Tag archive for "science center exhibition planning"

Exhibition Design, Museum Planning

Museum Exhibition Design, Part VI

1 Comment 10 July 2012

Museum Exhibition Design, Part VI, Exhibition Evaluation

Museum exhibition evaluation is a balancing act.  On one side you have visitor comprehension and on the other side you have museum mission & museum revenue.

Museum exhibition evaluation is a process to answer the question, “what is the visitor gaining from an exhibition?”.  Museum exhibitions are a form of communication and museum evaluation is a method to analyze the communication of an exhibition or answer “What is the exhibition communicating to visitors?”.   Exhibition evaluation can be divided into four phases, front-end evaluation, formative evaluation, remedial and summative evaluation.

Front-end evaluation – Provides background about the visitors’ prior knowledge and experience and gather  their expectations regarding a proposed exhibition.  The primary goal of front-end evaluation is to learn about the audience before an exhibition has been designed to better understand how visitors will respond to an exhibition. This information can help assure that the final product will meet visitor needs and project goals.

The aims are to:

  • Define the exhibition objectives for use in the Project Charter
  • Gain an understanding of the visitors prior knowledge and interests related to the exhibition concept
  • Test theories about visitor behavior and learning
  • Identify visitor needs and how can these be met
  • Collect relevant information about audiences and any proposed ideas to help decision making

The methods used include:

  • Focus groups
  • Interviews and surveys, face-to-face, phone, mail, partial self-administered
  • Large and small scale sample surveys/questionnaires
  • Unstructured and semi-structured interviews
  • Informal conversations and feedback
  • Computer surveys, online surveys
  • Community days/workshops
  • Review of similar exhibition evaluations
  • Review of Market Research

Formative Evaluation - Provides information about how well a proposed exhibition communicates its intended messages. Formative evaluation occurs while a project is under development. The evaluator measures visitor responses to models, plans, or prototypes of the program or exhibit. A prototype is a working version of an interactive exhibit, label and it should closely resemble the final product, although it may be more roughly constructed.  The more developed the model or prototype, the more likely visitor reactions in the formative stage will anticipate their reactions to the final product.

The aims are to:

  • Seek feedback related to how well the proposed exhibition communicates the messages
  • Produce the optimum exhibition program within the limits of what’s possible
  • Provide insight into learning and the communication processes

The methods used include:

  • Prototypes
  • Semi – structured interviews
  • Cued and non-cued observations
  • ‘Workshopping’ with staff and/or special interest groups
  • Consultants and peer feedback

The formative evaluation process is repeated until the exhibition developers are satisfied with the items being tested.  Information from formative evaluation is used to make changes to improve the design of a program or exhibit before it is implemented.

Remedial Evaluation – Takes place once an exhibition is open to the public. It is useful in troubleshooting problems and informs museum staff and designers about improvements that can be made to maximize the visitor experience.  Remedial evaluation is useful for addressing problems that could not be foreseen during the development a program or exhibit, such as lighting, crowd flow and signage issues.

The aims are to:

  • Check that the program ‘works’ in a practical sense
  • Determine what maintenance/resources are needed
  • Improve the short or long term effectiveness of the program for visitors
  • Provide some early insights into how visitors use the program.

The methods used include:

  • Observations
  • Informal feedback from visitors
  • Feedback sheets
  • Surveys and interviews
  • Comments books
  • Staff feedback, especially “Front-of-house” and floor staff

Summative Evaluation – tells about the impact of a project after it has completed. lt is conducted after the exhibit has opened to the public or after a program has been presented. Summative evaluation can be as simple as documenting who visits an exhibit or participates in a program, or it can be as complex as a study of what visitors learned. Generally, the results of summative evaluation will be used to improve future activities through an understanding of existing programs.  Summative evaluation uses a variety of methods at the conclusion of an exhibition or program to check whether it delivered the messages that were intended and what learning occurred; how satisfied people were with the program; as well as the performance of the marketing strategy. It is conducted on the finished exhibit or program and its components, using a combination of internal sources (Project Team, other staff) and external feedback (visitors, special interest groups, others).

The aims are to:

  • Give feedback about achievement of objectives
  • Provide information on how a program is working overall, how people use it, what they learn from it, or how they are changed
  • Provide reports, plan for future projects, suggest research, identify problems with visitor usage, interest and learning, identify successful strategies, layouts, etc
  • Identify the relationship between the program costs and outcomes through a cost/benefit analysis.

Museum evaluation is part science part Art, a good evaluator uses scientific method, through interviews, observation and testing creates a hypothesis and then tests the hypothesis.  There is necessary level of trust with an evaluator, having worked with several great evaluators, they can gently “see” from the visitor perspective and can hypothesize solutions to test.

