Archive for July, 2006

Design Workshop

Wednesday, July 26th, 2006 by Jim Spadaccini

As part of the ExhibitFiles design process, we conducted a workshop at the Lawrence Hall of Science, Berkeley, California, June 13-14, 2006. Most of the workshop participants were exhibit developers, the primary users of the website.

We focused on potential features of the ExhibitFiles site. Card sorting, free-listing, and a lot of discussion over the two days really helped move our thinking along.

We’ve captured some of the results from this meeting in a Design Workshop Document (880K PDF). As always, your comments and questions are welcomed.


Tuesday, July 25th, 2006 by Kathy McLean

In 1998, Canadian designer Bruce Mau wrote “An Incomplete Manifesto for Growth“—43 ideas that exemplify his beliefs, motivations, and strategies, and describe how his BMD studio operates. While I appreciate all 43 of these ideas, it is #42 that sticks with me as I think about our wonderful new project, ExhibitFiles:

“42. REMEMBER. Growth is only possible as a product of history. Without memory, innovation is merely novelty. History gives growth a direction. But a memory is never perfect. Every memory is a degraded or composite image of a previous moment or event. That’s what makes us aware of its quality as a past and not a present. It means that every memory is new, a partial construct different from its source, and as such, a potential for growth itself.”

I envision ExhibitFiles as a collective memory-space for our field. In ExhibitFiles, we will be able to record our memories of exhibits past, our successes and failures, our inspirations and struggles. And in the remembering, we will grow the field. In my recent article in The Exhibitionist, “We Still Need Criticism,” I suggest that exhibition criticism needs to be more than simple opinion. I make a plea for criticism in context, for building upon past practice, referencing other similar media, comparing similarities and differences. In a similar vein, as Bruce Mau says, “Without memory, innovation is merely novelty.”

But in order to “remember,” we need collective memories. We need a place to record what has been done so that we may all experience it, even as “a partial construct different from its source.” ExhibitFiles will contain our partial constructs of the many exhibitions that have gone before, that we created in the past, that visitors have experienced over time.

ExhibitFiles won’t be a memory-space only. If it is truly self sustaining and nurturing, it will also be a current space, where we can reflect on our practices, get advice and consent from our colleagues, and perhaps foster future alliances.

“We Still Need Criticism” PDF (263KB), reprinted with permission from The Exhibitionist, Volume 25, Number 1, a journal published by the National Association for Museum Exhibition (NAME).

What to build in? Ruby on Rails.

Thursday, July 20th, 2006 by Jim Spadaccini

When we begin to build out the ExhibitFiles website later this Fall we’ll be using Ruby on Rails. Currently there’s a great deal of excitement surrounding this open-source web framework. We began exploring the possiblity of using it several months ago, and the more we’ve learned about Rails the more excited we are about the prospect of using it.

One of our developers, Zeke Sikelianos, recently attended the RailsConf 2006 in Chicago. He wrote a long post about the conference on the Ideum blog that details some of his experiences there. As the process continues, we’ll share more about Rails and other technical aspects of the project.

Learning from the ISEN-ASTC-L list

Friday, July 14th, 2006 by Wendy Pollock

The ISEN-ASTC-L email list is one of the resources science center and museum people have been using over the last 10 years to share information and offer mutual support. The list now has 1,330+ subscribers in more than 20 countries (most in the United States and Canada). To help us understand what kinds of questions come up around exhibits, we asked Randi Korn & Associates to analyze postings from a six-month period. We wanted to make sure we’re taking into account the real problems people run into in their work–not just whether or not someone has produced an exhibition about a topic like infrared radiation (to use a recent example), but more technical issues like inexpensive alternatives to heat-imaging cameras. We’re using this analysis as we specify content requirements for the exhibition records that will serve as the core of the ExhibitFiles site.

Analysis of ISEN-ASTC-L postings PDF

ISEN-ASTC-L: subscribe and search archives

Who’s involved in developing ExhibitFiles

Thursday, July 13th, 2006 by Wendy Pollock

We’re grateful to all of the collaborators (PDF) who are helping to build the ExhibitFiles site and shape its development, and we welcome comments and contributions from other colleagues.

Competitive Analysis

Friday, July 7th, 2006 by Jim Spadaccini

While much of the early planning was, as Wendy has already mentioned in a post, “guided by conversations with colleagues, brief surveys, and analysis of listsev records” –we also conducted what’s known as a competitive analysis.

While the ExhibitFiles site doesn’t have any “competitors,” there is much to be learned from other websites that house collections, have members, and do the things we’re looking to do online.

We looked a wide-range of sites, from AIGA Design Archives to The Getty Explore Art and the PPS Image Gallery. We also explored websites well out of our realm, since they contained features or qualities that we hope to emulate: Boxes and Arrows, flickr, Linked in, ma.gnolia, ODEO and Veer.

Exploring these sites really helped move along the design process; in particular it helped us identify in part, potential features for the ExhibitFiles site. Next week, I’ll be posting a summary of design meeting in which our core contributors looked at and evaluated these features.

Competitive Analysis PDF (1.3 meg)

User Needs Assessment Summary

Friday, July 7th, 2006 by Wendy Pollock

Early planning for the ExhibitFiles site was guided by conversations with colleagues, brief surveys, and analysis of listserv records. Results are summarized here:

User Needs Assessment Summary PDF


Thursday, July 6th, 2006 by Wendy Pollock

Welcome! We’re working on development of a community website for the science center and museum exhibit field, and we’d like you to be involved. We’ll be posting documents and updates on this site over the next several months and welcome your comments and participation in shaping design of the site.The concept is to build a rich resource of information about exhibits and exhibitions, along with ways of commenting and contributing. A core group of exhibit developers, designers, and prototypers is already committed to building the initial exhibit records, and we look forward to contributions of other colleagues.Why ExhibitFiles?Exhibition information available through existing, open sources like print publications, listservs, conference sessions, and institutional websites is scattered, spotty, often promotional in nature, and, over time, difficult to locate. Exhibits people typically rely on personal memories and social networks to fill in the gaps; but the high level of turnover in the science center and museum field, and retirement and passing of older colleagues, mean much of the history is being lost. By building a collaborative community site with a rich and growing set of exhibition records at its core, we hope to preserve this history and support development of a culture of critique.Inspiration Initial planning for ExhibitFiles was guided by analysis of postings on the ISEN-ASTC-L discussion list, consultation with exhibit colleagues, and analysis of websites with relevant features. We were also inspired by the Exploratorium conference and book Are We There Yet? Conversations about Best Practices in Science Exhibition Development, which includes 12 case studies of noteworthy exhibitions; and other publications, like the three-volume Cheapbook of Exhibit Ideas, compiled and edited by Paul Orselli.At the Exploratorium’s conference, Michael Spock, formerly of the Field Museum and the Children’s Museum, Boston, commented that “many of the really great ideas are ephemeral. They’re developed, used, and gone. One of the things that might be done is some kind of collecting activity to retrieve memories of things that were wonderful. You can’t go back in time, but you could use that collective memory to go on and do new exhibitions.” It’s our hope that, together, we’ll be building and sharing our collective memory.