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An Open Letter

By Mark Walhimer
Bangkok, Thailand

I am enjoying the clarity distance offers. It seems that from the other side of the world I have a better view of the condition of Science Centers in the United States. I have posted my predictions 2010, 2011, 2012.

Why don’t we have standards in Science Centers?

In 1997 Joe Ansel lead a session at ASTC called “Who’s Idea is it anyway” as far as I know the field of Science Centers has not moved forward on this issue one bit.  Thanks to Jim Spadaccini of Ideum we now have Exhibit Files as a data base to review exhibits.  But, as far as I know there is no freely accessible data base for exhibit ideas.  How is this possible?  In scientific research, you do your research, gather your information, write your bibliography (crediting your sources) and publish your research.  With the science community model, others can then build on your research and there is a trail of crediting your sources along the way.  Why doesn’t the Science Center community work in the same fashion?  Joe Ansel recommended this in 1997 and as far as I know there has been no movement in this area.

I know of several sources that are working towards the end of a freely shared data base

But none of the sources offer a  Wikipedia style data base of exhibit ideas.

I can think of two models to try.

  • Science teachers can go on line and resarch sample lesson plans for classes
  • ACM Siggraph has a standard format for submitting papers and posters, which are then published, Ken Sen keeps a database of all of the papers submitted.

I purpose that a group is formed and together with ASTC we write a proposal for funding of a freely accessible exhibit database similar to Exhibit Files.  Please post your thoughts and ideas.

About Mark Walhimer

Mark is Managing Partner of Museum Planning, LLC, a museum planning and exhibition project management firm of interactive educational environments for Science Centers, Children's Museums and Natural History Museums. You can reach Mark at

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One comment

  1. Mark,
    Thanks for this post. A lot to respond to here, so I’m exactly sure where to start. One issue certainly is is that “critical mass” is hard to come by and with hundreds of blogs, a few listservs, Facebook groups, Linked In groups, etc. it is hard to build up enough energy to make something as you describe happen.

    However, with that said, we are expanding ExhibitFiles. (By the way, it’s not my creation Wendy Pollock and Kathy McLean are the PIs on this project). The feature we are adding is called “‘Bits” — and the idea is that will be place to share ideas, images, video, documents, sounds, basically anything associated with exhibit development. We blogged about it this time last year.

    We have now gotten the funding to get started. It should be live in December.

    Jim Spadaccini

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