Sadly the museum field is not very good about publishing evaluation studies at the bottom of the blog post is a listing of resources with a few samples of museum exhibition evaluations.  Each evaluation study is designed to meet the specific needs of the institution, exhibit, or program.  Exhibition evaluation is a process that starts before exhibition design and continues throughout the life of an exhibition.

..and now the other side

What if you evaluation report comes back with glowing feedback and the exhibition is perfectly meeting it’s objectives, but the museum is empty?

I often think of exhibition development as a funnel, you feed lots of exhibition ideas into the top of the funnel and see what is comes out the bottom.  Museums need to review potential exhibitions for:

1. Mission:  Does the exhibition meet the museum’s mission and advance the field of museums and the exhibition topic?

2. Revenue: Will the exhibition be a draw for visitors?  Will the exhibition increase museum attendance?

3. Visitor Needs: Does the exhibition fulfill a community need?  Is the museum’s audience interested in the proposed content?

In the past I have proposed a matrix approach, create a matrix  of the museum schedule identifying each gallery over a period of three years then look at the proposed exhibitions at any period of time and see how each exhibition meets the museum’s Mission, Revenue and Visitor Needs.  Then you can start feeding the top of the funnel with new exhibition ideas and have the exhibition evaluator, CFO, community advocate and visitor advocate weigh in.  Often, it is good to assign a small amount of money to exhibition development to each new exhibition idea, then make decions once the evaluation team has gathered enough data to make decisions.

I have been watching with great interest the recent changes at MOCA.  Museums need to balance the academic with the popular.  With the recent changes at MOCA, it is clear that MOCA has slide too far to the “self interested” popular side of the spectrum.  I am sure that the Disco exhibition will be popular and I am confident that such an exhibition could have a positive exhibition evaluation.  But, is the exhibition meeting MOCA’s mission?, I would say “No”.  If the Disco show was to coincide with exhibitions that meet the museum’s mission it would be less upsetting.

Resources:

Exploratorium Visitor Research and Evaluation
American Association of Museums, Committee On Audience Research and Evaluation (CARE)
Practical Evaluation Guide: Tools for Museums and Other Informal Educational Settings (American Association for State and Local History) by Judy Diamond, Jessica J. Luke and David H. Uttal
Australian Museum Association

Links for exhibition design phases:
Part I, Museum Exhibition Design – Planning
Part II, Museum Exhibition Design – Design Phases
Part III Museum Exhibition Design – Fabrication
Part IV Museum Exhibition Design – Installation
Part V Museum Exhibition Design – Exhibition Maintenance
Traveling exhibition design
Science Center exhibition design

Examples of each phase see “Museum Exhibition Design”

The steps of the exhibition evaluation is similar for Art Museums, Natural History Museums, Science Centers and Children’s Museums.  The differences are in the content development, the evaluation process is the same.

I have been part of evaluating exhibitions for Alcatraz Island, Muzeo, Mobius, Discovery Science Center, Chabot Science Center and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.  Contact me if you are interested in help evaluating your museum’s exhibitions.

* Photo, Copyright Shutterstock Images LLC

Exhibition Design

Museum Exhibition Design, Part V

2 Comments 05 June 2012

Museum Exhibition Design, Part V, Exhibition Maintenance

The process of exhibition design starts before drawing and continues through to maintaining and evaluating  the exhibits.  Having been part of surveying visitors at several museums, exhibits not working is often the number one complaint.  Creating an expectation for exhibit maintenance and repairs with staff is the first step.  It is unrealistic to expect all exhibits to be working all of the time, but 95% operational is a fair expectation.  ”Operational” is a tricky word, does operational include if an exhibit is dirty?  I would say a dirty exhibit is not operational.   Many museums have an expectation of 100% operational exhibits with no exhibits staff, it is not possible to set goals such as exhibits 100% operational without allocating resources to perform the maintenance and repairs.

I would say an exhibit needs to be communicating the content for it to be called an “operational exhibit”.  I am speaking loosely here, there are many exhibits that are about exploration, not didactic communication, for those exhibits, designers need to be careful to avoid miscommunication.  I would say the first step in maintaining an exhibition is understanding the desired outcomes, “what is the exhibit communicating?”.  Yes, if an exhibit is dirty it still may be communicating the content, but you may be communicating other undesired messages about the institution.  Don’t underestimate your exhibit cleaning and maintenance staff, include them in the design process.  Disney realizes that the number one question asked is “where is the bathroom”, often asked of the maintenance staff.  Customer service training of maintenance staff is often more important than training office staff.

