Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Make your Museum Challenge

Source: Queensland Museum

Maryanne Venables, ‘Meet the Museum teams of tomorrow’, Queensland Museum, 2 October 2014

On Saturday 23 August, National Science Week may have been winding down, but here at Queensland Museum, we were cranking up!

Twenty one students from years 7-9 participated in a workshop called the Make your Museum student challenge. This (mutual) learning experience was generated in partnership with Queensland Academies as part of their Young Scholars program.

Students arrived for a day of “professional work” at Queensland Museum’s INVENTory. Upon arrival, they were presented with a challenge that they had only hours to complete (when museums actually take several months or, occasionally years).

Their task was to devise plans for an exhibition and associated visitor experiences, inspired by collection material – while assuming various staff roles. Most teams comprised a Curator, Exhibition Designer, Programming Co-ordinator and Marketing Co-ordinator. While all students gave input into their team’s developing concepts, each “staff member” was asked to consider the responsibilities and tasks their role may demand.

Teams were randomly selected and assigned a staff role and small collection of authentic Museum specimens and objects. Many students had not met or worked together before, yet this was indiscernible as they observed their collections, exchanged information and shared ideas elicited collectively and individually.

As the day progressed, teams were actively problem-solving and working collaboratively to devise and negotiate exhibition content, key messages, titles, slogans, spaces, resources and experiences.

Students recognised that the ‘exhibition experience’ extends well beyond viewing, as their plans included zones for creativity or play, iPod programs, QR codes, touch screens, green screens, soundscapes, theatres, billboards, merchandise, gift shops, cafes and sponsorship.

Some ideas developed within the five teams plans included:

  • Insect Kingdom: This exhibition space was designed as a platform among a “living museum”, sitting within a canopy of trees.
  • Hello Possums: Visitors follow the footprints around the exhibition using clues like tracks and traces to identify our marsupial “backyards friends”.
  • What Lurks in the Dark – shining a light into the night: This team explored multi-sensory experiences such as soundscapes in a darkened, nocturnal environment.
  • BeacH2Ocean: This exhibition explored different marine habitats and included an aquarium and touring module for outreach.
  • Eggheads – everything you need to know about eggs: This egg-shaped exhibition with crack-shaped doorways offered an interactive game with a conservation message.

Towards the day’s end, teams delivered presentations using their collections, models, audio visuals, role play and dialogue. Team plans were being carefully noted by our staff judging panel of Professor Suzanne Miller (Director and CEO), Dr John Hooper (Head of Head of Natural Environments Program) and Peter Tonkin (Creative Producer, Exhibitions).

Council of Australasian Museum Directors c/o Lynley Crosswell, Museums Victoria, GPO Box 666, Melbourne VIC 3001, © CAMD 2023
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