaging too much with a puzzle in the same room as her artwork, the focus was on the participatory project and not the art. This can be a practical common issue, does anyone have any thoughts on how to balance this? Since she got the job, she has been faced with the difficult but necessary task of implementing her ideas.

    • johnviebrock 7:35 pm on October 16, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I found reading both Nina’s book and her blog to be very interesting and thought provoking. Her ideas on how to make museums more participatory is certainly causing a lot of waves. Personally it has really brought a new thought process to all the different possibilities that a museum can do to have more interaction with its audience. However there are some things I disagree with Nina on. Like in her interview with Geoffrey Dunn she makes certain comments during her back and forth with him. For example this back and forth really interested me:
      Dunn: Okay, it’s now on my bucket list. Is there a fundamental concept that provides an intellectual framework for your ideal museum experience?
      Simon: What I’m interested in is the roots of the commons, the Agora, the town square, places where people from different walks of life come together to learn and debate and inspire and frustrate each other. Artifacts are important as the organizing principle—the objects around which the conversation happens. But the objects are not the point. The people are the point.

      Dunn: I like the idea of the Agora—a commons, a public space—for the sharing of ideas and for fostering cultural exchange—I’m with you there. But for me the objects—the things—are part of the equation. It’s not a dichotomy between people and things. I don’t view them as separate. But I agree that they are not the end point. I view them as part of the discussion.
      Simon: I use the term “social object” to talk about artifacts that inspire dialogue. Sometimes that dialogue is internal between the person and the object, and sometimes it is between people around the object. If an artifact doesn’t elicit any kind of response or dialogue, there’s something wrong with the exhibition design.

      Dunn: I guess we are getting down to basic principles. It has always seemed to me that museums are intended, first, to stimulate internal discussion—contemplation, reflection, meditation, deep thought. That in itself is a dialogue, an interaction if you will. And then comes the outward engagement—the interaction of these reflections with others. So it’s at least a two-step process and maybe more. How does the museum help facilitate the continued discussion and engagement?
      Simon: As a museum visitor, especially at art museums, I always thought that was my job: to look, to contemplate, to be blown away and have little epiphanies around every corner. And it never happened. I’d stare at a painting and think, “Am I doing this right? Am I getting something out of this?” Most Americans don’t have a lot of background in art history or visual culture, and so we’re not trained in how to get into that deep contemplation zone.

      Dunn: Really? I’m not sure it takes training. I was raised as a fish cutter and went to Soquel High. I didn’t have any formal art training growing up, and yet I’ve always had a visceral response to art—whether it was music, a movie, or a painting. I think formal training “intellectualizes” the reaction. I didn’t need any training to experience or frame my reaction to a gorgeous sunset or Yosemite Valley or “Sympathy for the Devil” or The Graduate. So I’m not sure I agree with that distinction.
      Simon: I don’t have any formal art training either—and, like you, I feel good about my ability to react to music and movies and nature. But I’m pretty lousy at expressing my reaction to art, and the research shows that most people who visit art museums—in some studies as much as 90 percent—feel unsure of their reactions and unable to express them.

      Dunn: OK. I believe you. But that’s another shocker…
      Simon: We’re good at doing this about music—arguing and advocating and falling in love with songs without reservation. But think about the huge disparity between the number of songs you’ve heard in your life and the number of paintings you’ve seen. I’m sure that if we looked at art as often as we listened to the radio, we’d be really smart about contemplating and reflecting on art. But we don’t, and we’re not. And the result is that most people feel a little uncomfortable in art museums, maybe even a little stupid—and that definitely does not make them want to discuss what they’re seeing with others.

      Dunn: So how do we get people there, into that comfort zone?
      Simon: I try and design ways to help people be as comfortable as possible so that they can get to that point. Sometimes, it means putting a nice armchair in front of a painting and inviting people to cozy up to it for awhile without feeling the itch to move on. Sometimes it means giving people notecards with questions to think about or unusual thought experiments to try. This may sound contrived, but it’s exactly what people who have a Ph.D. in art history have spent years doing—building up tools and techniques for engaging with art. We all need these tools, and when we get them, we’re more likely to feel confident in museums and enjoy the experience.