I started out as a museum Art handler and Exhibit Technician, the experience of being “hands on” with exhibits has been invaluable.  Many museums have a job sharing program, where office staff go out on the museum exhibition floor and work along side exhibit staff maintaining exhibitions.  Not until you are trying to clean or fix an exhibit and a bus load of twelve year olds show up, do you understand the challenges of working on the exhibition floor.  No matter the exhibition the exhibit staff and their tools will be of greater interest than any exhibit!  It is very important that all museum staff are involved in the maintenance and repair of exhibits, try your best to create an atmosphere of the exhibits floor being the “living room” of the staff.  Staff should take pride in their “living room” and want to share the experience with visitors.  I have been part of designing several museums from ground up, I believe it is important that the staff walk through the front door every day, it creates a connection with the institution.  It is too easy to have museum staff never step on the exhibition floor and become disconnected from the mission of the museum.

From the last post, “Museum Exhibition Design, Installation” you will have already:

1. Installed the exhibition

2. Built in flexibility –  Created access panels to changeable parts, screwed casework in place to allow removing from the exhibition floor if necessary.

3. Documents / As Built Drawings - Created notebooks of the “As built” drawings and maintenance manuals.  Created contact sheet for the contants at designer and fabrication teams.  Copies of the IT, AV and architectural drawings.

4. Crating – Documented storage crates and modifications for next installation if traveling exhibition

5. Keys and On/Off & Maintenance Manual - Often, I will specify key numbers as part of drawing packages (it is a pain walking around with a ring of keys, key cabinets to be keyed alike), all of the items such as key numbers, equipment warranty and “as built drawings” should be compelled in a notebook for review prior to shipping.  Created a plan for turning on and turning off the exhibits, documented in the maintenance manual.

6. One Year Warranty – I will only work with fabricators who will warranty their work for one year.  Warranty should cover repairs do to defects, not abuse or misuse.

7. Evaluated the exhibition - Be able to make the distinction between broken and misconception.  Have an objective person review exhibits to point out misconceptions.

Museum Exhibition Maintenance can be divided into:

1. Exhibit Cleaning

2. Exhibition floor inspection and walk though

3. Building Maintence (Clean floors, walls painted and repaired)

4. Computer maintenance (filters cleaned, cabinets dusted)

5. Documentation of electrical / IT / pneumatic systems location and maintenance

6. Database of exhibit maintenance and repairs

7. Backup of computer files of exhibition graphics (graphics get torn, discolored and need to be updated periodically)

8. Backup of media including digital files of videos and computer software

9. Maintenance manuals should include specifications of; laminates, paint and lighting

10. Art should only handled by Art handlers and cleaned by conservators

11. Exhibition Lighting, A Lighting plan, lighting cart with a ladder and replacement bulbs

12. Stanchions for coordinating off exhibits while being maintained

13. “Exhibit under repair” signs

14. Planning for Art cleaning and conservation

Lessons Learned:

1. One point of contact - There should be one person or group responsible for reviewing exhibits.  Often in museums, one group is responsible for cleaning exhibits, another for changing lightbulbs and another for fixing exhibits, this can lead to “finger pointing” and a lack of accountability.  Have one group reviewing the entire museum experience, then reporting to the various departments.  It is often best to have a “vistor experience” team the reviews the visitor experience for exhibit cleaning and repairs.

2. Walk the building – Many museums require staff to walk through the front door every day.  Often staff can become disconnected from the visitor experience by going into a “staff entrance”, it is easy to forget the “business” of the museum is the exhibition floor.

3. Pick up trash – Set an example and pick up trash as you are walking through the galleries and encourage others to do the same.  The exhibit halls are your “living room” and take pride in how it looks.

4. Maintenance Loop – Create a loop of exhibit maintenance, 1. Visitor Feedback, 2. Evaluation, 3. Staff weekly report, 4. Job assignments, 5. Completion of tasks, 1. Visitor Feedback, it is an never ending loop, refing the visitor experience

5. Reward – Base employee reviews on meeting objectives of the visitor experience

6. Access -  Make it easy to get into exhibit cases

7. Parking Lot First – Start your walkthrough from the parking lot or side walk and walk the visitor experience from the perspective of the visitor and weekly note items to be repaired, cleaned, changed

8. Post Information – Make the information public and shared with staff, “this week 92% of the exhibits are operational 3% short of our goal of 95% operational”.  It is not possible to have 100% operational exhibits , it is possible but it would be a VERY boring museum.

9. Balancing Act – Often museums shy away from interactive exhibits or open ended exhibits because of a maintenance concerns, visitor satisfaction (read “Museums are Hospitality“) needs to be part of the equation.  It is easy for museums to not include difficult to maintain exhibits and have a lower visitor satisfaction, but that is a moot point.

10. Systems – Spare parts, keys, drawing storage, numbering systems, repair manuals, bins of spare parts, lighting cart, technician cart, repair shop.

11. Inclusion – Often museums use an approach of “here is the exhibit now maintain it”, include your exhibit maintenance staff in the design and fabrication process.

