Creating Exhibitions
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Creating Exhibitions

Collaboration in the Planning, Development, and Design of Innovative Experiences

Polly McKenna-Cress, Janet Kamien

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eBook - ePub

Creating Exhibitions

Collaboration in the Planning, Development, and Design of Innovative Experiences

Polly McKenna-Cress, Janet Kamien

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"This is a must-read for the nervous novice as well as the world-weary veteran. The book guides you through every aspect of exhibit making, from concept to completion. The say the devil is in the details, but so is the divine. This carefully crafted tome helps you to avoid the pitfalls in the process, so you can have fun creating something inspirational. It perfectly supports the dictum—if you don't have fun making an exhibit, the visitor won't have fun using it."
—Jeff Hoke, Senior Exhibit Designer at Monterey Bay Aquarium and Author of The Museum of Lost Wonder

Structured around the key phases of the exhibition design process, this guide offers complete coverage of the tools and processes required to develop successful exhibitions. Intended to appeal to the broad range of stakeholders in any exhibition design process, the book offers this critical information in the context of a collaborative process intended to drive innovation for exhibition design. It is indispensable reading for students and professionals in exhibit design, graphic design, environmental design, industrial design, interior design, and architecture.

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Museum Studies
Large photo: Liberty Science Center, Jersey City, NJ. Photo courtesy of Richard Cress.
Inset photo: Collaborative group. Photo courtesy of Polly McKenna-Cress

Chapter 1

Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision, the ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.
—Andrew Carnegie
Collaboration is not a naturally occurring instinct. For most people it is learned behavior. Studies are revealing that societies are actually beginning to evolve to become better collaborators, and the notion of survival of the fittest may be shifting. So why do we need to engage in this practice? As we move further into the twenty-first century, recognizing the continued need to advance from relying on a single decision maker to a more democratized approach is becoming the standard by which most organizations are run. To prepare the next generation of professionals and citizens, schools are placing emphasis on their students being able to collaborate, to work with others in a creative, innovative, and flexible environment. The twenty-first-century skill set must include critical thinking, communication, creative problem solving, and collaboration. We see this need emerging not only in the field of education but also in any field where a complex narrative is being crafted—whether film, theater, or gaming or for the more institutional narratives of mission and vision for corporations and big business. Museums have also taken up the collaboration charge, from how institutions are run to how exhibitions are developed, taking advantage of contributions from multiple sources to shape rich exhibitions for visitors.

Collaboration Unpacked

Collaboration, as defined in this book, is the intersection of thoughts and ideas from varying points of view to create multifaceted narratives and diverse experiences for a public audience.
What collaboration does not mean is “design by committee” or “groupthink.” Strong points of view of varied individuals provide opportunities to assess, engage, agree or disagree, in order to make significant contributions to the depth of discussion and strength of final outcomes. For the museum, the collaborative group includes the exhibition team and institutional staff as well as outside stakeholders, experts, and funders. It also must include visitors, as they are the customers or end users of the museum “product” (Figure 1-1).
Figure 1-1: Strong points of view of varied individuals provide opportunities to assess, engage, and strengthen outcomes.
Photo courtesy of Polly McKenna-Cress

What Is Collaboration?

collaboration | kəˌlabəˈrā·sh·ən | noun
1 the action of working with someone to produce or create something
The Oxford Electronic Dictionary's general definition is couched in the basic singular sense—one person working with another person. However, although an individual may have unique ideas for conveying a particular subject, new and innovative thinking will remain unrealized unless there are opportunities to shape ideas by involving others. The essence of collaboration means different parties are sharing information and developing ideas to produce something. This book deals with the larger, more elaborate collaborations in the creation of museum exhibitions, involving multiple individuals, groups, and/or multiple institutions that have a shared goal to create rich experiences meeting many requirements. The potential for greatness is significant, and it's important to understand that the opportunities of collaborative groups are broader and deeper than any one individual could achieve.
Collaboration in its fullest sense is the intersection of different ideas from different points of view to create multifaceted and “new” thinking.

No One Said Collaboration Was Easy

Collaboration can be a difficult, exhausting, and time-consuming experience. At times it seems that only an imminent crisis with lives on the line can motivate a group to work together; it appears that motivation does not naturally occur otherwise. Intellectually we understand the merits, emotionally we feel the support, and physically it is nice to share the workload, but it can be stressful when opinions and egos collide.
Teams that are working toward a common goal often begin at the path of least resistance: a kickoff meeting to delegate responsibilities. This may pass for collaboration, but it isn't the same. It's simply task distribution—an important activity, but not one that will result in a breakthrough product. Teams must recognize that simply meeting as a group in a room together to talk once a week does not collaboration make. Intentions are the difference. Collaboration requires a shared commitment in which each person persistently pushes themselves and others to expand their thinking and engage in achieving common goals. This bears repeating: success depends on the shared commitment. One or two doubters—or participants with their own narrow agendas—can derail the entire process.
Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.
—Henry Ford
An essential first step for the team leader is to establish the expectations of the team, its purpose, and the commitment that will be needed to meet goals...

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