During our initial visit with the museum director (?) she mentioned the enormity of the time span represented in the natural history museum and how this was a difficult concept to represent and conceptually explain to visitors. I was interested in this idea and started to run with it.
My particular interest is in using installation and/or something to show the expansion of time as one moves through the museum. I am interested in using this method as a form of way finding — linking the geology, dinosaur, and mammal sections together as a more continuous whole than is currently represented.
I am especially interested in using light to represent this concept as light and space are an interest of mine.
[visit to museum 11/09]
When initial reviewing concepts I was asked how the museum is currently treating the concept of time so I went back to investigate.
The museum sort of is and sort of is not working with the concept of time. It is clearly laid out in an evolutionary timescale but in different ways in different sections.
In the geology section any mention of time is found within the captions or presentations.
In the dinosaur section there is a 9" timeline on every placard along with the general size of the dinosaur.
It is less than ideal to have such a period of time represented in a small area — also the most popular dinosaur isn’t even on this timeline.
In the Mammal/current section time is represented on the wall in words/numbers.
To get a small grasp on how visitors were understanding time I quickly asked a few questions to nine visitors. One elderly male (there with grand/children) two older couples visiting by themselves, a group of three young adults, and a mother / father couple there with a child. I approached each visitor as they were leaving through the geology section (so they has already been through the museum)
The most general comments were that visitors were there to look and things and take in an experience. They wanted to see the dinosaurs, learn *something* but not necessarily have an “educational” experience. More like relaxation, fun, spend time together, etc.
My opening question was whether it made sense to start at the geology section. Every group/person responded that “on an adult level” it made sense to start at geology because that is the beginning — before dinosaurs existed there was geology etc, however no one wanted to start at geology.
- One man said it “made sense but wasn’t obvious.”
- One visitor said geology should come last so they could see the dinosaurs first then see where they “came from.”
- The elderly man said the dinosaurs should come first.
- The woman with the child said the geology room was “random” and hard to navigate — it was not obvious how it tied into the dinosaurs
Only one out of the nine said he read the placards
- The group of 3 said they didn’t read the placards because it was there first time there and they wanted to “take it in”
- One older couple said similarly this was there first time there and they just wanted to look and take pictures for their grand kids
- The woman with the child said she didn’t read them because she had already been there before.
- The other older couple said it was too crowded to get to the placards so they didn’t read them.
Obviously since no one was reading the placards getting a sense of time span was not going to happen.
- One couple said they had no awareness of the time span
- One woman in the group of 3 said dates were boring (she responded as if I had asked her to do math)
- One couple was very surprised to hear the anecdote about some dinosaurs being closer to the ipad than to each other and he said they should have a “booklet about that”
Another issue I noticed going back to the museum is that there is no “real” exit. You have to sort of double back and retrace. Or as one man with two kids in a stroller said, “that’s go look at the dinosaurs again.”
- Express concept of timescale without forcing visitors to feel like they are analyzing numbers. As most expressed being there for a sense of “taking it all in” visual expression without need for placards or (much) reading
- Give flow and (perhaps) “why” to starting with geology — or at the very least provide navigation leading to dinosaurs. Also thinking about how time may be represented — further away may be more interesting (?)
- Have a consistent “feel” or at least element tying together the geology, dino, mammal eras
- An exit navigation path
- Help with bad lighting/ugly carpet situation.
[museum visit 11/13]
There were three groups of school aged children at the museum, a group of intellectual disabled adults, and a smattering of other museum visitors.
I realized pretty quickly having a gestural path is not such a good idea because those kids would RUN through the entire museum if that were the case. (Also concept of “step” gesture is limiting around ability)
I spoke for ~15 minutes to the woman in charge of monitoring the digging pit and she emphasized several times throughout how she wanted interactive activities in different parts of the museum because
- If they saw the digging early on in their tours they thought everything in the museum was“touchable” and depending on the museum etiquette they had received prior they would try to touch things they should not touch (adults spend (90% of their time trying to get kids not to touch things)
- If they went to the pit at the end after spending ~30 minutes listening they would go WILD and it would be completely chaotic.
They can only accommodate about 20 children at a time at the pit so some kids had to be turned away.
She also gave general info about the structure of tours and how many children visit
- 2–3 school groups a day until Christmas
- March (20–25 buses day, 55–60 per bus)
I also spent some time looking at children interact with the Stratosphere. Children literally thought it was an elevator. They wanted to press the buttons — one kid stood outside (assuming he doesn’t like elevators). I watched the video for about three minutes then got bored.
[refined opportunity areas]
- Not only nothing interactive for children around exhibits — there’s nothing interactive for adults. I saw two adults trying to do some of the interactive things more geared towards children.
- Can spread out concept of time through major “points” [oddball moments]
When researching “what is the oldest living thing on earth” I came across work by Rachel Sussman where she had documented the oldest living things on earth and talk about how this had changed her perception of time and made her think about deep time in a way she hadn’t previously.
After this work she also made two timelines, “A Selected History of the Space Time Continuum” which walks viewers through the start and end of the universe. I thought this was really interesting particularly the way it condensed life as only being one small part of a very large timeline.
Therefore I updated to a interactive type of abstract timeline — starting with the creation of the universe ending with the end of the earth.
Asked with what is the main takeaway and narrative to tell:
- Everything that has ever started is going to end. The earth, the dinosaurs, mammals, etc.
- It took a very long time for “us” to get here and we will be here for a relatively short amount of time.
- The universe existed without the earth and will continue without.
It is supposed to be interactive ie it will respond to movement and intensity of movement ie walking, jumping etc. Also the more movement takes place on the platform the faster the timeline moves forward.
Maybe it continuously moves whether ppl are on it or not but at a slower pace?