12. Communication – Support your exhibit staff with walkie talkies, email and computer database for staff

13. Cell Phone and Walkie Talkie - Often a cell phone, walkie talkie, flashlight, leatherman and the maintenance manual are your best tools.  Most often wires become loose and things become un-plugged.  When trouble shooting work from simple to complex, “is the exhibit plugged in?”, “Is everything plugged in properly?”, then document what is happening and pick up the cell phone to call the fabricator.  Often it is great to have a walkie talkie so others can run and get you parts without having to get off the cell phone.

14. Prioritize –  Use a triage approach to prioritize repairs and maintenance on a daily basis

15. Expensive – Exhibit maintenance is expensive, underwrite the costs of maintenance as part of your fundraising by creating an exhibition endowment

16. Gizmo makers  - Tap into artist communities, find people passionate about the visitor experience, not fixing exhibits.  Look for gizmo makers for exhibit staff.  I used to test staff asking them to build a 12″ x 12″ x 12″ box during the interview, you can learn a lot by watching someone work.

17. Vendor Relationships – Find vendors who will stand behind their work, require a 24 turnaround for replacement parts, only work with fabricators who will warranty their work for one year.  Warranty should cover repairs due to defects, not abuse or misuse.

The next post in the series will be “Museum Exhibition Evaluation” and final post in this series will be number VII an executive summary and Museum Exhibition Design “check list”.  This series of posts has been so well received, I will next start on a series of posts about Museum Planning and Museum Strategic Planning, then compile all of the posts into an ebook.

Links for specifics of exhibition design:

Traveling exhibitions design

Science Center exhibition design

Examples of each phase see “Museum Exhibition Design”

The steps of the exhibition design process is similar for Art Museums, Natural History Museums, Science Centers and Children’s Museums.  The differences are in the content development, the design process is the same.

I have been part of setting up exhibit maintenance programs at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, The Children’s Museum of Manhattan, Liberty Science Center, The Tech Museum (San Jose) and Discovery Science Center (Santa Ana, CA).  Contact me if you are interested in help setting up a program for your museum.

The image at the top of the post is my toolbox that travels with the “Alcatraz: Life on the Rock” exhibition.  The left hand side is for touch-up paint and spare parts, the draws for tools and hardware, the right hand side is for graphics, maintenance manuals and larger tools. 

Exhibition Design

Museum Exhibition Design, Part IV

2 Comments 07 May 2012

Museum Exhibition Design

Museum Exhibition Design, Part IV, Installation

“Museum Exhibition Design”, a six part series.  Each week, I am writing a post about exhibition design.  Last week was Part III,  “Exhibition Design – Fabrication”.  This week’s post will cover the phases of exhibition installation.

Anyone who thinks that exhibition design is the creation of drawings to is only 1/4 correct.  The process of exhibition design starts before drawing and continues through to opening day.  I have been part of more than forty museum exhibition installations, including, Mexico, USA, Canada, Indonesia and Hong Kong.  It is a stressful time, most people cannot read drawings and this will be the first time stakeholders will “see” the exhibition.  As soon as the first crate rolls into the building, people will be excited and the comments will start; “I thought it would be red”, “I thought it would be bigger”, try to keep you cool and delay reactions to comments until the exhibition is 80% installed.  Have a stakeholder preview scheduled and that will ease tensions.

Exhibition installation can become very expensive, often exhibition installers bill out at $85 per hour or more, plus over time (after eight hours)  and per diem.  Changes to exhibits are now the most expensive, make stockholders aware during the fabricator review at the shop, better to make changes at the shop instead of during installation.  My grandfather started out as a “window dresser”, creating window displays in New York City.  “Window Dressing” as with exhibits, it is the details that make the difference, “do the lights point in people’s eyes”, “Are there unwanted details visible”, “Does the exhibition read as a whole, convey the big message?”, “Are there typos?”, “How do people use the space”.  The last one “how do people use the space, is as much of an Art as a science, you can plan all you want, but people will always find new uses for spaces, test the space with a soft opening and watch people.  Invite the families of the fabricators to come use the space and watch people, you will learn a lot.

From the last post, you will have already:

Partnership – Developed a good working relationship with the fabricator / fabrication team (if being fabricated in house).

  • Contract with the fabricator - Only paid out in progress payments, holding back final payments until the completion of installation and completion of Punch List
  • Prototyping – Completed prototyping and evaluation of the prototypes, assembled in a written document
  • Permits, ADA, UL - Received all needed approvals for permits, ADA, fire department, and UL
  • Electrical, IT, Pneumatic Systems – Completed installation of all needed electrical, IT and pneumatic systems
  • Set Up – Have all the exhibits set up at the fabricators and request that the staff and families of the fabricator use the exhibits prior to shipping.  Either hire an evaluator or if your are familiar with evaluation evaluate the exhibits prior to them leaving the fabricator’s shop
  • Crating – Reviewed the crating prior to shipping

The more upfront work you do the better, your installer will be working 10 hour days, away from home the more prep you do the better the results