    • johnviebrock 7:40 pm on October 16, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I found myself agreeing with Dunn on most of the points in this back and forth. I feel that a museum should be about first and foremost about the objects. I think that balance between objects and the people is what is key for museums. If a museum leans to far towards the object side it can become irrelevant to the public but if it leans to far to the people then it starts to become more like a community center then a museum. I also feel that you don’t need to be trained to appreciate art anyone no matter what their background can enjoy looking at art. Art resonates to different people in different ways. I think Simon is over generalizing the normal person with her own perspective and would challenge her studies that 90% of people feel unsure of their reactions and unable to express them. Even though I disagree with these two parts I love the problem solving she uses to create a “comfort zone” for people in museums. I feel she is a trailblazer in the field and has dynamic ideas that will change the museum field.

      Sorry I guess this went a little long for one post.

  • ktkeckeisen 12:53 am on October 4, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: , pakistan, participation   

    Once again, a simply Google search on museum participation led me to something really interesting! This is an article about The Museum of Non-Participation. I was incredibly intrigued by a museum with this moniker, so I looked into it. Turns out that this “museum” is more of a modern art exhibit which focuses on eliciting participation in an area where most people prefer not to participate. So not only does it encourage participation, it also raises awareness on the state of Pakistan and its portrayal in Western society. Definitely worth a look!


  • ktkeckeisen 1:38 am on September 25, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: participation   

    I happened to find this by googling ‘failed museum participation.’ I wanted to see if there were any bad examples to counter all of Simon’s pretty good ones. Although this study was done in the UK, I think it has some interesting points and can easily be applied on this side of the pond.


    • sdaugherty28 10:06 pm on September 25, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      It’s interesting that Museums abroad are also experimenting with ways to make visitors’ experiences more participatory.

  • chrislarry 9:16 pm on September 20, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: discussion, participation, ,   

    Nina Simon Participatory Museum open thread 

    Just a discussion thread for people to share thoughts on reading.

  • allysonjo7787 10:29 pm on September 18, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: participation, ,   

    I researched further the Frank Warren PostSecret project. The amount of responses to this ultra personal postcard project was intriguing from the get go. There are no restrictions, no need for a name, and only one requirement: “What’s a secret you’ve never told anyone?” I immediately started to wonder if I were to participate, what I would write and if it would too have a cute art counter piece. After doing some further reading and research, I was inspired to find that there is very little interaction with the host site, http://www.postsecret.com/, and the people who are submitting their secrets. Unlike so many other community sites built on people’s participation, this one seems to flow with very little interruption from day to day.

    • corilinville 11:41 pm on September 18, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      i LOVE postsecret!!! my friend got me one of the books for christmas. they actually just came out with an app for the iphone. The website comes out with new secrets every sunday. it’s great. The creator is really involved is really involved. He goes on tour around the country and does talks. PS has a fb and a twitter page too!

  • chrislarry 12:07 pm on September 15, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: , participation, personalization   

    Don’t forget to change out your generic avatars to something representative of “you”

  • chrislarry 1:44 am on September 14, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: participation,   

    Nina Simon Open Thread 


    Let’s use this thread to discuss the first five chapters of Participatory Museum and for you all to post which of Simon’s examples/case studies you decided to investigate deeper. Simply “reply” to this thread.

    Here is the link for Nina’s blog. Newest post is about fundraising and very interesting.


    • vshoffner 10:28 pm on September 14, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I investigated the I Like Museums marketing campaign, as well as the Tate Modern pamphlets.

      As Simone describes the I Like Museums campaign allows a user to either search through, or create a “trail” of museums in North East England, tailored to their interests (ex. I Like…Victorians). If a trail is created by a user it can be shared on the website for other users to view. Once you click on a trail, you are presented with the user created list of museum’s relevant to the topic, including website, address, telephone number, and sometimes a note on each from the creator of the trail. Options to print or e-mail the trail are also provided.

      Users can also score each trail after they’ve viewed it, or tried it out. Some examples of this are: I like…Fossils has a score of 9/10, and I Like…Pigs has a 4/10. I found this to be an interesting concept, streamlining the decision-making process for those who want to share or discover useful information on specific museums for a variety of interests.

