S: Harvard Natural History Museum: Bizarre Animals 2.0
BC: The End
FC: Bizarre Animals 2.0 Harvard Museum of Natural History
2: Bizarre Animals 2.0 was a special event at the Harvard Museum of Natural History (HMNH) on April 8, 2011. Artists and performers were invited to transform the museum for one evening of performance, sound, and video. Through thoughtful interventions and captivating experiments, visitors experienced new ways to engage with HMNH's spaces, its collections, and its history.
3: This was a special event because it “help[ed] to emphasize that [the museum] is a dynamic, active place where there is always something new to experience” (Huber and Johnson, 2009, p. 97). A program, on the other hand, is defined as “an activity or series of related activities that present information and entertainment to an audience at a specific time and place” (Huber and Johnson, 2009, p. 95).
4: PROBLEM: How to create new, dynamic visitor experiences within old-fashioned galleries with collections more than a century old?
5: SOLUTION: Use digital art and technology to manipulate galleries and exhibits.
6: OBJECTIVES: - Offer new ways for visitors to engage with HMNH’s spaces and collection. - Incorporate various digital technologies to enhance visitor experiences. - Encourage exploration and socialization in a more relaxed, after-hours environment
7: These objectives were not explicitly stated but became clear in my observations and experiences at Bizarre Animals 2.0. Staff were not directly involved in directing the many aspects of the special event. Visitors thus fell into the category of informal groups with no selected mediator. Their use of the various museum technologies clearly demonstrated the learning and socializing potential of technologies for groups. (Sayre and Wetterlund, 2008, p. 85). The interpretive approach employed by HMNH seemed to be one that is about "creating new opportunities for different types of visitor to become enthusiastically immersed in the contents of the museum" (Hillier, 2001, p. 3), which complemented a broad audience.
8: The audience included seniors, college students, families with children, adults, and teenagers. Everyone was welcome.
10: Videos were projected on walls in many galleries as well as in the designated screening room.
11: Here visitors gathered to watch a video of an artist-created strobe light show in the Mammal Hall.
12: Humorous signs were placed in exhibits, surprising and amusing visitors.
15: Bar codes offered additional info for visitors with smart phones as well as opportunities to socialize with curious visitors without smart phones. | BARCODE: "But Agassiz was no evolutionist; in fact, he was probably the last reputable scientist to reject evolution outright for any length of time after the publication of The Origin of Species..."
17: Visitors could take home souvenirs, small eggs with endangered bird species written on them that invited further research after the visit.
18: Lights were dimmed and colorful orbs added to change the ambiance of the Mammal Hall.
20: Here a visitor uses a magnifying glass to examine an appetizing tray of hors d'oeuvres made of worms. | Playful displays invited visitors to take a closer look.
23: Live music provided by two bands (Duck That, Hind Legs) attracted visitors to the normally quiet Minerals & Geology gallery.
24: Promotional materials included... WordPress blog (bizarre animals) Facebook profile (BizarreAnimals TwoPointZero) 2 Facebook events Museum website announcement Museum E-newsletter announcement Promotional poster online and onsite Boston Phoenix editorial
25: These promotional techniques were visible to me as a Cambridge local even before I decided to create a photo essay of Bizarre Animals 2.0. They proved successful as the 2.5 hour event was well-attended and lively. Visitors of all ages roamed freely as did museum staff who did not explicitly provide instruction but were available to answer questions. Adult guests enjoyed drinks and mingled with one another over funny exhibits and barcodes. The atmosphere was relaxed, and HMNH visibly transformed their galleries. Visitors noted that the event felt special and out-of-the-ordinary.
26: EVALUATION: Because this was a one-time special event, I would use an outcome-based evaluation to determine its success. The beneficial impacts of Bizarre Animals 2.0 would be "differences in skills, knowledge, attitudes, and values" that happened as a result of the event (Weil, 2003, p.42). However HMNH did not directly ask participants to identify or asses the outcomes, positive or negative. I can only assume that evaluation will be based on attendance figures or user-generated feedback through social media sites and other channels of communication.
27: REFERENCES: Hiller, Dan. "A Closer Look." Edinburgg: Scottish Museums Council and Interpret Sctoland, 2001. Huber, Kimberly A. and Anna Johnson. "Planning and Managing Museum Programs and Special Events." In The Museum Educator's Manual, 95-108. Lanham: Alta Mira Press, 2009. Sayre, Scott and Kris Wetterlund. "The Social Life of Technology for Museum Visitors." Visual Art Research Journal, 34 (67), 2008. Weil, Stephen. "Beyond Big and Awesome: Outcome-Based Evaluation." Museum News, 82 (6), November/December 2003.