Roughly Museum Exhibition Installation can be divided into:

  1. Review at Fabrication Studio
  2. Confirm Electrical / IT / Pneumatic Systems
  3. Crating
  4. Shipping / Trucking
  5. Delivery / Load In
  6. Staging
  7. Prep, layout flooring protection, signage during installation, internal communication
  8. Installation of large casework
  9. Installation of small casework
  10. Finishing – laminate, paint, lighting
  11. Space Dust Free
  12. Graphic Installation
  13. A/V equipment installation
  14. Testing
  15. Test HVAC Systems
  16. Test Security Systems
  17. Aim Lighting
  18. Install Art / Artifacts
  19. Stakholder Walkthrough
  20. Press Walkthrough
  21. Punch List
  22. Installer, Fabricator and Family Party
  23. Soft Opening
  24. Public Opening
  25. Final Payment 30 Days after opening
  26. Evaluation

Lessons Learned:

1. Documents - Before the exhibits leave the fabricator, make sure you have reviewed the exhibition layout details and confirmed electrical and IT connections are in their proper places and ready for installation.

2. Load in and Staging - Work with the fabricator to detail which exhibits will be brought to the site first, how they will be loaded into the building and where they will be staged, prior to installation.  You may need to work after hours to not effect open galleries.  Confirm location of crate storage and modifications for next installation if a traveling exhibition.

3. Make Friends - Installers and the project manager will be a great resource six months after opening, make sure that you know their names and understand their day to day schedule during the installation.

4. Work Big to Small – People will immediately start commenting on details before items are installed, listen and remind people that first you install the large pieces, then the medium sized pieces then the small, then when all of the casework is installed you start with graphics, AV, interactive, and lastly artifacts and Artwork.  Link to post “Big to Small”

5. Build in flexibility -  It is much easier to have a review before bolting casework to the floor than after.  More than once I have been asked to move casework already bolted in place, now I place exhibit components, gather the decision makers and get a “nod of approval”.  During evaluation you may need to move exhibits due to evaluation feedback, always better to have exhibits built in a modular fashion.

6. Maintenance - Ask stupid questions, “how will we change the light bulb?”, “how do we clean the filters on the computers?”, often small details during installation make for difficult exhibit maintenance.

7. As Built Drawings – Make sure that “As built drawings” are included in the fabricator’s scope of work.  During installation often layout, equipments or specifications can change, make sure the changes are documented as part of the installation process.

8. Keys, On/Off & Maintenance Manual - Often I will specify key numbers as part of drawing packages (it is a pain walking around with a ring of keys, key cabinets to be keyed alike), all of the items such as key numbers, equipment warranty and “as built drawings” should be compelled in a notebook for review prior to shipping.

9. One Year Warranty – I will only work with fabricators who will warranty their work for one year.  Warranty should cover repairs do to defects, not abuse or misuse.  A kid getting under an exhibit with a swiss army knife and making his own repairs is NOT a warranty item (it happened at LSC).

10. Evaluation - I know it sounds like you finished, but now the exhibition needs to be evaluated to assure that there are not misconceptions and that you are communicating the content with the visitor.

Now the exhibition needs to be maintained to assure that you are communicating the content with the visitor.  I had a great suggestion for a additional post about maintenance the next post will cover “Museum Exhibition Maintenance”.  Then I will create a final post to tie together the entire process of museum exhibition design, including an executive summary and “check list”.

Links for specifics of exhibition design:

Traveling exhibitions design

Science Center exhibition design

Examples of each phase see “Museum Exhibition Design”

The steps of the exhibition design process is similar for Art Museums, Natural History Museums, Science Centers and Children’s Museums.  The differences are in the content development, the design process is the same.

The image at the top of the post is from the installation of the Dinosaur and Dinosaur “baby”  at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, I was the project manager of the dinosaur sculptures and the exhibition “Take Me There Egypt”.

Exhibition Design

Museum Exhibition Design, Part III

2 Comments 20 April 2012

 

“Museum Exhibition Design”, a four part series.  Each week, I am writing a post about exhibition design.  Last week was Part II,  “Exhibition Design – Design”.  This week’s post will cover the phases of exhibition fabrication. The last post in the series will cover “Museum Exhibition Design – Installation”.

Picking up from last week’s post, the team will have completed during “Museum Exhibition Design – Design”:

  • Created an Exhibition Script 
  • Researched exhibition content
  • Completed Conceptual Design
  • Completed Schematic Design 
  • Completed Design Development / Media 
  • Completed Final Design 
  • Identified Fabrication and Production Partners
  • Completed Proof of Concept / Prototyping / Testing 

Anyone who thinks that exhibition design is the creation of drawings to is only 1/4 correct.  The process of exhibition design starts before drawing and continues through to installation of the exhibits.  I went to Pratt Institute, my thesis advisor Dr. Fogler, used to say “use your talent”.  What he meant was, talent is your ability to react to a given situation, you need to build into the exhibition design process the ability to react to the exhibits that have been drawn.  Industrial Designers often suffer from an inferiority complex, not being architects.  Dr. Fogler knew this and would say, “you are not making mini architecture, you are changing peoples lives”.  Now that drawings are becoming objects, you now can change peoples lives, give yourself the time and resources to use your talent as part of the process.

