Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Notes on the PLC: Inside View/Outside View: A Return to Active Audiences in Museums and Galleries

Yesterday was the first PLC of HME's 2012-2013 schedule.
We heard four presentations on topics ranging from hands-on scent-based activities to online "mixed reality" and its applicability to museums and galleries.

Below are some notes taken about each presentation. Thanks to everyone who participated!

Laurie Kilgour-Walsh
Educator at the Art Gallery of Hamilton
Interpretive Resources in the Gallery
-how do we engage audiences who arrive at the gallery without a group or formal tour?
-good resource: Nina' Simon's Participatory Museum; create an audience-centred institution that's as useable as a mall or train station
-why do we want to make art institutions more participatory? more interesting, get people to return, destroy ideas surrounding the "ivory tower", make people comfortable in the space (social and playful space)
-art institutions face a challenge between curatorial and educational departments; sometimes there's a strong bias against "amateurs" contributing to the gallery space (re: visitors)
-the museum should be a meeting ground for dialogue, instead of being about something, it's for someone
-what is the difference between interactive and participatory activities?
Interactive: has an end point, safe, predictable
Participatory: has no end point, open-ended, everyone has the ability to create something new BUT can be unpreditable, might be difficult for the visitor to get started

Activities at the AGH
Activity Book
When children and families arrive, they are offered an activity book at the front desk. This book contains a variety of activities, including word searches, drawing sections, scavenger hunt, and especially interesting is the front page with information as to why we can't touch artwork.

Discovery Kit
A small tote that contains sample of different fabric textures, paint-surface textures, maps, brushes, canvasses, and papers. These kits have had a great response from visitors.

Totem Pole
A set of totems were painted using mylar (?) as the base, with information regarding each totem animal and its symbolism on the back. Visitors were allowed to arrange these in any way they wished. Some of these creators were so proud they photographed themselves with their totems and posted it on Facebook.

Vote: Visitor's Choice
A box, constructed with a plexiglass front, was employed to measure, in a very visual way,  visitors' votes for their favourite artwork. Each person was given a colourful token, which to place in their preferred artwork's slot. Over the summer, there were over 3000 votes.

Dr. David Harris Smith
Assistant Professor in Communication Studies & Multimedia at McMaster University
macGRID, Mixed Reality and Museums
Second Life Screen Capture
-macGRID is a McMaster University initiative, a collaboration between staff, scholars, community members, artists; it dissolves the boundaries between virtual and embodied spaces to create "mixed reality" (see more information here on macGRID's site)

History of Arts and Technology Collaborations
-Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.)
-the arts have considered the cultural implications of technology, and even inspired new technology
-1978-80: Bill Bartlett, the Canadian artist, collaboration with satellite and video technologies
-1931: Worth, Key factors of urbanism is bringing people together and providing an infrastructure. Features of human society and culture are that we can divide labour and have role specialization
-democratizing art practices (beginning in 1960s); especially artists-run centres, they are not there for evaluative curatorial practices, but for collaborative and democratic reasons (eg: helping to propel artists interest in new media)
-Fluxus artist Filliou, 1973: "the eternal network is more useful than the avant garde".
-connect the collaborative, democratic eternal network to the virtual world (eg: Odyssey Island, 2006)

-Dr. Smith found people in many disciplines working with virtual reality
-using an open source program (Open Simulator) and high performance computing techology ("Shark Net"), macGRID is using this technology for social interaction (Shark Net is specifically for universities, to help with Humanities computing)
-macGRID is the tools an infrastructure for a variety of mixed reality uses:
art, mapping and modeling, data imaging, gaming, social media, simulation, artificial intelligence, archiving
-examples of what macGRID can do: working with RBG on mapping Cootes Paradise
-examples of what mixed reality can do: Aurasma, Google glasses
-interesting information about mirror neurons in Ramachandran's Ted Talk, this is how humans learn; the more real virtual reality becomes, the better learning tool it can be
-there's space on macGRID: anyone who wants to collaborate can approach macGRID with a project

Lindsay Doren
Lead Historic Interpreter
Museums of Mississauga
Bradley Museum Scent Project
Reproduction Spice Tin
-as a historic house, the exhibits tend to be static; some items in the house, people seem to like that everything remains the same (nostalgia)
-all programming is interactive, but participatory activities are challenging because they can't change anything in the spaces
-how to get adults to come back and engage them while they're there, across all their 5 senses?
-there's always interesting things to see, or hear, plenty of tactile activities, and all programs involve food
-they've started to focus on smell: scent memory, connect to the past, associate bitter experiences with historic experiences
-for the parlour, they created a tea box; associated with expense (fancy reproduction box), containing cotton bags with variety of teas
-for the kitchen, a reproduction spice tin holds a variety of spices (can be labelled, or can function as a guessing game). ESL tours are particularly pleased with the spice tin; it's something they can all enjoy, and can open dialogue about how they use the spice. The tins are also very useful for those with learning or physical disabilities, better to have a variety of ways to learn
-this is also a way to serve older adults; a place for seniors to talk about their own history

The ceiling sculpture is by Kris Nahrgang. It dipicts a Thunderbird and a number of hanging elements such as tobacco, feathers, and antler. Thunderbirds were viewed as protectors and overseers and are believed to have perched in high places such as rock ledges, locations that were often held in high regard.
Meredith Leonard, MMSt., M.S. Ed. 
Visitor Services Coordinator
St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre
-ecomuseum model used to face rural museum challenges
-this model developed in 1970s; a dynamic way museums preserve, interpret and manage their heritage for sustainable development
-demographic is spread out over large area, mainly seniors; how to bring them in?
-community partnerships focus on tangible and intangible heritage
-Mewinzha; arose due to public need: in 2000, there was an archaeological dig around the Peace Bridge, needed to have an interpretation space tied to the site itself (also shows contemporary First Nations art)
-Fort Erie alternate sites: some people can't get all the way out to the museum, so they brought smaller interpretive displays to places such as Town Hall, the Public Library and Festivals
-built heritage/history; ruins of Erie Beach Amusement Park (closed in 1930s) has an interpretive sign
-they also bring events directly into the community eg: Fashions of 1812. This was volunteer initiated and mainly run by them as well, it was held in a church, with donated, period-appropriate snacks. Teens were recruited from local restaurants to be models (good way to bring new people in to the museum!). They also took this show on the road to Wainfleet (again, to a church) and Niagara on the Lake.

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