      Simone makes the point: “These museum trails were accessible and relevant to people because they started with who they are, not what the institution offers.”

      One interesting user created trail was ‘I Like…things to do with a hangover’, which provides several locations including: an art museum to take your mind off how terrible you may feel; a cathedral; a place called Bede’s World where you can “act like a kid”; as well as a castle by the sea and a Roman Fort and Bath for some fresh air to make you feel better. This example and many others are interesting because they give the visitor reasons to attend these museums besides just the collection, and have tailored their experience before they walk through the museum doors. As Simone writes: “The website subtly gives you more and more reasons to visit a museum beyond viewing its collection.”

      The I Like Museums organization has s somewhat active facebook page with several posts a month, although there didn’t appear to be much discussion between those who had ‘liked’ the page. I tried viewing their linked twitter page but it wasn’t working for me.

      While discussing the I Like Museums campaign, Simone also mentioned the Tate Modern using pamphlets with tours based on a visitor’s mood. When looking at the Tate website and the unique tours listed, which they call Your Collection, many of them didn’t have much to do with mood but some were kind of random. Many of these collections are listed and able to be viewed on the website. The I’ve Just Split Up Collection features more heartbreaking and gloomy paintings. The I Like Yellow Collection just features the color yellow. The Rainy Day Collection features colorful paintings, and paintings of clear days. The I’m an Animal Freak Collection features paintings with all kinds of animals. The I Haven’t Been Here in Ages Collection reacquaints the visitor with some of the museum’s better-known pieces, as well as educating them on newly acquired objects that the visitor may not have seen yet. The Odd Faces Collection takes the visitor on a tour stopping at works of art with strange faces. Other Collections featured on the website and viewable in pdf format are: The I’m Hungover Collection; The Happily Depressed Collection; The Calming Collection; The I Come Here All the Time Collection; The Britannia Collection; The I Have a Big Meeting Collection; The Kids Only Collection; and the I’m In a Hurry Collection. The Tate website also allows the visitor to, in a small way, become a curator themselves, and create their own personal collection tour. The Tate Modern expresses on their website “All those works of art are yours.” This kind of approach is quite simple and, similar to the I Like Museums campaign, begins with the individual.

      Here are the links for the websites:




      • sdaugherty28 8:36 pm on September 17, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

        The Tate’s pamphlet idea is so interesting. I wish I saw them when I visited!

      • klparman 2:44 am on September 18, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

        I have been to a museum that has pamphlets based on how much time I had to spend in the museum. While they did point me to what the museum considered to be their most important objects, I wasn’t necessarily interested in seeing one object in each exhibit that had a bunch of people surrounding it. Who decides which objects are so noteworthy anyway?! I do think the emotional pamphlet ideas are really interesting. It really allows the visitor to reflect on themselves and their purpose for being at the museum (even if they are hung over and someone forced them to be there).

    • ktkeckeisen 7:32 pm on September 17, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I was intrigued by the “Odditoreum” exhibit at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Australia that Simon used as a case study in Ch. 4. The fact that all of the labels that were near the object were fictitous and came from the minds of a children’s author and local schoolkids seemed to me to be the sort of thing I’d want to go visit and participate in.

      A quick Google search led me to the Powerhouse’s website and a blog post that was published just before the exhibit opened. It features an interview with Helen Whitty, the Public Programs Producer for the exhibit. Ms. Whitty mentions that this exhibit was first thought up because the museum needed something cheap to produce between two larger exhibits. So, the staff looked to objects that it had in its own collection that were just, well, sorta weird. Then, instead of having the curators write the normal museum label copy, the museum brought in children’s book author Shaun Tan to write fictitious labels for eleven of the objects. The other seven objects had labels which were written by children from the local elementary school.

      What I liked about this approach is that it gets people’s imaginations churning. Instead of showing these incredibly bizarre objects and telling the visitors it’s real purpose (which takes the bizarreness out), the children writing the labels simply used their imaginations to come up with what they thought the purposes of these outlandish creations were. Both these, and the labels written by Tan, would (as Simon says) “encourage visitors to think about the ‘why’ of these objects.”

