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Youth Voices in Museum Design and Interactives

01/07/2015




Youth Voices in Museum Design and Interactives

In many history museums, the information provided becomes emotionless facts, but when you include some interactives—those activities included to experience an exhibit through tangible means—emotion is at the utmost importance. This is what happened at Levine Museum of the New South. With several interns from the Education and Exhibit Department, we were able to make the LGBTQ: Perspectives on Equality exhibit come alive.

As an intern, I thought I was supposed to do as the directors said and not ask any questions. It was a surprise to me when the exhibit directors asked me for my input pertaining to the design of the exhibit. It allowed me to chime in to the little details that made all of the difference. The interactions between the directors and I started very slowly, but after we caught the flow, it all went uphill from there.

Misunderstood

On the first day of the exhibit process, I learned everyone’s name, what everyone did at the museum, and what my job was. My assignment was to assist the installers on the set up of the exhibits, but when I asked them what I needed to do, I was told to wait until given further instructions. I felt fairly awkward because there was more planning than there was doing on the first day. I was left standing on the side looking over the shoulders of those doing the work. I felt like I was just baggage to the other people that actually knew what they were doing.  Eventually, the installers asked me about why I was there and if I had anything else to do. I had little knowledge about my specific job, but my thoughts of being a “third wheel” were dismissed when I was sent to work on a project on my own.

Interacting

My project consisted of the placement of interactive panels that allowed the audience to write one name a person calls himself or herself. The sole purpose of the interactives was to have visitors capture their own identity and think how they identified themselves and what identity meant to them. The layout had to work for people of all heights. I was quick to jump at the opportunity to show the directors what I was capable of. Even though my title was Education Intern, the duties that lie behind it are so much more than sitting at a desk answering phones. That was what I wanted the installers to see. I wanted them to see that I could not only complete the task but complete it with flying colors. Working on this project took me out of my comfort zone and required me to think past the black and white in all respects of diversity. This time of discovery gave me the chance to explore and learn about my community and about myself.

 “Facilitating/Learning Experience”:

It is amazing how one small story connects with many different stories, and in turn, they are alike in so many ways. It is also amazing how a small person like me can make a difference in the lives of others by my actions. In the exhibit, working on my interactive, I was no longer taking orders from the directors. I was now my own director, creating new visions that would make the exhibit even greater than it already was. Being a part of this exhibit, growing from the grasshopper to teacher, and figuring out “who I am,” made this experience better. In the beginning, I thought I was going to paint some walls and hold the tape measure, but in turn, I was taught a greater lesson.

This exhibit doesn’t have a limited lesson. It allows you to explore your own wonders and truly embrace who you are. Identity is not how others perceive you to be, but who YOU perceive yourself to be. This was noticeable behind the scenes during installation and up on the walls in action. Although I was working on putting the exhibit together, I learned what “my place” was. There was no special nametag that could be given to me that encompassed my greatness nor could it tell me who I was. That is my job.