Archive for June, 2009

NAME is looking for AAM session proposals

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009 by Wendy Pollock

Wayne LaBar writes that the National Association for Museum Exhibition (NAME) – one of the American Association of Museums (AAM) Standing Professional Committees – is looking for session proposals for the 2010 meeting, to be held in Los Angeles, May 23-27.

Sessions relating to the meeting theme – Museums Without Borders – are given greater consideration by the AAM Program Committee. Such topics might include: learning how best to engage publics in new ways; how museums have succeeded (or not) in responding to different communities including minorities, immigrants, and children; how museums have succeeded (or not) in creating networks with other museums in the United States and abroad; and what we’ve learned about what works with nontraditional audiences.

If you have an idea for a session – about technology, design, content development, prototyping, or some other aspect of exhibitions – that relates to these themes, go to the AAM website to submit a session and ask for NAME endorsement.

What’s your unpublished case study?

Thursday, June 11th, 2009 by Wendy Pollock
Rotten Truth About Garbage - an exhibition that was never built

From what I’ve heard, it sounds as if there are quite a few of us who’ve started writing case studies, but haven’t quite finished – or haven’t gotten around to hitting “publish.” I started a post some time ago about an exhibition called Rotten Truth that I worked on with Kathy McLean, Beth Redmond-Jones, and colleagues from the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, about 15 years ago. (The exhibition was never actually built – which is part of the story.) One thing that’s held me up is that this all happened so long ago that records aren’t that easy to pull together, few were in digital format back then, and documents will need scanning. It was such a collaborative project, shouldn’t we all  consult on the case study? And then there were some sensitive issues – what Gretchen referred to recently as “exhibition frictions.” Should those be mentioned? What are the “frictions” or tensions that would be meaningful to recount? I gather others are stymied by those “intellectual property” issues Paul was commenting on earlier this week. In the interest of sharing experiences that may save some reinventing-of-the-wheel – one of the reasons we created this site – I think I ought to take on those challenges and finish this case study. I hope others will overcome hesitations and do the same. The stories, however imperfect they may seem to us, are part of our collective memory, the foundation of the “wisdom of practice” that informs our field.

Sharing or ripping off?

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009 by Wendy Pollock

Last week in Milan, at the annual meeting of ecsite, the European Science Centre Network, in a session about art in science centers organized by Claire Pillsbury, an old topic came up: What ethical guidelines should we follow, as a field, in copying others’ work? Remo Besio of Techorama in Switzerland spoke passionately about instances he had observed in recent years of organizations profiting from sale of copies of work that had been developed by other organizations and individuals, without permission or compensation. There was at least one example right there in the exhibit hall.

The original spirit in the science center field was generous. The Exploratorium freely shared plans for their exhibits, for the cost of a Cookbook, and in that way inspired hundreds of others around the world to start their own science centers. The Cheapbook series begun by Paul Orselli and colleagues like Dan Goldwater (who contributed plans for a Harmonic Cantilever) and Steve Pizzey (who contributed Windy City, shown here) continued the tradition of generosity – a tradition with echoes in the contemporary open source movement.

There are very few museums that can afford to secure legal protection for their exhibit designs, or to defend those rights. But it was clear from the discussion in Milan that most people hope that we can embrace ethical guidelines that will help protect the spirit of common purpose and mutual aid that are such an important part of the history and culture of this field.

This topic was discusssed at length some years ago by a group that met at ASTC conferences and summarized their position in what was then the ASTC Newsletter.  The guidelines they suggested are still online, here. Are there any updates or suggestions?

Exhibition frictions

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009 by Wendy Pollock

Gretchen Jennings, editor of the NAME journal, is looking for leads for an upcoming issue. You can get in touch with her or post here. Here’s Gretchen’s note:

Hello all. For the Spring 2010 issue of “Exhibitionist,” the exhibitions journal that I edit (, we want to look at issues that come up over and over again in developing and designing exhibitions – like should we do an intro film? are dioramas out forever or in again? lighting for accessibility or low lighting to preserve objects? Should this be a staffed exhibition? etc? I’m soliciting examples of exhibition frictions that you experience continually – and especially those that have been addressed creatively. Any ideas? I’d love to hear them. I would like to hear from you by end of June 2009.

Thanks, Gretchen