You should have identified three or four exhibition design firms during Design Development.  Be upfront, tell each of them one of the three will get the work.  If you haven’t already, go and visit each shop, and ask to see their metal working, wood working and electrical shop and ask to meet the project manager if they are sleeted.

Create an “open book” project, negotiate as part of the contract what changes will cost.  I have worked at two exhibition design firms as COO, some fabrication firms make their profit from “change orders” and some from repeat business, find out which kind of firm you are working with.  I don’t believe in “fixed bid” contracts, as a client, you don’t what to be in a position were you can’t make changes for fear of shocking change orders.   I don’t believe in open RFPs, I have found that such arrangements set up a scenario for shocking change orders, create a partnership with the fabricator, they need to make  profit and if you negotiate well, you will have an idea of their profit margin going into the project.  Once you have your completed drawings, send them out for bid and meet with each firm to review the drawings and answer questions.  Most important is to convey the intent of the exhibition and watch to see if the fabricator is interested.   Once you have the pricing from the three or four exhibition fabrication firms, create a matrix to select one firm.   Price, quality, team and capabilities are all part of the matrix to select the firm.  Thank each firm for participating.  Select an exhibition fabrication firm.

Roughly Museum Exhibition Fabrication can be divided into:

  1. Contract Negotiation
  2. Drawings
  3. Source and order materials, equipment
  4. AV Scripting and specification
  5. Box building
  6. Installing equipment
  7. Prototyping
  8. Video shooting, recording audio talent
  9. Finishing – laminate, paint, lighting
  10. Graphic Production
  11. A/V equipment installation and production
  12. Crating
  13. Set up

Lessons Learned:

  1. Partnership – I used to think the word “partnership” was silly, but I have always had preferred artists, fabricators and vendors, they are your project partners.  Look for partners and share the success of the project with them, if you are successful, they are successful.
  2. Contract with the shop – Request line item pricing, have included in the contract labor rates for changes, mark up and overhead charges.  I believe in progress payments, you don’t want to get ahead of progress on your project, an example of progress payments; 25% at contract signing, 35% At 50% Fabrication Completion (an example would be cases built, parts ordered), 30% at Shipment, 10% 30 Days after delivery.
  3. “Use your Talent” – Turn over your drawing to the exhibition fabrication shop and request shop drawings.  Review the drawing package with your exhibit maintenance team, tell them “this is your chance, we want these exhibits operational 98% of the time”, get their comments.  Review the drawings with your stockholders (be aware that most people can not read drawings), talk them through the package, get their comments.  Compile your “redlines” (revisions), set up a meeting with the fabricator to review your changes (be aware that the changes although significant should not be changing more than 10% of your drawing package).
  4. Sourcing – Some designers, specify each and every component, some leave the details to the fabrication firm.  I tend to specify the items the visitor will touch and leave the other equipment to the fabricator.  Request samples of materials, finishes, equipment and request product reviews of all equipment.
  5. Prototyping – As part of the contract identify which exhibits will need to be prototyped and how they will be prototyped.  As part of exhibition design , you will have proven your concepts, now you want to have full size working prototypes built.  Often parts of the prototype will become part of the final exhibit, identify how the exhibits will be tested and evaluated as part of fabrication.
  6. UL - Some countries and municipalities require certification of exhibits.  United Laboratories is the standard in the United States.  UL testing will require hiring of a local laboratory to review the exhibits.  If the exhibits pass they will receive UL certification.
  7. Set Up – Have all the exhibits set up at the fabricators and request that the staff and families of the fabricator use the exhibits prior to shipping.  Either hire an evaluator or if your are familiar with evaluation evaluate the exhibits prior to them leaving the fabricator’s shop
  8. Crating – If the exhibition is a traveling exhibition, have the exhibition crated at the fabricator’s and review crating prior to shipping
  9. Keys, On/Off & Maintenance Manual - Often I will specify key numbers as part of drawing packages (it is a pain walking around with a ring of keys, key cabinets to be keyed alike), all of the items such as key numbers, equipment warranty and “as built drawings” should be compelled in a notebook for review prior to shipping.
  10. One Year Warranty – I will only work with fabricators who will warranty their work for one year.  Warranty should cover repairs do to defects, not abuse or misuse.  A kid getting under an exhibit with a swiss army knife and making his own repairs is NOT a warranty item (it happened at LSC).