      For example, Tan wrote a label for a giant shoe-shaped tricycle that looked to be covered in licorice. Instead of simply stating that this was used as a parade bicycle in the Sydney Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, Tan wrote the following label:

      Guide dog testing device number 6

      This enormous liquorice all-sorts shoe is one of several outlandish objects used to test young guide dogs for their susceptibility to distraction while on duty. A tricycle inside the shoe allows a rider to manoeuvre this colourful vehicle while prospective guide dogs are put through their paces. The shoe appears at the moment an important task needs to be performed, such as crossing a road, laying quietly in a restaurant, or entering a lift. Dogs are then assessed on their ability to maintain composure and focus, thus preparing them for the challenges of the real world.
      Other ‘canine distracters’ commonly used by training staff include a Volkswagen covered in sausages, an ice-cream van that spills colourful rubber balls, and a litter of kittens riding on a miniature steam train.

      Now that’s what I call a label! The Powerhouse took the whole, kooky thing one step forward by inviting the public to make their own labels for the objects. This, says Simon, “let visitors of all knowledge levels into the game of making meaning out of objects.” Instead of visitors feeling intimidated if they didn’t know the right answer, the Powerhouse Museum made it okay to be silly and to guess. Then after, it was all over, the last label showed the visitors to “Odditoreum” what they actual purpose of each object was. This made the correct information “available, but not the point of the experience.”

      Personally, I think every museum should try to do an exhibit like this at least once. It takes away the apparent stuffy facade and shows that public that the museum can be a play of silliness, too.



      Check out their flikr page! It’s quite fun and shows some examples of the “Write Your Own Label” area. http://www.flickr.com/photos/powerhouse_museum_photography/sets/72157621891871473/


    • sdaugherty28 9:13 pm on September 17, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I decided to further investigate the Brooklyn Museum’s “Click! A Crowd-Curated Exhibition” exhibition: http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/exhibitions/click/gallery.php

      Simon uses this interactive exhibition as a case study in Chapter 3. Developed in 2008, the purpose of this exhibition was to investigate if crowds could judge subjective works of art the same way experts did. Participants could judge the works based of their artistic quality and relevance to the exhibition theme: “The changing face of Brooklyn.”

      I really enjoyed browsing the photograph submissions and reading the various comments underneath. Many images sparked critical discussions about Brooklyn and artistic merit. In addition, the exhibition’s website is user friendly. It contains multiple tabs (Top 10 compared, most discussed, artists, etc) to help the visitor navigate through this online exhibition.

      Interestingly, the exhibition concluded that people with little art knowledge are likely to make similar choices to those made by art experts. This is apparent when you compare the top 10 images to “no knowledge” people, “some knowledge” people, “more than a little knowledge” people, “above average knowledge” people, and experts.

      Visitors can be trusted to successfully provide and engage with content!

      • sdaugherty28 10:14 pm on September 17, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

        Upon further reflection, I guess the idea behind this exhibit threatens the traditional relationship between a cultural institution and its staff. We tend to think of museums as authoritative, the ones providing the knowledge. This notion is challenged by participatory exhibitions and the like. Where does this leave us as museum professionals?

        I could get used to a “benevolent dungeon master ” title…

    • haljust 9:24 pm on September 17, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I decided to investigate Pandora.

      As a frequent user of Pandora, I found Simone’s study on it very interesting. I’ve used Pandora not only as an entertainment source when I’m bored and I just want to listen to music that peaks my interest, but also as a research tool. I would type in one of my favorite artists names and as I listen to the set of songs that it set up I would find a great interest in one of the new bands that I came across. Sometimes I would find bands that are already in my music collection, but other times I would find a band that I’ve never heard of. I could also learn more about that new band or something new about a band I already was interested in.

      Simone gave a great example of how to harness this for within a cultural institution. A person could generate of list of similar objects or exhibitions from one of their favorites. They could understand why it was chosen and why they like it. I thought that this could be expanded even more. Instead of just one cultural institution involved with it, it could be a massive group of them. A person could type in their favorite subject matter, artist, time period, object, etc. The program would generate a list of various objects and exhibitions at the various museums. It would give a reason why it was chosen, but also a history of that object or the meaning of an exhibit. People could use it as a research tool to find different museums that they might want to visit. They could also learn something new about an object. A person could type in Leonardo Da Vinci and get a statue that they might not have known was sculpted by him. I just think it would be a cool way for people to find a museum that would fit their interests or learn something new about an object, artist, etc. It would personalize their experience.


