Thursday, September 18, 2008
Last spring, I participated in the MakerFaire in San Mateo, by putting together an exhibit called "The Power of the Prototype". It was a great experience for me, both personally and professionally. I came in contact with a broad swath of people that I might not have otherwise met in a museum setting. I learned a tremendous amount from this experiment. It got me thinking about how powerful that intersection of Creativity, Community and Critical Thinking can be, and how we might continue to foster it in the museum world. This is a topic I will definitely come back to from time to time. I attended my first MakerFaire in 2007 with other Gyroscopians. We wanted to evaluate some of the public programs there for a new institution we were working on called The Leonardo, in Salt Lake City. A large part of the concept we developed with The Leonardo was to fill the museum primarily with workshops, rather than exhibits. We wanted to encourage daVinci-esque thinking, by providing places where visitors could make things- be they artistic, scientific, or purely inventive. We also wanted to provide an area where they could share and show off their work. So we developed what we called "Community Looms". These were essentially wall dividers that displayed the visitor-made products. This, we hoped, would have the effect of elevating their work, both to themselves and others. We sought to create a cyclical effect (not unlike the MakerFaire) where visitors would be inspired by seeing people from their community creating and sharing their work, and thus, being a point of inspiration. The Leonardo is still in development, but we'd love to hear from others about their experiences with a workshop-based approach. Do you have a story to tell? Have you seen a workshop model that worked well (or didn't) for you? Up next on this topic: what makes the MakerFaire so successful?