Monday, July 27, 2009

Out of Order

I know it's an eternal challenge to keep interactive exhibits working, but it seemed a bit ironic that the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History was the one place I visited in Washington where I saw numerous non-working elements, with a selection of signage.

At the top of this post, your run-of-the-mill out of order sign. Below, a box with an empty hole. Not sure whether this was really something out of order or just something removed.

This one's a bit hard to see--but on the left below the case is a lever that you pull to see how something makes something easier. On the right, no lever--it presumably was there at some point, otherwise the interactive doesn't work--but where could it have gone?

Do you really care what we think when there's no paper and no pencil?

And, finally, something that really did work. This interactive encouraged you to use everyday things to create a maze for a ball to work through. These two boys were enthusiastically trying different combinations, evaluating and redoing the maze over and over. Maybe they could be put to work designing ways to fix the exhibit!

Sorry for such a negative post, Smithsonian. There were other parts of this and other Smithsonian museums that were thoughtful, engaging, and working. More posts to come.

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