      Here is the link to Pandora.

    • erinlbradford 2:33 am on September 18, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I choose to look more into the idea of “Provocative Exhibition Design”, discussed in Chapter 4, and specifically the work of Fred Wilson and Mining the Museum. Simon discusses that, “one of the most powerful and simple ways to provoke social response is through juxtaposition”. I completely agree that through the positioning and placement of the objects themselves generates questions and dialogue among visitors.

      I think when you go to an exhibition that has a provocative exhibition design not only do the placement and selection of objects create dialogue among visitors (acquainted and unacquainted) this style of exhibition also causes physical reactions from visitors (mouths open, eyebrows raise, fingers point, eyes squint, elbows nudge, etc.), and an experience that is shared jointly among a large group of people through an exhibition can create for a significant experience. Visitors leave remembering how a display made them feel or how it made them react and observers recognize shared reactions to an exhibit almost solidifying that what they saw was something provocative and made to exhibit some response.

      I think that through the use of provocative exhibition designs an institution can almost gauge better what an audience’s reaction will be to an exhibit. And as Simon discussed Fred Wilson has been known for using such exhibition styles in the past. Visitors have these reactions to the work he produces not because a pair of slave shackles are displayed or because a silver tea set is displayed, it is because they are displayed together and the subtext that is suggested in that. “Juxtaposition implies obvious questions: “Why are these here and those missing?” “What’s going on here?” Curators and museum educators often ask questions like this, but these questions can fall flat when presented as teachable moments”. Hopefully it is through the display and juxtaposition of the objects that visitors are able to gain a participatory experience through the exhibition, as Simon’s mentions the objects themselves that Wilson used in Mining the Museum were not of any significant consequence, but it was the “platform” that was presented.

      Fred Wilson came to do a lecture at Seton Hall, maybe a year ago? a year and a half ago?, and he discussed all the reactions that came with the exhibit, his techniques and what he was trying to create and convey in his exhibition style. He was extremely passionate about his work and even commented at the unease some institutions have when employing him understanding the context that may come with the exhibition and that he will probably be rooting through a warehouse and/or storage facility somewhere. But for those who maybe have not heard of Fred Wilson I found this website that offers a lot of great information on him, and a couple of interviews. I definitely found him interesting to listen to and enjoyed hearing his ideas and theories on creating exhibits.


      Another link I want to share is about Mining the Museum, the article gives a little more information about what the exhibit was about, and why it attracted so much conversation for those who did and did not see it and why the conversation has lasted so long past the exhibit.


    • klparman 2:40 am on September 18, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I chose to do more research on Netflix (http://www.netflix.com) and the possibilities created by using this technology within cultural institutions. Simon writes that Netflix is trying to sell monthly subscriptions, so their goal is to keep customers interested in new movies, which they do by making recommendations based on a customer’s personal ratings. Not only does it keep customers interested, but it keeps all of their movies in constant circulation. This also gives lesser-known independent films more advertisement.

      Many websites, including http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/netflix2.htm, can give you more information about the math and algorithms, but Netflix uses a system called cinematch.com to match and recommend movies in groups according to genre, based on your ratings and other users’ similar ratings. Simply put, it matches your rating and rental history (including your queue) with those of other users. It also recommends based on the combined ratings of all Netflix users, not just users with similar interests. This is why recommendations do not necessarily have anything to do with plots or casts.

      Netflix, much like other resources Simon described, gets more accurate with every new and/or active customer/rater. The rating activity matches close to a billion movies to customers each day. If museums were able to have this categorization system with their databases, it would benefit the collection in many ways. First of all, it would connect visitors with lesser-known objects based on their common interests with other museum goers. My Netflix account always recommends “Sentimental films with a strong female lead” or “late-night comedies.” (Amazing how accurate it can be) It makes me wonder which museum objects would cater to these interests, especially objects that are not in permanent exhibits. Maybe it would recommend objects that are a little odd, but just as interesting to me.

