Thursday, May 6, 2010

Putting the Muse in Museum

We're interrupting the construction of Kidcity's new bookstore for a visit to the national conference of the Association of Children's Museums! Over the next few days, I'll be writing about the conference, so my apologies to my regular Kidcity visitors - hopefully you'll find something interesting in these writings, but if not, don't worry. It will be over soon!

A great children's museum is like an advent calendar - that, and the title of this post, were just two of the nuggets of gold that I extracted from Daniel Spock's 400-second Pecha Kucha rant this evening.

Ok, I'll try to start at the beginning. (But don't you just love the idea of visitors leaning in and opening little advent doors full of surprises? I'd like to play there!)

Right....the beginning.

So, I'm in Minnesota at the annual ACM conference - with lots of people from children's museums around the world, including two others from Kidcity (that's Cait, our manager, and Matt, our exhibit builder).

We're here for three days of informative sessions on the nuts and bolts of the children's museum industry - there are workshops on how to hire the right staff, how to do promotions, and how to evaluate exhibits.

But before all that starts (Thursday morning), several dozen of us gathered for a Pecha Kucha session, organized by Paul Orselli and Peter Exley.

Pecha Kucha (say pe-CHA-ku-CHA) is a concept that started in Japan and has spread to cities across the world. Basically, each speaker gets 400 seconds to describe 20 slides, while the host periodically exhorts the participants to make more frequent visits to the bar.

Kind of like going to a poetry slam or church service - you feel like a good stiff breeze just blew through your head.

Here are a few moments:

Peter Exley lovingly pointed out the curved line of a favorite building, and Greg Belew offered up images of perfect steel pistons and crank shafts in the guts of an exhibit.

With photos of the exuberantly crafted new climbing sculpture at the Children's Museum of Phoenix, AZ, both Becky Lindsay and Deb Gilpin talked about seeing the benefits of risk in play, not just the dangers. Or maybe Becky was talking about exhibit design when she said: Jump out of the window and make your wings on the way down.

Aside from Daniel Spock's invigorating thoughts on liberating the play spirit, we got some of Paul Orselli's usual atypical common sense
on the topic of technology in children's museums. Sure there are exceptions - but mostly video screens just hypnotize and pacify us - which is pretty much the opposite of imaginative play and wonder.

Brad Larson has been writing and tweeting his haiku, to capture his experience of nature. But Clifford Wagner thinks we should all take up the violin. Right now. There's a photo of him walking his dogs while fiddling. He says it's all about creating joy.

I think that's a good theme to start this year's ACM!

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