Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pecha Kucha 2011

Dear Reader,
It's true I haven't been in touch lately on this blog - we've been busy on a top-secret project at Kidcity and I knew I'd spill the beans if I even opened my mouth. But we're almost ready to reveal what we've been up to - hopefully next week!

In the meantime, I'm at the national meeting of the Association of Children's Museums in Houston, TX and I'll be blogging about the conference for a few days. Be back at Kidcity soon!

I'm seriously considering taking up the ukelele. You would be too, if you'd been at the Pecha Kucha session last night at Houston's Heritage Society.

For the newbies, Pecha Kucha gives you 6 minutes and 40 seconds to show 20 slides and talk about what inspires you - it started in Japan and has spread all over the world, including the ACM conferences in 2009 and 2010. This year, the ACM Pecha Kucha showcased 10 people from the children's museum field. As instigator Paul Orselli pointed out, it alternates between the sublime and the ridiculous: where on earth did Erich Rose find that photo - let's just call it
Manequin Parts with Hose and Duct Tape. It was more of a "Don't" than a "Do".

For me, the evening was a bit of a blur because I was so nervous about making my first ACM presentation - it was thrilling, even if I did accidentally press pause on the laptop part-way through my presentation.

Oh, I wish I had pictures...but here's a smattering of what I remember:

Becky Lindsay captured the exhibit designer's quandry of the tension between the
macro exhibit (how it looks from the outside), and the micro exhibit (the loose parts and tasks that actually engage your child visitors). Creating that outside WOW is important, but it's the micro level that leads to the sustained, imaginative play that makes a magical children's museum experience.

Clifford Wagner demonstrated the power of the Path of Least Resistance, and encouraged us to use it both in exhibit design and in opening potato chip bags.

Paul Orselli waved the banner - bless him - of why children's museums should develop their internal capacity to create their own exhibits. It's at least as important as having a snazzy cafe (where you just might find your visitors taking a nap.)

Aaron Goldblatt treated us to sort of mental yoga class. Suggesting that ugly things become beautiful if you look at them long enough, he showed us his photos of found and forgettable corners of urban life. We mulled them over in silence, a la John Cage.

Sari Bowen bravely and beautifully told us about her unexpected love affair with the ukelele - and how she dreamed of creating just such a "ukelele experience" for visitors in children's museums. When was the last time you fell in love with an idea and then let it move in? What makes that perfect combination of openess (you) and inspiration (it) that knocks you off your feet? After asking this question, she led us all in a sing-along of Ringo Starr's "You're Sixteen". We didn't sound too shabby!

The room was packed, the bar was busy, and two lucky winners went home with door prizes! I'd like to suggest that ACM issue a special community service award to Paul Orselli (and his usual co-host Peter Exeley) for this new tradition. Pecha Kucha is a great way to start the conference!

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