      • ajwhipker 12:57 am on September 19, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

        I always can’t help but to think that people just love it when others (whether computers, people, or tests) figure out their personality! It’s like an outside affirmation of your greatness!

    • amyrt 10:21 pm on September 18, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      In chapter 3, Simon discusses interactive exhibits and getting artist participation. She goes indepth into how to best present the interactives to the public. She uses examples from museums, I decided to look up the ontario science center’s exhibit, Facing Mars. There are some really cool interactive exhibits there she doesn’t mention..
      I like that she pushes museums even farther by saying that it would be nice to have interactives that encouraged people to talk with strangers about their differing opinions. In the Mars exhibit, visitors only can say yes or no would they go to mars, before and after seeing the exhibit, but imagine if once people voted there was a way for people to talk about why they voted that way and engage in discussion with others who voted differently. I think with mobile devices nowadays it is possible to do.

    • Pam Schwartz 10:31 pm on September 18, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Since Frank Warren released the first edition of Post Secret I have been interested in the “anonymous” type of crowd participation. I agree with what Simon says in that people may be more likely to get involved if their identity remains anonymous or if the final product (perhaps from an activity) can be displayed without having to put their face or name to it.

      I feel, especially with older generations, that keeping some participatory events anonymous will better encourage some visitors to get involved. With Post Secret Warren doesn’t an excellent job of balancing participatory scaffolding and freedom. When reading one of the Post Secret books or viewing an exhibition, like Warren, I feel I can relate to many of the artists/creators/writers.

      Additionally, I do like the idea of exhibitions that are entirely user/visitor generated, though there can be many issues with this as Simon mentions. They require heavy screening of submissions which can sometime cause display/share time to lag. With this process though you create an exhibition that is sort of “by the people, for the people”.

      You can check out the Post Secret blog here:

      Nina Simon’s blog post about hearing Frank Warren speak:

      This blog, 1000 Awesome Things, runs in a similar vein in that though it is narrated/curated by one person, the basis is user generated. I designed my exhibition for A-Z using inspiration from this book.

      • sdaugherty28 1:26 pm on September 19, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

        I agree! I know I would be more comfortable participating if I knew my identity was kept anonymous! Especially if I were revealing my secrets…

    • ajwhipker 12:53 am on September 19, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I chose to investigate the Free2choose exhibit at the Anne Frank museum. Right off the bat I was pleased to see that visitors have the chance to view films on the social issues at hand and THEN vote. It allows them to see an up to date version of the debate and puts all conflicts fresh in their minds, maybe creating more controversial results? It seems to be very visitor friendly in being offered in 6 languages and allows for private voting. Simon wrote some suggestions for the exhibit to make it more social, such as physical voting by dividing down the room. Personally I find this a terrible way to go about discussing social issues with complete strangers. Those who have extremely strong opinions on one issue or another could become frustrated or even aggressive towards those with differing opinions. I have also taken part in activities like this and many people tend to follow the majority, even if it’s not their belief. Overall I think the set-up of private voting is ideal for a museum crowd and can promote social interactions and discussions of hot-button issues but in a controlled and safe environment.

      Other random thoughts on the reading…
      I really found the outlining of the 5 stages of social interaction really useful in chapter one. After seeing it used in an everyday example I could see how it applies to my life. It really reminded me of goodreads.com, a great site where you can track books you’ve read, write reviews, read the lists and reviews of others as well as comment on their material. Lastly once you post so many reviews you can get personal recommendations. It is basically as interactive as you want it to be (as there is no ‘facilitator’) and members can reach all five stages of interaction.(When I got to chapter two I saw Simon uses a similar website!) I also wonder if Simon read Siemen’s theories of connectivity, as she seemed to highlight the importance of participation happening on a larger scale in which people have a sense of team/doing their share.

      I was really shocked in chapter two that the NY Hall of Science essentially LABELS their guests with stickers (member, non-member, donor). Even if these stickers do not clearly ID the status of each guest, I think it’s a horrible way to treat a guest because in the end staff may end up paying more attention to donors or members. I did like the reference to other types of labels that are less related to the function of the museum, such as the Greek god personality quiz/tag or talk to me about… stickers. Simon said profiles should be flexible, the member, donor etc labels are clearly not and if I had a sticker I may be wondering why people have different colors and what they mean.

