Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tinkering & Museums: Part 1

By Justine Roberts

Over the past month I have heard about tinkering on NPR, and read about hakerspaces – collectives that operate workshop/lab spaces - in the Wall Street Journal. I learned that Home Depot attributed a drop in profits to more people fixing leaky faucets, rather than replacing them. And my kids started asking to see Disney’s newest Tinkerbell movie, in which she completes her makeover from magical fairy into a creative and capable problem solver. "Tinkering" has become a popular American movement.

Fixing what you have, and saving spare parts, is what my grandparents’ generation did too, coming out of the Great Depression. One of the differences today is the DIY movement represented by Make Magazine, The Tinkering School, and even the quirky Slow Media folks. It was really just a matter of time before tinkering moved from the margins into the center.

What really made me stop and think was the realization that museums have been out in front on this. Just to pick three examples: The Austin Children’s Museum has a Tinkerer’s Workshop and a Maker Kids exhibit (and was involved in the MakerFaire/Austin); the Exploratorium’s newest ExNet exhibit is on Tinkering; and Explora offers exhibits like Systems In Motion and My Chain Reaction.

Next: Why Do Museums like Tinkering?

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