Depending on when you read this, the MWXX (that is, Museums and the Web 2016) Pop-up Museum is no more. It was launched at the 20th MW conference, in L.A., on Thursday, April 7th and will close/ closed on Saturday April 9th. It is a collective love letter/ thank you to two decades of a conference from its participants. It is also a designed experience, a “thing to think with,” about the intersection of games and museums.
Before we get into the details, here’s a 60-second video tour:
HOW WAS IT MADE?
During the first session – Opening the MWXX Pop-up Museum: Gaming Square Pegs into Dinosaur-shaped – when attendees entered they were invited to take on a role to play, for the next 30 or so minutes. Met by the Museum Directors (Eve Gaus of The Field Museum, Rik Panganiban of the California Academy of Sciences, Koven Smith of the Blanton Museum of Art, and myself), they were greeted with a card offering the following new identities to play with (to run something like this yourself, for educational purposes, you can download the workshop and assets here):
Curator: The curator is told: You are a Museum Curator. You have three jobs:
- Selects 1 object from the collection to be exhibited.
- Hire 1 Exhibit Writer; make sure they write copy for your object.
- Hire 1 Exhibit Designer; make sure they design and build an exhibit for your object.
The museum opens in 10 minutes. Get to work!
Exhibit Designer: The exhibit designer is told: You are an Exhibit Designer. Under the direction of the Curator, and collaborating with the Exhibit Writer, design and build an exhibit to display the curator’s object. Use whatever materials are provided. You have 5 minutes before the Museum opens to the public. Good luck!
Exhibit Writer: The writer is told: You are an Exhibit Writer. Under the direction of the Curator, and supporting the Exhibit Designer, write the signage for the curator’s object. Use whatever materials are provided. You have 5 minutes before the Museum opens to the public. Good luck!
There turned out to be 8 teams of the above. Then there are the Tour Designers, of which there were three. They are told: You are a Tour Designer. While the construction of the museum is underway, speak with any available curators and listen in on their teams to learn about the collections. Select 3 objects and design a guided tour you will provide to the public. You have 5 minutes before the Museum opens to the public. Good luck!
Finally, we have the Game Designers (of which there also turned out to be three). They were told: You are a Game Designer. Meet with the Museum Directors to receive your material to design games that encourage visitors to interact with each other and the exhibits. You have 5 minutes before the Museum opens to the public but your games can be offered after it opens. Good luck!
I think Koven and Eve might have also made up extra roles on the fly, when new people entered. Social media reporter. Researcher. Etc. Koven and Eve worked with those creating the exhibits, directing them to the bagged objects, the building materials, and the final location for each of their exhibits. Rik and I worked with the game designers.
30 minutes later it worked! 8 rapidly prototyped exhibits were installed, three tour guides were ready for their task, the three new games had been added to the collection, which can be viewed on a mobile device at http://AMNH.org/MWXX. And then we instructed all to flip their cards. New roles/missions everyone!
For the Tour Guides: You are a Tour Guides. Announce the title of your tour, recruit a group of visitors, and be on your way. You have 5 minutes to give your tour. Good luck!
For everyone else: You are one of the first visitors to the MWXX Pop-up Museum. Congratulations!
Visitors are then told they can go on a tour, play the games, and/or just visit the Museum on their own.
10 minutes later we all gathered and, for the first time, roles were dropped and the 3 directors and I introduced ourselves.
Then we talked – about creating context to present objects, about experiencing them through guided tours, about how that differed from what games afforded, etc. We planned to chat for :30 and then delved into a case study – about first games for learning at the American Museum of Natural History then specifically about MicroRangers – but we soon chucked that so we could all keep chatting, and I threw in 5 minutes at the end about games at AMNH.
As a result, this is the deck we mostly did not use:
Then, session over, the Pop-up Museum staff picked up their exhibits, we had a parade to the main plenary space, and they Museum was re-installed, where it remained on view to all conference attendees until Saturday, Morning, for Closing the MWXX Pop-up Museum: Gaming Square Pegs into Dinosaur-shaped Holes.
WHAT WAS IN IT?
In advance of the conference, calls were put out to donate objects. All sorts of things came in. Photographs. Videos. Pins. Badges. And mugs. Lots and lots of mugs. Each team decided their own approach for interpreting the object and how visitors should interact with it.
See more photos here.
WHAT DID PEOPLE SAY?
My favorite piece of feedback was from someone who entered a few minutes late. She reflected to me afterwards that when she entered the place look like a mess of chaos, and she had NO IDEA what could have been going on. But the looks on everyone’s faces, the engagement and the excitement, was thrilling.
Here are some of the tweets from it, many using the hash tag #MWXXPopUp: