Hello from St. Paul, MN! I am visiting the twin cities for a museum conference. AAM, specifically (American Association of Museums). Along with a number of other things, my job is to create interactive experiences for museum exhibits. This is one of the most fun things about my job. It’s working with educational content to create engaging, meaningful audience experiences, and if the visitor can take part of it home with them, all the better.
The conference has several sessions that focus on issues unique to the museum industry. It’s really amazing to hear what all of the country’s museums are accomplishing both on their own and with partners. I’m learning yet another set of meanings for words like “design” and “develop” that contradict or skirt the meanings from other industries.
Admittedly my favorite session so far has been The Moth storytellers. It was after the keynote yesterday and Rudy Rush hosted as three storytellers spun their yarns. As one of my favorite podcasts, it was so amazing to see it live. These storytellers are truly gifted performers, and they lead the most interesting lives!
Last night my boss, Ken, and I went to a party at the Minnesota History Museum. The structure, modeled after a fort, was enormous and beautiful. It was flanked by the state capital and St. Paul’s cathedral, both of which are impressive silhouettes. The theme of the party was “Beer, Burlesque, and Babe” after several of the state’s original offerings. They gave away these precious, tiny glasses that you could fill with sample beer from several of the state’s local breweries. They also had “Underwear that’s fun to wear” displayed in most interesting ways, along with a burlesque show to cap off the evening. And finally, they had Paul Bunyan (this enormous man in plaid with a giant ax) walking around and taking pictures with people. Oh, and seasonal food on every level of the museum. It was a really fun party, everyone was in great spirits, and there was plenty to see and do. What an impressive museum.
One of the best parts of the night was talking to the team of graduate students who are prototyping a new exhibit on the Aris development platform. The experience utilizes mobile technology and trackable physical interactives to collect data and analyze how kids learn. It is embracing the principle that video games are onto something, and seeks to take advantage of that model and enhance it by getting kids engaged in the physical world around them (tangible objects and other people). So cool!
I asked if they were also developing the system’s UI by analyzing the collected data, and they haven’t quite gotten to that part yet. David, the director of the Aris program, phrased it nicely when he said they “haven’t reached the stage at which the experience becomes elegant.” Or something along those lines. The word elegant was used. It really sums up an intuitive UI and beautiful skin nicely. He asked if we ever had time to donate to the project. Hmmmm…..
Now on to another fun day of sessions and networking!
PS – the food has been pretty good so far! Newsroom is worth a stop. Brit’s pub apparently has long bowling on the roof. That is a must.