I know it sounds like you finished, but only specified parts of the exhibition will be functioning at shipment, the next post will cover “Exhibition Installation”.  I am realizing that I will need a fifth post to tie it all together.  Thank you all for the opportunity to put together my thoughts.  I started this blog four years ago as a resource for groups interested in starting a museum, it has been fun putting together my thoughts, into a (hopefully) cohesive process, thank you!

Links for specifics of exhibition design:

Traveling exhibitions design

Science Center exhibition design

Examples of each phase see “Museum Exhibition Design”

The steps of the exhibition design process is similar for Art Museums, Natural History Museums, Science Centers and Children’s Museums.  The differences are in the content development, the design process is the same.

The image on the first page is that of the surface of Mars (thank you, Planetary Society) the image above is that of a prototype for the Denver Museum of Nature & Science’s “Space Odyssey” and a meeting with scientists to review the prototype and the resulting formations. I purposely included the image of the surface of Mars, the point of fabrication is to communicate the intent of content, or in other words, we wanted visitors to ask “what created the surface of the moon, wind, water, something else?”

Exhibition Design

Museum Exhibition Design, Part II

3 Comments 16 April 2012

“Museum Exhibition Design”, a four part series.  Each week, I am writing a post about exhibition design.  Last week was Part I,  “Exhibition design – Planning”.  This week’s post will cover the phases of exhibition design. Future posts will cover “Museum Exhibition Design – Fabrication” & “Museum Exhibition Design – Installation”.

Picking up from last week’s post, the team will have completed during “Museum Exhibition Design – Planning”:

“The exhibition design process can be divided into 10 steps:

  1. Exhibition Script – Create an exhibition script or  ”What is the story of the exhibition?”  How do the artifacts / Art tell the “story” of the exhibition?  If you were to imagine the artifacts / Art objects as “characters” in a play, what role would they play?  Try to describe each scene of the exhibition, “a sunlight beach filled with kids playing the water”, goes a long way to describing the “Look and Feel” of an exhibition.  Define the educational goals, how are you communicating the goals of the exhibition?
  2. Chunk it Out – With the script in hand and the site survey of the exhibition space “chunk out”, where you will tell each part of the story.  Using the script as your guide create larger areas for more important areas of the exhibition.  Use the script to describe how each area of the exhibition will “look and feel”.
  3. Research - Go on field trips to places similar to the areas of the exhibition.  For “Take Me There Egypt” the project team went to Egypt to visit the sites of the areas of the exhibition.  We took video, photos and documented all of the sites taking measurements and notes.   Also go out and research new technologies and techniques, are there new technologies to incorporate into the exhibition?  Take photos and samples of places that are similar to the areas of the exhibition.
  4. Conceptual Design – Now that the areas of the exhibition are defined, start to describe the components, of each area of the exhibition.
  5. Schematic Design - The goal of Schematic Design, is to flesh out the scope and character 0f the project. This enables all parties involved to confirm themes, interpretation goals and to review spatial arrangements, appearance, artifact use, materials and cost.  By the end of the Schematic Design phase, the team will have visuals, narratives, look-and-feel boards and layouts to initially review the allocation of space, traffic flow, audi0—visual components, interactive displays, lighting and special effects. An overall graphic identity for the exhibit at this stage of design.
  6. Design Development / Media - During Design Development, section and elevation drawings of exhibits in the space are created. Content research is compiled into draft text and descriptions of the exhibits and the interactives. Functions of Audio-visuals and computer programs that will be part chartered.  The family of graphic elements is compiled and a graphic schedule of all the graphics is created. Graphic directional and identification signage for interior and exterior spaces of the exhibit area become part of the program.
  7. Final Design - By the conclusion of the Final Design phase, a complete package that illustrates the full exhibit design—h0w it will be built, where every component is located and how each exhibit component works within the larger space. This package includes exhibition identification, exhibition descriptions, a database of exhibit components, measured CAD plans with content, floor plans, elevations, artifact lists, measured graphic design elements and samples, draft scripts with details for audio visual components, interactive exhibits, final text, sound and lighting systems specifications, production schedules and a fabrication cost estimate.   By the end of Final Design you will have finalized your list of artifacts / Art and can start to plan for mounts for objects, conservation needs for paper, fabric, define light levels and other conservation needs.
  8. Partners - Go talk to potential fabricators and suppliers.  Have a casual conversation and see if the potential fabrication partners are a match with the project team.   Either the Construction Documents (CD) will be completed as part of the Design Build process or the CD will be completed by the fabrication partner.
  9. Construction Documents (CD Also called Contract Documents) / Design / Build - By the conclusion of the Final Design phase, a complete package that illustrates the full exhibit design—how it will be built, where every component is located and how each works within the larger space. This package includes exhibition identification, exhibition descriptions, a database of exhibit components, measured CAD plans with content, floor plans, elevations, artifact lists, measured graphic design elements and samples, draft scripts with details for audio visual components, interactive exhibits, final text, sound and lighting systems specifications, production schedules and a fabrication cost estimate.
  10. Prototyping / Testing  - You can test and prototype exhibit interactives with the public during each phase of design. As examples, during Conceptual Design, blue tape on the floor defining approximate areas, during Schematic design cardboard mock ups, during Design Development sample “PowerPoint presentations” to represent media, during Final Design, button layout and ergonomics.

