Clever Together/ Juntos somos ingeniosos

Topic: Other Subtopic: General

Case Study

of an Exhibition

by Kari Jensen

Published on March 03, 2013, Modified on May 27, 2016

  • Description and goals

    Clever Together (Juntos somos ingeniosos) is a 1500 sq. ft. permanent bilingual exhibition about sustainable decision-making in the Portland Metro region. This exhibit provides fun ways to learn about sustainability and how even the smallest actions can add up to make a big impact. Clever Together consists of nine components that help visitors build a mental framework around making more sustainable choices by considering social, environmental, and economic impacts. Visitors have opportunities to practice skills like using human power to get around town, preventing food waste, limiting household energy use, and sorting the recycling/ trash/ compost/ and toxics accurately. The exhibition has a lighthearted, positive, and DIY-feel and the activities foster collaboration between visiting groups.

    Clever Together was developed using practices by the OMSI team to develop, design, and fabricate more sustainable exhibits (socially, environmentally, and economically), and to score well on the Green Exhibit Checklist (see www.ExhibitSEED.org). Some techniques that were used include using creatively repurposed/salvaged building materials, reducing use of toxic adhesives and materials, reducing energy use, incorporating volunteers in all phases of development, using a bilingual-bicultural exhibit co-development and evaluation.

  • Development process and challenges

    Clever Together was developed, designed, fabricated, and evaluated between 2009-2012. The exhibit was developed by an internal “core team” consisting of content developer, Spanish co-developer, designer, builder, and project manager. In-house Evaluators joined the core team for front-end, formative, and remedial evaluation. All content was developed with input of five community partner organizations. Advisors (English and Spanish-speaking) were consulted for specific area of content expertise.

    Several challenges emerged throughout the development of Clever Together. While trying our utmost to be “more sustainable” and balance the three pillars (social, environmental, economic) with every choice, we found ourselves arriving at frequent impasse between visitor engagement goals, budget, and “green exhibit checklist” goals. For example, using electricity to operate exhibit components would have made for an exhibit with higher attracting power and possibly more intuitive for visitors to use, but caused us to lose points on the Green Exhibit Checklist. Engineering mechanical solutions ended up costing more labor-hours in the shop, having a negative impact on the project budget.

  • Lessons learned, mistakes we made (and what we did about them)

    At first our team thought that there were right and wrong answers to every question that came up. After several years of wading through the “murk” of sustainable decisions, we came to the conclusion that there really is no way to be sustainable— but that sustainability is a journey along which we try to make better choices that consider the three pillars. We learned to measure our decisions not on how “sustainable” the outcome was, but rather how inclusive the decision-making process was. This change in thinking helped our team to feel more successful about the work that we were doing.

    Many of the mechanical solutions that were engineered for this exhibition (in attempts to reduce on-going energy consumption after install) have been more trouble than they are probably worth. Although we will not be using as much energy (environmental benefit), we will be causing more stress on exhibit repair technicians and using their time (social and economic consequences). On future exhibits, we might instead try to find ways to design exhibits that use less energy (instead of NO energy), but that also have fewer negative social and economic consequences.

  • Exhibition Opened: October 2012

  • Exhibition Still Open!

  • Traveling Exhibition: No

  • Location: Portland, OR, United States

  • Estimated Cost: $100,000 to $500,000 (US)

  • Size: 1000 to 3,000 sq ft.

  • NSF Funding: Yes, Grant No. DRL-0917595

  • Website(s):  http://www.omsi.edu/on-view/in-earth-hall

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