American History Scavenger Hunt

Part of Exhibition: The Luce Foundation Center



of an Exhibit

by Andrea Kreuzer

Published on February 03, 2010 , Modified on September 08, 2010

  • Description:

    Having heard much about the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) and the Luce Foundation Center’s museum game “Ghosts of a Chance”, I decided I too wanted to visit the Luce Center at SAAM and play around in the much-talked about interactive collections storage area. The day before my anticipated foray to downtown DC I visited their website and downloaded a PDF of a scavenger hunt from their “Fun Downloads” page. I was very much looking forward to completing the “New Deal” museum scavenger hunt, as it seemed pretty relevant to current political and social climates. When a snowstorm rolled through Washington, my museum plans were unfortunately thwarted. However, I decided Jack Frost wouldn’t stop my afternoon at the Luce Foundation Center, which boasts a comprehensive collection website as part of their museum visit experience and collections exploration experience. I amended my plans and downloaded a scavenger hunt for their website instead and decided I would be a virtual museum visitor.
    The scavenger hunt itself was easily accessible, and downloaded into a manageable one-page PDF. Though the design and layout of the document seemed lacking in certain aesthetics compared to what I had expected from their sleek and elegant website, I was still excited for my virtual visit via scavenger hunt. Additionally, the picture quality was very low on the PDF, which is often a problem when adding multiple images to a document and compressing it for easy web access. The scavenger hunt consisted of seven questions with corresponding image clips. From the question, one is supposed to be able to search the Luce website and find the artifact in the image clip and examine it and its information to discover the answer and learn a bit about American history and objects at the SAAM. The questions seemed compelling, and the small thumbnails of images were also interesting and I could immediately see the Luce Foundation Center had attempted to include various types of media in the hunt. The instructions seemed direct enough, and even provided a link to the website, however, here is where my technological disappointments began. The link did not access the website. There was a letter or symbol dropped somewhere along the translation of clicking the link and arriving to the web. Luckily, it wasn’t such a mystery, as I’d just been to the website to download the scavenger hunt, so it was easy enough for me to navigate back to search the collection.
    The questions accompanying the pictured art and artifacts asked me to investigate the captions, the object label, and the object itself. Unfortunately, I became almost immediately frustrated with the limitations of technology and quality, as I found it difficult to zoom in close enough to really examine certain objects and answer the corresponding questions. For one question, I could not even find the particular video clip on the website, and therefore could not answer the question and also missed out on an experience I would have liked. The losses made my scavenger hunt feel less successful and less like a game and more like a chore I felt more and more skeptical about the further I got into it. The hunt also seemed to end abruptly, and would have been more compelling and satisfying if each answer or discovery contributed to a larger overall message or new fact about American history.
    The Luce Foundation Center would benefit from making sure the quality of their “Fun Downloads” matches the expectations set up by their website and virtual presence. Additionally, more clarity and flexibility with the images, such as producing even higher resolution versions online and allowing for interaction such as virtual pivoting and rotating would greatly enhance the amount of time a scavenger hunter would spend looking at and examining the objects.
    For all the technological flaws and frustrations I experienced during my virtual visit to the Luce Foundation Center, I did come away with new knowledge about the Center, SAAM, and about American history and art in general. I learned that the Center has many objects of many mediums in their collection, and each object is complete with a bit of history and catalog information. I learned that some artworks from more recent times can adequately represent past times where social and political climates in America were similar, and I learned that Abe Lincoln was a handsome yet spindly youth.

Latest Comments (2)

Oh no!

by Georgina Goodlander - February 04, 2010

I’m so sorry that you had a disappointing experience with our on-line scavenger hunt. In hindsight, I think that we tried to translate an activity from the physical museum onto the Web, without thinking carefully about how the experience would be different. I have pulled the on-line scavenger hunt PDFs from the Luce Foundation Center Web site and will investigate to see if we can create a more satisfying and enjoyable experience. Please do come and check out the scavenger hunts in the actual museum (although it’s due to snow again this weekend…) as we’d love to hear what you think.

If you wanted to create an on-line activity for us, which works the way that you think it should, that would be awesome! Feel free to e-mail me about that if you’re interested :)

Interpretive Programs Manager, Luce Foundation Center

New scavenger hunt!

by Georgina Goodlander - February 17, 2010

We created a new on-line scavenger hunt that focuses on the multimedia features on our web site. In particular, it highlights the objects that you can virtually rotate and zoom. Let me know what you think!

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