Sunday, September 19, 2010

Observational Blog 3: Participation at the McKinley Museum

            I visited the William McKinley Presidential Library & Museum over the weekend. The Discover World is devoted to children with multiple interactive science activities. There was a Natural History Island with an Allosaurus that moved and roared along with a plastic rock that had several dioramas of smaller dinosaurs. The Ecology Island had areas of water with different animals that were living there. There were also cages of several animals such as a rabbit, birds, snakes, and a tarantula. The Spacestation Earth area was my favorite of all of the participatory activities in the Discover World. They had a table that turned to show and explain how an eclipse and lunar eclipse form. A touch screen showed how to save energy and money with the use of household appliances and how everyone can help the environment. Another activity was a sound frequency activity to see what noises are made when one pipe was covered and while another was covered and uncovered. One area had the movie Twister playing as it had a tornado of smoke formed. There was a screen that children could pretend they were on the news giving the weather. This area encouraged participation of all kinds as it taught the participant something about what they were doing.
            Throughout the remainder of the museum there were places that the viewer could touch to turn on a recording to learn more. The Street of Shops was like walking back in time into the late 1800’s. There was a store, photographic studio, toyshop, lawyer’s, doctor’s and dentist’s offices, a barbershop, and a firehouse where one could slide down the pole from the second floor. I have to admit though that it was difficult to distinguish what we were allowed to touch and where we were specifically allowed to go. As Nina Simon said the “participants need clear roles and information on how to participate. Several of the places had a rope across the door so it was obvious the visitor was not supposed to enter; however, on the second floor of one building I was unsure if we were allowed to go up.
            The participatory activities were intended for more than just children. Adults could enjoy the science center as much as the children. I participated in almost every activity in the science center and learned a few things new. This is what I think was successful about the activities; the museum didn’t just focus on children as their audience. The Street of Shops could be enjoyed by children; however I think the target audience was for adults. The main objective for participation from the audience was for education and entertainment and I think it was achieved with the activities they created.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the site visit report. It is always valuable to take the theories we read about and see how they are being applied (or not) in local museums. These child-friendly participatory exhibit experiences may help inform some of your choices as you plan your exhibit on the photography from the canal era.