A Series of Epistolary Romances: Games and Museums

Last year I received a rather unusual request: Would I have a conversation with my friend and colleague James Collins – over many months, like letters sent in days of old – and then publicly share it, inviting others to join in.

The request came from CODE│WORDS, an ongoing effort to “gather and harness the discourse occurring among the museum technology community” – which I guess describes me (as well as James, who formerly worked at the Smithsonian). This experiment is called “A Series of Epistolary Romances” designed to generate and facilitate online discussion about “topics of import to the international museum community… Twelve pairs of authors  will correspond with each other over the course of at least a month about a particular topic of interest to the community.”

Students at Museum teaching parents how to play Gutsy after visiting exhibit on microbiomes.

James was invited to be part of one of these pairs through Ed Rodley, editor of CODE│WORDS and Assoc Dir. of Integrated Media at Peabody Essex Museum, and James invited me to join him in this epistolary romances.

As professionals with long experience in game-based learning in museums, we were interested in exploring and unpacking all the complexities that hide within the seemingly straightforward idea of using games for museums-based learning. As with any intersectional issue, there turns out to be a ton of translation problems and misunderstandings among the domains of museum knowledge, game play, and game design.

Selecting Slack as our correspondence weapon of choice, we spent many months hammering the topic, and occasionally each other. Our correspondence has now come to a close, and we are ready to share it all with you.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll release it all on Medium. Here is where it all begins…

May 27, 2016. 10:28 AM joined #epistolary-correspond

 James, Just a short missive to thank you for hosting me today at your offices at the DOE. It was great to see your new offices, now that you’ve left the Smithsonian, and talk with you about Games-based learning. (Btw, I named this Slack GBLinMuseums, which, when turned lower case, as Slack is wont to, scans as “museum goblins”).

[continue the conversation here…]

About Barry

The Associate Director For Digital Learning, Youth Initiatives at the American Museum of Natural History.
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