Keeping Visitors Safe Around Exhibits

January 5th, 2014 - Posted in 2014, Dimensions by Alejandro Asin

By Kathy Krafft and Harry White
From Dimensions
January/February 2014

If you say that visitors can do anything they like—and we do say that—then you can’t be surprised at anything they actually do.

At-Bristol, in the United Kingdom, has 250 exhibits and receives 250,000 visitors per year. If each exhibit is used only once in a visit, then the science center has 62.5 million visitor/exhibit interactions every year. So “one chance in a million” is more than one accident every week. One bad accident could close a museum.

All science centers and museums want visitors to explore and interact with exhibits. We want them to be engaged, not wrapped in a cocoon. But we don’t want accidents, especially ones that could seriously injure someone, damage a reputation, or lead to a lawsuit. At the Sciencenter in Ithaca, New York, and At-Bristol, we continually have conversations among our staff and with other museums about safety and managing risk.
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The Beauty in the Telling

January 5th, 2014 - Posted in 2014, Dimensions, From the CEO by Anthony (Bud) Rock

My father was a businessman who was required, on occasion, to visit the manufacturing headquarters for the products that he sold. As a child, I sometimes tagged along. One trip always stands out in my mind. We made a visit to Corning, New York, to the site of what is now the well-known Corning Museum of Glass.

Most striking to me about this visit was the presentation of not only the remarkable, centuries-old artwork in glass, but also the exceptional effort made by the museum to demonstrate the craft of glassmaking. The exhibits were carefully constructed to amaze and to educate about the processes, techniques, and, yes, the science of glassmaking.
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How much is too much technology in a science center or museum, or is the sky the limit? Does it engage or distract?

December 19th, 2013 - Posted in 2014, Dimensions, Viewpoints by Emily Schuster

This is an extended discussion of the question that appeared in the Viewpoints department of the January/February 2014 issue of Dimensions magazine.

Good examples of technology gone bad can often be traced to poor design. Does the design of an interactive cause visitors to isolate from others, or does it support social engagement? Does the design of a mobile app focus visitors’ attention away from an exhibit, or does it deepen the awesome moment of that particular time and place? We can never escape the potential for digital media to engage or distract. That struggle is unavoidable, especially when visitors can carry in their own devices. But we can support visitors to develop an intentionality in their use of technology and support them to mediate their visit in ways that connect them with the exhibits and the social and physical spaces around them.

Barry Joseph, associate director for digital learning, American Museum of Natural History, New York City

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Q&A with the 2013 McGrath Fellows

December 19th, 2013 - Posted in 2014, Dimensions, Q&A by Emily Schuster

 Interviewed by Emily Schuster

This interview appeared in the January/February 2014 issue of Dimensions magazine.

Last October, a museum director from Brazil, a museum educator from Uruguay, a science teacher from Zimbabwe, and a deputy general director of a brand new science park in Israel joined nearly 1,700 attendees from 43 countries at the 2013 ASTC Annual Conference in Albuquerque. These four professionals were the recipients of the Lee Kimche McGrath Worldwide Fellowship, thanks to significant financial support from the Gelfand family.

Named for ASTC’s first executive director, the Fellowship helps individuals from science centers and museums outside the United States attend the ASTC Annual Conference, in the hope that this experience will help them in the development of their institutions and the growth of the field worldwide. This year’s Fellows—Diego Vaz Bevilaqua, director of Museu da Vida/Fiocruz, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Fiorella Silveira Segui, head of education at Espacio Ciencia, Laboratorio Tecnológico del Uruguay, Montevideo; Susan Wairimu Mahachi, a science teacher at Chisipite School, Harare, Zimbabwe, who has started working on creating the Zimbabwe Science Centre; and Netzach Farbiash, deputy general director for scientific content at Carasso Science Park, Beer Sheva, Israel—came to the conference seeking opportunities to network and gather resources and ideas.

We spoke to the McGrath Fellows during ASTC 2013 to learn about their institutions’ current work and future goals and challenges.

Read the full transcript, or listen to the podcast.

Enlightening Our Practice: Advancing the Field Through Research

November 26th, 2013 - Posted in 2013, Dimensions by Emily Schuster

IN THIS ISSUE
November/December 2013

While Dimensions has published new studies and research-based articles in the past, this is the first time an issue has focused entirely on research related to the science center and museum field. Research is critical to science center and museum professionals—it expands our perspectives and understanding, grounds our work in a broader context, and provides solid data on which to base our programs, policies, and advocacy efforts. In this issue, we highlight a few recent, relevant, and broadly applicable studies that illuminate topics important to moving the field forward. We hope the research in this issue will help individual practitioners and institutions achieve greater impact and will also advance the field as a whole.

Features
• Science Centers and Research: An Overview, by Charlie Trautmann, Kim Cavendish, Gillian Thomas, Julie I. Johnson, Damien Francaviglia, and Christine Ruffo
• Science Centers Make a Difference: Results from the International Science Center Impact Study, by John H. Falk, Lynn D. Dierking, Mark D. Needham, and Lisa Prendergast
• Measuring and Evaluating Science Learning Activation, by Debra W. Moore, Meghan E. Bathgate, Joo Chung, and Matthew A. Cannady
Today’s Destination Visitors, by Diane Lochner and Tom Owen
• Learning at and for Work, by Julie I. Johnson
• More Recent Research You Should Know About, compiled by Christine Ruffo
• Dig Deeper at InformalScience.org, by Trevor Nesbit and Kalie Sacco

(A companion blog post to this issue of Dimensions is available here.)

Online Departments
From the CEO
Q&A with Jeffrey Rudolph

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