      • sdaugherty28 1:36 pm on September 19, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

        I too was taken back that the NY Hall of Science “labels” their guests. While it is important to recognize donors and members, I believe this should be done more privately. Seeing people with “member” and “donor” badges may make “non members” feel intimidated and therefore reduce their motivated to engage with other visitors and staff. Yes, it is important to continue to cultivate a relationship with people who are already involved with the museum, but what about the people who already feel out of place in a museum?

    • sarahadlis 1:45 am on September 19, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I started off investigating both Pandora and Netflix as commercial enterprises which allow the user to choose something they like (such as a song or artists for Pandora, or a movie for Netflix) and which then makes suggestions given the nature of the user’s choice for what the user may like. I’m always amazed at what Netflix in particular comes up with for my movie suggestions (apparently I like Imaginative Foreign Sci-Fi and Fantasy, as well as Dark Cerebral Thrillers with a Strong Female Lead), and the loved it/really liked it/liked it/didn’t like it/hated it rating system seems to be really responsive to my votes as far as suggestions for upcoming movies. But what I kept coming back to while looking at both Netflix and Pandora was StumbleUpon, which Simon doesn’t mention in the first 5 chapters. The best way I can think of to describe StumbleUpon is as a reverse internet search engine: instead of typing in a narrow search query (such as ‘pumpkin pie recipe’) and getting related hits, the user creates a profile in which they choose their categories of interest, and are then directed to randomly generated internet sites which fit those categories. For example, on my StumbleUpon account I chose categories such as photography, cooking, arts and crafts, current events, literature, women’s issues, satire, and art. When I click the “stumble” button, the search engine takes me to sites which fit these categories. When I arrive at a new site, I have the option to ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ the page, which not only temporarily saves the sites I like for later perusal, but also further personalizes my profile. What differentiates this from sites such as Netflix and Pandora is that, instead of taking a movie or song and breaking it down into its thematic parts and from that information directing the user, StumbleUpon takes a user-declared category of interest(s), and from there creates completely new and randomized experiences for the user. I’ve found that using StumbleUpon has directed me to sites that I would never in a million years have found on my own. In addition to taking the user to new sites, sites themselves that have a relationship with StumbleUpon can create a greeting that appears only when visitors arrive at the site through the StumbleUpon search engine, creating a sense of community and user identity. Sites can even petition StumbleUpon users for “likes” in order to increase their popularity and frequency. While I appreciate Netflix’s and Pandora’s ability to tell me things about my music and movie tastes that I couldn’t have put into words, I also enjoy and see the merit in StumbleUpon’s approach which allows me to declare my categories of interest for myself. Not only do I think this kind of a philosophy can be applied to museums, but I think StumbleUpon itself can be a great tool for searching the web for resources that you didn’t even know were out there. I think it could be a great resource for students and museum professionals to find new and exciting ideas. But be warned: once you start Stumbling, you’ll find yourself looking up hours later and wondering where the time has gone!

    • corilinville 2:45 am on September 19, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I chose to look into the case study of the learning with strangers in the human library. I found this really inspiring that people would get together and form this event with these random people to ask questions. It is a great way to help get rid of social prejudices. This is different than everything else because this is getting people to step out of what they know and are normally “like”. They are now being challenged to try something different and new. This is great because it is not like a movie where you would be learning about this on screen but during this new experience you borrow a ‘book’ (aka a person) and have your conversation with these people are of certain stereotypes. Of course there is a time limit and there are people watching over but it sounds like it is set up perfectly. You actually get to have a conversation with a person who might be lesbian, Black Muslim, Goth, or a cop and you get to ask him questions. It sounds like a great experience and I understand why it has taken off so well and over so many countries too. It started in Denmark in 2000. It was first started by the Danish youth NGO “Stop the Violence”.
      fun fact- When in the US it has mostly been in library settings when it was Denmark they had it starting out in the music festivals and they normally had it in musical festivals and in large events. Which, when reading the pdf link and looking at the pictures on it, it actually looks like it works out really well. It makes me want to be a part of a human library but sadly I have never even heard of one before, has anyone else??

