In Nina Simon’s writing on the participatory museum and the corresponding TED Talk, I was really drawn to how committed she was in the role of the museum as an active facilitator in getting people to interact with, learn from, try to understand, and connect with each other. I think it’s interesting that in the ~10+ years since her book and talk, it seems like museums have incorporated more and more participatory elements and are increasingly aware of this role in society.
A personal story: at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in fall of 2021, I was absolutely moved by a work that invited you to leave (pin) an artifact of your own to contribute to the piece. And this just about front and center in the main gallery space. And to see all the things that people were leaving behind, from metro cards to baby photos to gambling receipts, and then for me to add my own piece to it where I felt like I was actively connecting with the pieces that I was placing my own artifact around; I feel like there is some social connectedness that Nina may be going for.
I think about this experience often, and I feel that it was a really powerful interactive and participatory piece, and I wonder: how can this participatory work go beyond the walls of the museum, beyond the visiting experience, and into the world at large? This is something that Nina brought up as well in her TED Talk, and it does involve the paradigm shift of changing the role of the museum in people’s minds. My immediate thought was for science museums: they seem to create very actively participatory spaces; are those experiences extending outward into social impacts? How much can they do in that regard?
On Lascaux IV, something that really struck me about how they approached the museum was the design of the digital visitor companion (CDV). To have each visitor wear the headset and carry around the unit is something I wasn’t expecting, and then for the unit to have all these technological capabilities: text, VR scanning, enhanced reality, cameras, a “lamp to detect engraving” is really amazing! I really want to go so that I can experience these elements. It’s remarkable how much effort and design went into the CDV so that the visitors can have a maximally understanding experience of the museum. It makes me wonder as well, in regards to the participatory museum, how the museum, if it’s a goal of theirs, to bring the learnings and takeaways beyond the walls of the experience.