Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Relevance on a Titanic Scale

gyroscope inc, maria mortati, museums I've written before about the power that relevance can provide in exhibit experience design-- especially in science exhibits. Sometimes this idea is easy to convey and other times not. This week, I read a great quote from David Savory of TELUS World of Science which puts it quite clearly:
"...everyone knows ice is cold but when people press their hands onto it within the context of the sinking of the Titanic, they get a memorable sense of how unpleasant it would be to bob in water containing icebergs. And probably everyone already knows they get a little squirrelly in a small space but being in a confinement exhibit would create a memorable bit of fear. And everyone knows the body is made of stringy muscles but when they realize they are looking at real dead people in a BodyWorlds exhibition, those weird-looking bits take on a whole new significance."
It isn't always easy to craft those profundities. For example, there are whole teams of people working very hard on making Nanotechnology relevant to the public. In addition, not every experience in your museum can or should have the same level of deep impact on the visitor. There need to be peaks, valleys, and plateaus of engagement and reflection. It's the orchestration of all of these things that makes the overall experience resound... and live on in the visitor after they have left. That after-the-fact mulling over is where learning also happens. Giving them a relevant hook boosts the likelihood that a memorable connection is made.

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