Building on the work presented in Tools and Approaches for Transforming Museum Experience, Cooper Hewitt’s Interaction Lab will offer a workshop series this fall 2021 for two separate cohorts of 20 museum practitioners and leaders across visitor experience-related disciplines who are currently working on transformative museum experience projects. 

The definition of a transformative museum experience project is: a visitor-facing or audience-experience-related project that intends to create lasting change in how a museum functions and/or how museum staff do our work. 

One cohort will be made up of museum professionals working across a wide range of organizations and the other will include participants currently working at the Smithsonian. These workshops are designed to support individual projects in a group setting, and will cover four related aspects of museum experience design presented in the toolkit: 

  1. Establishing values to drive transformative projects
  2. Framing challenges and opportunities in the form of design questions
  3. Applying the “tools for doing” contained in the toolkit to each participant’s individual project
  4. Evaluating progress and defining next steps

The series will take place over two workshops across three sessions on the following dates, with timing to be finalized based on the geographical locations of the participants. Please indicate in your proposal response the timezone you will be in for the dates of the workshops that you are hoping to attend. All workshop activities will be conducted remotely via Zoom, and are open to people from all geographic locations. 

Cross-Institutional Cohort
Workshop I: October 26 and 27, 2021 – 5 hours each, including breaks  
Workshop II: December 14 – 5 hours, including breaks 

Smithsonian Only Cohort
Workshop I: October 28 and 29, 2021 – 5 hours each, including breaks  
Workshop II: December 15, 2021 – 5 hours, including breaks 

Workshop Contents

Workshop I will cover toolkit contents and provide structured time for participants to:

  • share details about their projects
  • establish values and develop design questions to drive their work
  • select tools and approaches to apply to their projects between workshops I and II 

Workshop II will reconvene participants after seven weeks to:

  • discuss application of topics from Workshop I
  • debrief on progress
  • provide support in refining their approaches moving forward
  • share insights across the group 
  • assess the value and impact of the toolkit as it relates to practical applications

It is our hope and intention for participants to be in touch between the two workshops to support each other, and we will provide structure to assist in that regard during Workshop I.

Workshop Outputs

Each participant should leave the workshop series with a tangible product that includes:

  • problem statement related to their project
  • values and design questions to plan development
  • workable plan with milestones after Workshop I
  • update and corrective actions after Workshop II

Collaborative Documentation

As part of this workshop series, each cohort will document thinking and findings together using collaborative whiteboard software, Miro. The intention is to draw from this documentation to supplement the text and appendices of the toolkit with additional insights and findings, with the permission of all participants. 

Application Process

The application process consists of the following three pieces of writing in addition to the eligibility requirements listed below. To apply please email a single text document in PDF format containing the personal statement, project summary, information on your current role, best email contact, and timezone during the workshops to CHSDM-InteractionLab@si.edu by 12:00pm ET on Friday, October 1st with subject line: TME Workshop Application. Applications received after 12pm ET and those that do not respect length limits will not be considered. We will notify all applicants no later than end of day ET on October 11th. 

Please note that the application process is the same for both cohorts and applicants will be sorted into the correct group based on information contained within. If you have questions, please send an email to CHSDM-InteractionLab@si.edu and we will respond as soon as possible. 

Personal Statement – up to 250 words 
Respond to the following prompt: Why would you like to participate in a Transforming Museum Experience cohort? How would working collaboratively benefit you and your project? 

Project summary – up to 250 words 
Describe your project succinctly, making sure to provide information on objectives, challenges, and any collaborations within your organization necessary to make the project successful. 

You can also share details like: 

  • The context for your project 
  • Your agency to make change within that context
  • How soon do you hope to initiate your project and make change? 
  • Do you have colleagues who are or could be allies in this work? 

Current role and background – up to 175 words
Share information on your current work and your professional background to ensure the selection committee has an understanding of your experience and current trajectory. 

To be eligible to apply, you must:  

  • Be employed by a museum and/or actively consulting in the museum sector throughout the duration of the workshops 
  • Bring an active project into the workshops that is in planning or currently underway 
  • Work in a visitor experience related role across one or more of the following disciplines: curatorial, education, interpretation, audience research, public programming and engagement, visitor services, exhibition design, digital, accessibility and inclusion. 
    • If your work discipline directly relates to visitor experience but is not included in the preceding list, please indicate that in your application
  • Attend all workshop sessions and be comfortable in a highly participatory setting, discussing topics that may be sensitive for you and other participants. 

Selection Criteria

Selection will be done by members of the original TME working group to create diverse cohorts who would benefit from peer learning based on alignment among needs and challenges as presented in the application. In this case, “diverse” refers to the following: area of practice, professional and lived experience (the latter as appropriate), needs and status of the individual project, and by types of museums (topic, size, location). If you hold a traditionally underrepresented identity, please include mention somewhere in your application. 

  1. Diversity of participants based on above definition
  2. What’s the stability of the project and how much could it benefit from the process?
  3. Potential for connection among participants and projects—How might participants support each other and benefit both individually and collectively?

We understand that 20 slots per cohort is a small number, and that applications will likely outstrip availability. We will, however, be conducting future workshops, and will keep in touch with those not selected this time around to ensure they are the first to know about any future endeavors. 

 

About Tools and Approaches for Transforming Museum Experience

The practical, financial, and social impacts of the coronavirus alongside a national reckoning with racial injustice has increased the urgency to address why, how, and for whom museums exist in the 21st century. For museum professionals, this pivotal question raises another: how might we transform our collective approach to designing museum experiences to better reflect the diverse communities we serve? To explore this critically important conversation, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s Interaction Lab convened a series of workshops inviting 15 museum professionals (TME working group) doing groundbreaking work across visitor experience-related roles, representing: curatorial, education, audience research, programming and public engagement, visitor services, exhibition design, digital, and accessibility.

Co-authored by the working group, the contents of this toolkit are drawn from discussions that emerged during all workshop sessions, some by design and some organically. It contains thoughts and ideas on why transforming museum experience is necessary, questions to help leaders and practitioners move toward designing transformative museum experiences, and tactics to help drive this work forward for audiences and communities, including useful tools and approaches from the co-authors’ areas of practice.

About Cooper Hewitt’s Interaction Lab 

The Interaction Lab is an embedded research and development program driving the reimagining of Cooper Hewitt’s audience experience across digital, physical, and human interactions. Since its fall 2019 launch, the Lab has injected new ideas into the museum’s work through internal workshopping and strategy, a public program series merging interactive design and museum practice, and a commissioning program that engages the design community as creative collaborators in creating the next wave of the Cooper Hewitt experience. Driving all of the Lab’s work is an ethos of transparency, radical collaboration, empathy for internal and external audiences, and cross-disciplinary thinking.

 

The Transforming Museum Experience Workshop Series is made possible by support from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.

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