Thursday, January 28, 2010

Screens-On or Hands-On? Thinking about Interactives

My last post about the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow.  There were dozens of activity stations in the museum.  Some were in special interactive areas, others were scattered throughout the galleries.  Some general observations:

Unlike some museums where there are groups of visitors hovering around computer interactives, the screen-based interactives here didn't seem to draw huge crowds.  They were interesting, but I think it was because the exhibitions as a whole were compelling and interesting--that visitors didn't default to that screen.

I was happy to see one particular interactive--this one, with the thought bubbles around the painting.  About a year ago I'd found a picture of it online and had used it in several presentations--and somehow the one picture didn't quite tell the tale.  So now I understand how it works--and although it does engage visitors, I think the bang for the buck is greater with other,  less technology heavy interactives.  Oh, and how does it work?  Using the keyboard, you type the thoughts you imagine each person in the painting is having...and then those comments appear in the thought bubbles.

There were a number of interactives in the painting galleries that seemed designed for very young children, all using some variety of building blocks.  But not just building--really looking at the painting--particularly the shapes and colors, and then placing blocks in the right places, re-creating the painting.  Great skill-building in terms of looking, understanding space and hands-on manipulations.


Three more random interactives.  Top, a spinning series of wheels that encourages thinking about color.  I liked the way words, symbols and images were all mixed-in together.   Center, a depicting a fairy tale painting, where you, in effect, walk into the painting and become the princess on the bed.  And bottom, a very simple interactive where you locate places on the map using plexiglass images.  I am increasingly seeing plexiglass overlays in activities, often with maps, and I think they're great.

And finally, one of the most effective interactives--always, no matter what!  It's simple conversation.  There was a sign here that invited people to talk about Hogmanay (New Year's) and this museum staff member and the couple were having a lively discussion about the differences between Irish and Scottish New Year's celebrations.   It struck me that this didn't really attract a crowd, but I bet that couple went home talking about the conversation.

In the center hall, there was a very busy mini-museum, for small children.  There were animal masks and feet to try on--and so exciting that one small girl left her bright red wellies behind!

What I see in all these interactives is real thought--and I'm guessing there was considerable experimentation and prototyping before the final versions debuted.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing all your impressions from the Kelvingrove. I've only been once, and didn't have a chance to see it in the way that you have.

While you were in Scotland, did you get a chance to visit the National Museums Scotland building on Chambers St in Edinburgh? (it was my third home when I lived there, after my flat and the university library) There are fewer interactives, but your picture of the girl playing with the spinny things made me think of my mom and the catapult in the NMS.

Linda said...

Love the pic of your mom--and we didn't visit the National Museums Scotland while in Edinburgh--somehow Christmas and Boxing Day meant less museum-going while we were there. Kelvingrove is definitely worth a visit if you're back. We enjoyed, in a different kind of way, the Dean Gallery in Edinburgh.