Open Exhibits Blog



Collections Activity Summary – Open Exhibits Design Summit 2011

Sharing Collections

In this session, summit participants were asked to develop original user experiences that would enable museum attendees to interact with a variety of art, natural history and science collections.

Themes were selected by project advisers, and were practical examples of real exhibits from their own museums. Over the course of an hour, summit attendees engaged in an experiential process that resulted in a series of drawings, diagrams, and other tools to illustrate their ideas to the group.

This activity centered around the following exhibits: SFMOMA Art Scope, The Testimony of Hands, Lincoln at 200, Riverbluff Cave, Evolving Grasslands, and Hunters of the Sky.

Once complete, summit attendees came together to share their ideas on how to optimize the user experience of these exhibits. Most of the group presentations focused on experiences that enable people to understand connections between objects in the various collections. A variety of creative ways for users to interact with multitouch/multiuser tables were presented.

For a complete description of the activity, please see this PDF:

For example, in SFMOMA’s Art Scope exhibit dubbed “Art Soup” by presenter John Llewelyn, users would draw on the touch screen with intuitive gestures and based on the shape of the gesture, paintings would “bubble up” from the collection that shared that shape. Participants would “pour” their painting into a bowl in the middle of the screen and then a narrative would emerge that would connect all the paintings.

Despite the differences between the six exhibits, presenters unanimously focused their design around experiential teaching, and creation of practical examples of ways users can connect pieces of the collections as well as create context for individual pieces of the collections.

Sharing Collections


As shared in “The Testimony of Hands”, Jeff Heywood emphasized that documents, artifacts, and art tell stories. This information comes to life when connections are made. Direct user interaction can allow an individual to take a deeper dive into the available collection all in one place, and in many cases as part of a team of users at the table.

Integrating techniques from modern game design, multitouch table elements can also be utilized to create deeper connections among multiple users and help stimulate connections between people.

by View all posts by Carrie Williar on March 14, 2011