Monthly Archives: March 2011

What do you do after the show opens?

So, a bit of shameless self-promotion…

We just finished our latest exhibition, , and it got me to thinking about the rhythms of this work. We’ve been busting our butts to this show completed, and this morning was the staff walkthrough. And even though it’s quite small by our standards – 1,000 sq ft. – it had all of what I think of as the hallmarks of a good museum exhibition project, There were:

  • the long, long days in the gallery,
  • the shared vocabulary of in-jokes that developed as a result of the above,
  • the period when it looked like we might open on time,
  • the period when it was obvious we’d never open on time,
  • the thing that should’ve been simple, but seemed like it’d never get done,
  • somebody bleeding,
  • the “Uh-oh…” moment,
  • the terrible agony of making decisions based entirely on getting it done on time, and
  • the little details that nobody but the team would notice that took extra precious time to include, but showed that commitment to quality that makes me glad to come to work every morning.

Pictures follow, courtesy of Emily Roose, graphic designer extraordinaire.

The entrance. Automatic glass doors. Best money we ever spent on that gallery. Like a vacuum cleaner on undecided visitors.




The entrance visually represents what we've collected over the past 180 years. The TV shows old commercials from the 70s.

The entrance - oil paintings and the big Van de Graaff in the background.

The exhibition traces the Museum's history back to 1814 and the Linnaean Society of New England.

The founding document of the institution, recording the meeting of nine gentlemen in Boston in 1830.

A representative collection of the Museum's holdings in the 1860-1940 era. "Our Insect Friends" anyone?

Behold the 1960s!

So, we stood around and told our colleagues about what we were trying to do, what we liked, what we wished we could’ve changed given more time/money/sleep/bodies, and it was lovely. There is nothing like an opening, even an unofficial one.

Mike Horvath, Exhibit Designer, Emily Roose, Graphic Designer, Yours Truly, Exhibit Developer. We thought dressing up as different eras would be fun. And it was.

Welcoming staff to a sneak preview of the exhibition. It's wonderful to watch people learn about the place they work.

And it’s done. It belongs to the visitors, not us.

I went up to the gallery later in the day, and as I always do, I watched the first visitors to the exhibition, trying to see what they liked, what they gravitated to, what they avoided. And mostly said my goodbyes to this thing as-yet-unmade, and my hellos to our latest exhibition, and the punch list of things needing to be fixed or corrected.

Over the years, I’ve had many different responses to shows I’ve worked on. There have been ones I avoided, ones I couldn’t stay away from for love or money, ones that have made me happy, ones that have left me wishing I could’ve _______. And almost always a sort of post-partum depression, the spectre of long hours at my desk, catching up on emails and paperwork, and meetings I can’t duck “because I’m in the gallery.”

What do you do after the show opens? And why?

Look outside your field! What’s going on in the world around you?

One thing I’m always on the lookout for are people outside of the museum field who are doing what I think is interesting work, defined broadly. There are lots of people who think and study and write about how people learn in free choice environments – work that can be easily transferred to museum work if you squint a little.
Over the past decade or so, there has been an explosion of interest in learning in social networks, game design, user experience design. etc… Where do you find your inspirations outside of the field? Here’s a random sampling from my Google Reader and Twitter lists of non-museum types I find interesting.

  • Cory Doctorow @doctorow

Writer, blogger, activist. If you want a reply, use email. Blog suggestions here:

  • Karl Long @karllong

Nokia games group, now working on social/mobile games.

  • Ken Eklund @writerguygames

Game designr, writr, evangelst, instigatr. World Without Oil, anyone? Yeah, him…

  • Shaun Usher @LettersOfNote

Shaun runs the Letters of Note website, which is my absolute favorite collection of primary source documents on the web.

  • Dirk vom Lehn @dirkvl

Sociologist, Lecturer in Marketing and dad. Tweets on technology, marketing, politics, the arts, museums and life.

  • danah boyd @zephoria

social media scholar, youth researcher & advocate | Microsoft Research, Harvard Berkman Center |

  • Jane McGonigal @avantgame

I make games, I play games. My book is Reality is Broken: Why Game Make Us Better and How They Change the World

Slover Linett is an audience research firm. Asking Audiences explores the fast-changing landscape in which cultural and educational organizations meet their publics.

A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language. Nuff said.

Who are your favorite outsiders and hat do they do for your thinking?