AASLH 2014 Notes: Popups, Gamification, and Butter Churns

Posted by on September 23, 2014 in TechMuse Blog, Technology and Museums | 0 comments

AASLH 2014 Notes: Popups, Gamification, and Butter Churns

It’s been a couple days since the energizing AASLH conference in St. Paul, and now, while I’m pulled over at a truck stop on my long drive back to the airport, seems like as good a time as any to organize my thoughts…

What themes did I pick up on?  First, the rise of popup exhibits and events. Michelle Moon invited me (or maybe I invited myself?) to do a popup presentation on popup exhibits together. (Yes, “meta”). I talked about hosting the “Museum Puppet Throwdown“, where we invite visitors to a bar/restaurant to make puppets based on museum exhibits and then create puppetshows for YouTube.  Lots of energy around these discussions, and also interesting to note it was a pre-cursor to the evening’s “battledecks” competition at a bar, in which very short slideshows on (kind of) historical topics battle it out.  (I was late unfortunately and missed the competition).

Another highlight for me: re-visiting Minnesota History Center’s “Play the Past” mobile game designed for schoolgroups.  I was fortunate to see a prototype years ago, and great to see how it’s continued to develop. Overview: users have a series of physical quests (find kindling for the fire, trade pelts, mine a cave, etc) related to the exhibit topics (sod house, fur trade, iron mine). The highlight for me: loading up a cave with dynamite and then pressing the plunger to make it blow.

And butter churns. It seemed butter churns emerged as the symbol for lackluster old objects, collected with diligence, but perhaps less compelling to visitors. They came up in two independent conversations.

The general feeling: history museums are working to widen their appeal to a broader younger audience — maybe with gamification of exhibits or popup programs, but probably not with butter churns.

Other highlights:

  • Keynote address by Garrison Keillor, who took a few moments to chat as he signed a book for me
  • Haiku contest by Universal Services Associates and my spontaneous haiku while watching a salsa band in the open courtyard at Mill City Museum
  • One of my favorite visitor-experiences of all time: visiting Jeffers Petroglyphs after the conference — I’ll blog more about this later…

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