Links for specifics of exhibition design:

Traveling exhibitions design

Science Center exhibition design

Examples of each phase see “Museum Exhibition Design”

The steps of the exhibition design process is similar for Art Museums, Natural History Museums, Science Centers and Children’s Museums.  The differences are in the content development, the design process is the same.

Exhibition Design

Museum Exhibition Design – Part I

2 Comments 09 April 2012

Museum Exhibition Design – Part I

Decided to put together a four part series; “Museum Exhibition Design”.   Each week I will write a blog post about exhibition design.  Part I is about the first step in exhibition design – Planning.  Future posts will cover, the phases of exhibition design, exhibition fabrication and exhibition installation.   Before anyone draws anything, the team needs to organize the thinking about and behind the exhibition.

  1. Who is the visitor?  Someone will need to make a decision to visit the exhibition.  They will travel to the museum by either car, taxi, bus, subway or walking to arrive at the museum’s front door.  Why did they decide to visit?  We each have our own internal drives to make decisions.  Try to understand why is the visitor choosing to visit your planned exhibition.  What is influencing their decision to spend the time (and money) to arrive at your front door to see the exhibition.  It is often helpful to segment the types of visitors; “All “A” Parent”, “Curious Tourist”, “Local Mom”, “Sunday Family”, each will have their own motivations for visiting the exhibition, try to understand the “why” they would want to visit the exhibition.
  2. Exhibition Plan - Every museum is divided into areas.  The areas may be called galleries or zones or era or a “topic”.  An exhibition consists of a group of exhibits organized around a topic.  How will this exhibition “fit” into the overall museum experience?  Often you can “map” a visitors experience through a museum; park the car, buy the tickets, use the bathroom, look at the museum map.  Where will this exhibition fall in the visitor’s museum experience?
  3. What is the visitor hoping to gain? Survey potential exhibition visitors about the exhibition topic.  What is their knowledge level?  What are their interests?  What are their questions.  Many times I have set up tables in the foyer of a museum and asked just those questions.  Often the more casual the better.  Have a few clip boards, a simple sign and  Often museums, think about what we are trying to communicate, but as “visitor-centric” museum, try to define what is the visitor trying to gain.  Whatever the topic survey typical visitors and ask hwta are they hoping to gain from the proposed exhibition.
  4. Exhibition Description – In simple language describe the exhibition.  What is the topic of the exhibition?  Age range for the visitors (2-102 is not an age range)?  What is the atmosphere of the exhibition?
  5. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)  - What are the plans for accessibility for all visitors?  I often start with an accessibility graphic, how will people with accessibility needs visit the exhibition?
  6. Green Exhibition – What is your plan for exhibition materials ? What is life span of the exhibition?  Reuse or recycling of the exhibition?
  7. “The Box” What is the size of the exhibition space?, What is the electrical supply to the space? amps? outlet locations?, What is the access to the space? Elevator size? Door sizes? Often is best to start with a site survey of the exhibition space.  A  site survey is a drawing of the exhibition space, showing the locations of electrical outlets, HVAC registers and a reflected ceiling plan of the lighting placement.
  8. Project Charter – A project charter is a contract between the museum and project stakeholder’s describing the roles and responsibilities for each team member.  A sample Museum Exhibition Project Charter
  9. Data Base – Create a numbering system for the exhibition.  Artifacts, drawings, exhibit elements, video, electrical outlets, will each need a number, start at the beginning with a numbering system.  The National Park Service’s Harpers Ferry, has a free database that is very good.
  10. The Numbers – What is the budget for the exhibition? Staffing needs? What is the schedule for the exhibition design, fabrication and installation? How many people are you planning on visiting the exhibition? How will you market the exhibition? How will you reach the potential visitors to the exhibition, internet marketing? print advertising? placement on television shows?  It is never too early to start planning the exhibition marketing.

The steps of the exhibition design process are similar to Art Museums, Natural History Museums, Science Centers and Children’s Museums.  The differences are in the content development, the design process is the same.

 


Museumplanner

museumplanner.org is run by Mark Walhimer, Managing Partner of Museum Planning, LLC an exhibition design and museum planning company.

Mark is available for consultations. Feel free to contact him using our contact form.

Download Brochure

sample260125

sample260125

sample260125

Sponsors

Thanks to all of our sponsors!

© 2014 - Museum Planning, LLC, All Rights Reserved