The Participatory Museum: Inspiring, Supporting, and Evaluating Visitor Participation in Cultural Institutions

In this first lecture of the Reimagining Engagement series, Nina Simon, exhibition designer and author of the Museum 2.0 blog, discusses strategies for incorporating visitor participation into the work and life of the museum.

In 2006, technologist Tim O’Reilly defined Web 2.0 as “software that gets better the more people use it.” Four years later, participatory media and information sources have become ubiquitous online, but most museums, libraries, and cultural institutions maintain traditional perspectives on authorial control and the visitors’ role as consumers, not collaborators. This lecture presents design techniques, international examples, and opportunities for Museum 2.0″”cultural institutions that incorporate user participation into their work.

What does a museum look like that “gets better the more people use it?” This mandate is not limited to the Web, nor can it be satisfied by interactive activities that engage people without allowing them to make meaningful impact on the institution. Participatory institutions don’t just invite visitors to get involved; they offer diverse, legitimate ways for visitors to contribute to creative development, research, and the ongoing improvement of public-facing content. This lecture will address techniques for designing collaborative processes whose outputs are valuable not only to participants but to staff and non-participating visitors as well. We will discuss the unique and specific value that participatory techniques can bring to cultural institutions, as well as the limitations and challenges to established practice.

Co-sponsored by the UM Museum of Art.