This 1:30 video features a video projected on a table showing scholars at work behind-the-scenes as part of a small exhibition on research and conservation at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California. It was installed a few years ago in the former board room of the historic library building and is another example of the expanded ways that video is being used in exhibitions (it’s not just a tv monitor anymore).
You may notice that there’s no one in the exhibition. I do deliberately take photos of exhibitions without people so that the entire design can be seen, however, I also take them with people to show how they interact with the content. In this instance, it was a busy day but very few people wandered in and when they did, it was a quick glance and then back out–despite the cleverness of the video projection. I can perhaps guess at the reasons—located off to the side, uninteresting topic, and passive experience—but it could also be a lost opportunity to do something more intriguing and distinctive.
Look again at the video. What’s distinctive about the exhibition? Continue reading
Berlin has an incredible number of memorials, museums, and “documentation centers” that address the history and consequences of the Nazis but one that can be easily overlooked is the “Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism” (Denkmal für die im Nationalsozialismus verfolgten Homosexuellen) installed in the Tiergarten (Berlin’s Central Park) in 2008. From a distance, it looks like a grey concrete slab. It’s not until you walk around it that you notice a small window in which a short video plays in a loop. Even after watching it, you wouldn’t be sure what you’ve experienced until you found the low interpretive panel placed off to the side. It reads:
In German: Im nationalsozialistischen Deutschland fand eine Homosexuellen-Verfolgung onhe gleichen in der Geschichte statt. . . . Continue reading
TED Talks has spawned the renewal of lectures as an engaging form of education (who would have guessed?) and many universities and organizations are regularly sharing lectures from their public programs, staff workshops, and student courses online with the public. They’re also a great resource for house museums and historic sites, who can use them for professional development and staff training, or to check out a potential speaker for a special event. They might even inspire museums to record their own events and share them online. Here are a couple programs that caught my eye: Continue reading
This blog shares lots of the intriguing ideas that I encounter at house museums and historic sites in my travels, and often they’re best explained through video. How else can you really understand how a hands-on activity works or how visitors behave during a tour? I’ve shared plenty of videos created by others but this past year I’ve been learning how to create my own videos for the museum field, using my ever-present iPhone to shoot video snippets, mastering ScreenFlow, and studying how others create videos on YouTube (e.g., Peter McKinnon, Curtis Judd, DottoTech, and Video Creators). Now my efforts have been nudged along by the classes I’ve started to teach this year at George Washington University where I’m incorporating “flipped learning” approaches to move some of my lectures online to devote as much time in the classroom to group discussions and activities.
I shared one of my initial forays into video creation several months ago on a cool interactive technique from a traveling exhibition at the Indiana State Museum and this week I’m posting two more videos which are a bit more complex. I’m hoping my videos will improve over time but I do want to maintain their “hand-crafted” nature so they stays personal (in other words, the quality should get better but don’t expect “high production values”).
I created today’s video for my museum studies classes to help students find the Form 990, Continue reading
While I’m in Indianapolis for the Seminar for Historical Administration, I had a chance to view the “The Power of Poison“, a traveling exhibition at the Indiana State Museum. Organized by the American Museum of Natural History, it includes a wide variety of exhibition techniques but one I’ve never seen before is a “Harry Potter”-style interactive book that features moving images activated by touch as well as pages that can be turned. It’s best explained in a short video, so watch as these two girls look at the book to see what happens (and whose father told me it was their fourth visit to the exhibition).
Nick Gray at Museum Hack recently published this 2:27 video on how to visit a museum, which is surprisingly similar to how I visit them. I LOVE museums but my friends are often disappointed that I’ll read the introductory label and then just walk through the galleries non-stop. You might assume I’m just a “streaker” but just like Gray, it’s to get an overall sense of the exhibits so I can choose where to spend my time. I’ve learned you can’t spend an equal amount of time on everything in a museum so I have to choose what will give me the most enjoyment and the best experience. I’ll visit the galleries a second time, stopping at those objects or topics that most interested me in my initial run-through (but always allow for serendipitous exploration). Still, it’s hard to fight museum fatigue and mental overload after a couple hours, but that’s what museum restaurants are for.
I do something similar for historic sites, but in this case I’m analyzing the architecture and landscape to figure out how circulation, organization, views, and alignments are expressed through design (a particular interest of mine). That’s why I often become frustrated by guided tours of period rooms, whose slow circuitous crawl through a dozen rooms leaves me disoriented (and bored, sorry).
How do you visit museums and historic sites? What experiences helped you understand them better or enjoy them more? Share them in the comments below.
Historic England, the overseas equivalent of our preservation organizations in the US, recently launched a “Keep it London” campaign to help shape the planning of its nation’s capital, urging that, “the city must evolve by building on its unique character and identity, rather than by turning into a generic city.” The campaign contains the usual list of recommendations, solicitation for contributions and letters, and offers of updates through email and social media. More interesting, however, is the “I am London” video that accompanies the campaign. Listen carefully and in four minutes, you never hear the words, “history,” “preservation,” “old,” “save,” or “historic.” Instead, the faces and voices of dozens of diverse people personify buildings, giving these mute places emotion and personality. Compare that to the approach used by the US National Trust for Historic Preservation in their video, “Lives Rooted in Places.”
Who’s the target audience for each video? Which video would resonate better with your members and donors? With your community and neighbors? Which one speaks better to outsiders than insiders? What emotions are involved? Do they tell viewers what to think or feel, or do they let them unfold in the viewer?
The Indiana Historical Society recently produced History is Essential, a 5:08 video that explains the value of history through interviews with teachers, business CEOs, and community leaders intercut with historic photos and films. Thanks to John Herbst, President and CEO at the Indiana Historical Society, for sharing this at the recent History Relevance Campaign workshop in Washington, DC.
“When I Whistle…” by Bill Orisich and Benita Carr shot at Swan House, Atlanta History Center.
Swan House, the 1928 mansion at the Atlanta History Center, served as a canvas for When I Whistle…,” a site-specific performance artwork for video by Bill Orisich and Benita Carr. The History Center partnered with the two artists on a Swan Coach House Art Gallery show called Print or Projection. They used the house as inspiration and shot everything over the course of eight nights, featuring local performance artists, original music and text. The final product, When I Whistle…, premiered at the show opening, and was projected in triptych onto three panels inside the house. Most readers may find the video strange and confusing (and there is some nudity, too) but an art critic called it “intelligent, thought-provoking, and brand new.” It’s another example of historic sites being used as a way of engaging new audiences or interpreting them in new ways. It’s not appropriate for all sites, but it’s something to keep in your toolbox of ideas.
Thanks to Jessica Rast VanLanduyt, Director of 20th Century Historic Houses (what a great title!) at the Atlanta History Center, for sharing this with us.
Google has regularly shared findings from studies conducted from various sources (including its own analytics from searches and YouTube) in Think with Google, which I receive as an email a couple times each month as a subscription. They’ve now gathered those studies together in a new Data Gallery which, of course, can be searched by topic. There’s nothing for “museums,” “historic sites,” or “tourism,” but there is lots for “travel & hospitality.” You can also narrow your search by industry (e.g., “travel & hospitality”), by platform (e.g., mobile, video), by themes (e.g., consumer trends, Millennials, U.S.).
A quick browse through the “travel & hospitality” shows the growing importance of video. For example, their research shows that two out of three U. S. consumers watch online travel videos when they’re thinking about taking a trip and nearly 90 percent of YouTube travel searches focus on destinations, attractions/points of interest or general travel ideas. This suggests that historic sites and house museums need to Continue reading