6 Interactive Exhibit Planning Tips to Achieve Your Goals (Part 2)

Nov 13 2014

Continuing our post on planning tips for museum exhibit designers, I’ll pick up with three more exhibit planning tips.  Along with 1. setting goals, 2. doing research and 3. setting a budget, these three additional tips are equally important when considering a new museum exhibit.

4.  Location
Planning the location may be something you haven’t thought of.  It may seem obvious “where” the exhibit will be placed or how much of the space should be utilized, however, a careful consideration may very well bring to light some questions that if answered could cause you to rethink the “obvious.”  

First question.  Where does it make sense in the overall scheme of the museum to place this exhibit?  You may be replacing an old exhibit or just have an obvious spot to fill, however there may be a better place for the exhibit you are planning.  If that’s the case, maybe you can move an existing exhibit to the space you originally intended and then use that space for the new exhibit if it suits the placement and content better.  

Second question.  How should the exhibit be placed in the intended museum space?  Call this the location within the location.  Maybe your new exhibit should be placed in a particular position in the space.  Traffic flow should be considered.  Maybe the space is just too small for what you want to do.  ADA compliancy requires certain spacing for wheelchair accessibility and ease of visibility.  Maybe you need to walk through the space, imagining the placement of displays to get a better feel for the space.  Maybe put tape on the floor to show where things may go.  It’s a lot easier to move tape or lines on a drawing than to move exhibit cabinetry. 

Third question.  Is access to this location adequate and accessible for the volume of visitors expected?  If you expect for the opening of this new exhibit to attract a herd of visitors or bus loads school groups, you should consider whether large groups can easily get to and from this location.  Are there narrow hallways to travel through?  Are there twists and turns where a school child may get caught behind.  Consider the sizes of the groups in your planning. 

Fourth question.  Does this new exhibit and location fit with the intended traffic flow of the museum?  Many museums have designed the layout of the exhibits within the museum in a way that progresses through a story or timeline.  Some exhibits are placed so that visitors are directed to other exhibits or retail locations.  This type of traffic flow planning can be very beneficial to visitors and/or to the museum itself.  

5.  Promotion
It’s never too early to consider the promotion of your new exhibit.  As a matter of fact, it can be beneficial to consider promotion very early.  Maybe you want to use photos of the construction to prompt interest (obviously this is impossible after the construction is completed).  Maybe a photo of the space missing a key exhibit item or display would make a good promo image.  Something like “What’s missing from this exhibit?”  IF promotion included inviting in outside educators, media, etc., maybe that event could be held early in the construction to pique interest. Maybe you’ll consider stop motion photography?  Maybe in planning a promotional event you realize you should change the layout of the space to accommodate more people. Who knows what creative ideas you’ll have but nothing is worse than coming up with a great idea and not being able to follow through on it. In any case, take photos of every step along the way and take plenty of them.  Social media is a great place for these photos.  You can post a daily or weekly photo of the progress of the construction or show items that are more “behind the scenes.”  If promotion is not your strong suit, it may be worthwhile to bring in a professional at an early stage to get ideas and a plan.  

6.  Evaluation
Evaluation of the success of the new exhibit is very important.  However, what about evaluating the design and development process?  Normally there are many gears in motion along the way to completion of a new exhibit.  From staff members to vendors, to equipment acquisition and supplies, to construction workers and installers.  How did each piece of the puzzle work out?  Did certain vendors provide valuable insights?  Did a particular staff member have to put in extra time to get the project done?  What was the stress level of the project managers?  What things just didn’t work out?  Evaluating these things while its all fresh in your head and creating a report can be valuable in future projects.  And don’t forget to evaluate the effectiveness of the final product.  How is it being received?  Is the message you intended to convey being conveyed?  It’s a great idea to ask school teachers how their classes enjoyed the experience.  What did they learn?  You can do a survey in kiosks in the museum or online.  There are many ways to evaluate, it’s just doing it that can be the biggest stumbling block.

So here are 6 tips for consideration for a new museum exhibit development project.  Implementing some or all of these tips can save you time and money in the long run.  They can also be tools to help ease the effort in future exhibits.  

Do you have any additional tips for exhibit planning?  Let me know. I’d love to hear your ideas and experiences.

Chris Meyer
CD Meyer, Inc./point2explore

point2explore is product line of customizable touch screen kiosk programs including interactive games and informational programs.  point2explore products are currently running in over 100 museums and have been used in corporate events across the country. Visit our web site at http://www.point2explore.com.


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