Fuel Cell Exhibit Consortium

Topic: Other Subtopic: General

Case Study

of an Exhibit

by Beth Redmond-Jones

Published on April 27, 2007

  • Description and goals

    Working with Fuel Cells 2000, a program of Breakthrough Technologies Institute, Redmond-Jones & Associates organized and facilitated a consortium of museum exhibit developers/builders to develop and evaluate exhibits about fuel cells. Participants received research support, travel expenses to attend brainstorming meetings, and a materials stipend to build and test exhibit prototypes.

    Project goals:
    • To create a collaborative working group of exhibit developers from geographically diverse museums.
    • To produce and test multiple strategies for communicating concepts related to fuel cell technology to the general public.
    • To disseminate information about hydrogen fuel cells to science museum visitors and staff.

    Redmond-Jones & Associates recruited six museums to participate in the project. In January 2002, the six exhibit developers, content experts from Fuel Cells 2000 and Redmond- Jones & Associates staff met for two days in Berkeley, California.

    At this meeting, participants discussed the differences between the participating museums—the group includes technology, children’s and hands-on science museums—their target audiences, and their ideas about what makes “successful” exhibits. The group also discussed the science of fuel cells and brainstormed ideas for exhibit prototypes.

    During the following months, each participant developed a prototype fuel cell exhibit. The developers were asked to create an exhibit component that was “hardened” enough for museum visitors to use without staff assistance, but still flexible enough that it was possible to make changes to label text or mechanical operations in response to the results of visitor evaluation.

    Redmond-Jones & Associates traveled to each museum and conducted visitor evaluation with the prototype, and suggested changes based on the results. The project put no constraints on communication goals or methods—developers could tackle any aspect of fuel cell technology they thought appropriate for their museum’s visitors. Each developer was given a $5000 budget for materials; staff time was paid by the museums. During this time, one participating museum dropped out of the project due to staff changes within the institution.

  • Exhibit Opened: Winter 2001

Latest Comments (4)

Rewards for Risk

by Paul Orselli - April 27, 2007

This was a great project to participate in for many reasons:

• This project rewarded “risk taking.”
Fuel Cells are a bit of a tough topic, and we were given the freedom to try a variety of approaches.

• It was wonderful to be able to harness the collective mindpower of colleagues to improve and sharpen everyone’s efforts.

• The final report is worth reading as a model to tackle other “tough” topics in a collaborative way.

Fuel Cell Report PDF

by Joan Waltermire - April 27, 2007

The report was fascinating! I’m not interested in doing a fuel cell exhibit, but i found reading about the developers’ thought processes, prototyping, and evaluation results not just generally helpful but compelling too. More info like this would be great.

"Tough" Topic

by Jim Spadaccini - April 27, 2007

Paul,
I completely agree about this being a tough topic. When we developed an electronic exhibit, showing how a fuel works, it was a challenge. (We did this with Beth and California Science Center in 2003.) Building a hands-on exhibits on this topic is quite a feat. Doing it with $5k even more so.

Jim

Things I learned

by Penny Jennings - May 09, 2007

This project was an amazing learning experience for me!
- Working one-on-one with the developers to test the prototypes was a great experience for me, and while I was able to carry some of the lessons learned at one site on to the next, I think the project as a whole would have benefited from at least one more round of group work.
- Deliverables are our real drivers. Everyone on the project was participating in addition to their regular workload, so it was difficult to carve out time to work on it outside the project deliverable schedule. We set up a project site where developers could share ideas and experiences during the process—kind of developer 2.0— but since posting to the site didn’t have any real deliverable or deadline it wasn’t something people could make time for.
- Client/funder education is key to ‘experiements’ like this one. We were so wonderfully fortunate to have a client who grasped the concept of prototyping—that giving exhibit developers the opportunity to mess around with materials and ideas was the first huge step toward getting fuel cell technology into museums. But not every client/funder is comfortable spending money on something that may or may not have a tangible product in the end. As a field we will all benefit from more public discussion and documentation about the power of prototyping.

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