Twitter Fight: Natural History vs Science

If museums had any grip on social media at all, they would be staging this type of thing on a regular basis:

  • Sean

Iconic Visitor Created Paper Structures


This company specializes in creating simple geometric forms that visitors can assemble and combine into large integrated structures. Could apply to Maker, Engineering, Art, Physics content, among others, as well as special themed events (i.e. a riff on Cardboard City). They don’t seem to be exploiting the decoration aspect of such structures, which could add richness, originality and personalization to the work. They also produce a variety of small Maker style projects i.e. individual stools or lamps, that would seem to be nearly fool proof yet satisfying activities. Hat tip to Joseph for this one.

Here’s the company:

And a post on a recent installation:

A few pics from various projects below:






You Draw it! – NYTimes interactives

NYTimes interactives has been using this technique recently, which I think is a nice, simple way to have visitors engage with data. The format is to present partial data on a graphic and then ask visitors to “draw” in the rest of the data before they see the real results. Uber simple but I think the technique promotes reflection and hypothesis by the visitor, and thus probably a greater likelihood that the results will make an impact i.e. they are proven right or surprised by the newly discovered reasons of why there were wrong. It’s also very touch-screen and dwell-time friendly.

A few examples:

ENESS – technology & art installations

Building on Mr. Toth’s find, it’s worth checking out some of the other elements in the ENESS portfolio. Investigating other firm’s work is a great way to inspire out own thinking about what’s possible. Here’s a few that caught my eye from the ENESS portfolio:

Humble Telescope

We’d probably execute this a little differently, but this idea has a lot of potential.


Light Seesaw

Love how they’ve blended physical motion with a visual / digital illustration of the motion. Poetic really. We should think of a way to us a similar technique in one of our moving elements.


LUMES Cabrini

This looks like an implementation of their OTS modules that Mr. Toth flagged. Not clear if it’s interactive, but certainly could be.


Circuit Exhibit

There have been a lot of “circuit” exhibits over the years, but I thought this version used a more simple, inexpensive, and durable prop than I’ve seen before -just simple metal bars with holes in each end… seemed to work pretty well. Visitors generate power via the hand cranks and connect power to various electrical elements via the circuit paths. This exhibit is at the Orlando Science Center but looks like it was part of a set of displays created by a 3rd party.


Lego Building

Came across 2 lego building exhibits recently, one great and one terrible, and I think they are instructive. First the great one, it’s called Legos: Towers of Tomorrow and was created by a museum in Sydney. What’s working here?

  • Clean, well lit, inviting space. Activity focus is clear
  • Nicely designed work areas-the lit center lego “pond” bins are a nice touch
  • Iconic inspiration structures build into work areas
  • Location for visitor built structures to be displayed / celebrated (center round table)
  • Nice balance in space density, plenty of room to move around but still dense enough to feel rich and active
  • Simple but effective, large scenic wall graphics
  • The fact that so much space is dedicated to this simple activity elevates it in a way that makes it feel special and focuses attention on the act of building
  • Design easily accommodates group or open general public mode
  • Gallery is probably ~ 3000 sq ft, and I’d be surprised if the furniture, graphics, and models cost more than $100,000 total. That’s $33/ sq ft. And if the models were donated, total cost might be half that



Nice TimeLapse of space in use during one day:

Here’s another version of the same idea, from the Toytopia exhibit currently at Orlando Science Center. What’s not working here:

  • Poor space planning, feels plopped down in sea of other displays, hard to focus on the activity with this space / furniture design -it feels like an afterthought.
  • Building area and prop storage occupy the same space, which is messy and uninviting
  • Inspiration elements in the display case are not very inspiring
  • No place for visitor build structures to be displayed or celebrated


The scale of these two exhibits are different, so the size comparison might be unfair, but that aside, one can imagine the concept description or SD activity narrative for these two experiences sounded very similar. The outcomes are different (I believe) because one execution shows a focus on inspiring visitors and designing an experience that caters to their aspirations and needs (and probably spend a decent amount of time polishing that idea) while the other was just phoned in -someone wrote down “open-ended Lego building activity” and that sounded good enough (visitors like to build with legos and open-ended experiences are always educationally valid, right?), but there wasn’t any respect for visitor usage or desire to inspire in the design execution, so the result is a display that’s essentially ignored, lost in a sea of other mediocre displays that don’t hold anyone’s interest for very long. – Sean