      And because Nina brings it in I thought I would too. She contracts the, It Is: Conversations About Iraq exhibit with the human library towards the end of the case study. And this exhibition is an interesting one, in that no one really talked to them even though it made it seem like they were open for questions. But even the name, It Is What It Is, that does not sound like it leaves much up for opinion so what would there be much to discuss except for them to tell you what they think.

      “Meet your own prejudice. Instead of talking talking about it, simply meet it.”


    • melanieodonnell 12:52 am on September 22, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply


      I decided to investigate the “World Without Oil” game from chapter 4. The game was played by 1,900 people in May 2007, and simulated what would happen if the world’s oil supply dried up, prices sky rocketed, and chaos followed. Each day represented a week, with updates on world events and gas prices influencing how people reacted. Participants updated through blog posts, youtube videos, audio recordings, and pictures ‘documenting’ their life during the fuel shortage. The goal of the creators is to use the group to brainstorm new ways to cut back on fuel usage, and how their world has changed around them. People even applied this to their real life, one user posted about a party they organized where everyone attending walked or biked. They held it a random bar, that so happened to be throwing a pirate party. It wasn’t just cars that are affected, airlines are cutting back on flights, the strategic oil reserves are being rationed and are feared to be targets of terrorism, food prices are spiking (because it costs more to transport), people are canceling netflix accounts (save the gas it takes for delivery), planting gardens, etc, etc, etc.

      The goal, per the website, was ‘By design, the gameplay in WWO generated ideas for solutions to the problems of oil dependency and energy policy. As players and viewers immersed themselves in the alternate reality and sought solutions to the situations brought on by the oil crisis, they brought this thinking back to their real lives. Many of them reported this resulted in change to their real lives: greater awareness about energy use, more conservative energy practices, more questioning of energy consumption and policy, and so on. They “played it, so they wouldn’t have to live it.”‘ It caused the players to think about their own oil consumption, and often to make changes in their own lives.

      This problem solving via game recently solved a problem that stumped scientists for 15 years in only 10 days. Using Fold.it, gamers modeled the enzyme, Mason-Pfizer monkey virus (M-PMV) retroviral protease, a protein in the monkey version of AIDS, in a manner that matched crystalline structures observed by scientists. Gamers created models, and the better the model, the more points the player earned. With this piece cracked, scientist may be able to create a drug that stymie the multiplication of the virus in humans. A real life application of a game that used the crowd to solve a complex problem.

    • johnviebrock 4:25 pm on October 17, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply


      I decided to look into the case study in chapter 3 called the Human Library. The idea of connecting people directly to their prejudices in a safe and friendly manner fascinated me. Their goal via the website is to “promote dialogue, reduce prejudices and encourage understanding.” The Human library itself is a place where visitors are given the opportunity to speak informally with “people on loan”; the people being loaned are extremely varied from age and sex to cultural background. The Human Library enables groups to break stereotypes by challenging the most common prejudices in a positive and humorous manner. It is a concrete, easily transferable and affordable way of promoting tolerance and understanding. I think it is a great way to bring people together and remove prejudices by actually facing them. By creating a free dialogue between the people and their prejudices they can connect and realize that they aren’t any different from themselves, bringing society together as a whole. By having a face to face conversation it impacts the user more profoundly then just reading it in a book or watching it on a screen.

      That social interaction lasts and can truly change a persons perspective on what they thought they knew. For example, Simon gave a quote from a Turkish reader “I’ve never had a gay friend. It was unbelievably exciting to find myself facing him with his body, opinions and identity. It seems he was not very different from me and especially he was not an alien. From now on, I will not disrupt my communication with the gays, I will enhance it.” The Human library to me has been a very successful experiment and has spread into multiple countries and is still growing. I for one am happy that something like this has come along to bring society together especially in the times we live in today where people are judged so harshly based on stereotypes and not who they really are. I would be very interested in taking part in the Human library and would be curious to watch the interaction between the books and the readers. I wonder if any serious arguments occur during these sessions?

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