Sunday, February 21, 2016

Asking Great Questions

My two weeks in Latvia flew by, filled with thoughtful, passionate engaged new colleagues, 8 different workshops, loads of conversation, plus a chance to learn about the past, present, and future of this country.

I facilitated one workshop at the National History Museum about integrating visitor voices and perspectives into museums. We talked about framing different kinds of questions and how and why visitors might be interested in responding. But then we decided to put to use in a space I had visited the day before. The museum is in temporary quarters, so it's a great time to think about ways to enhance visitor engagement when they move back into their reconstructed building. Not surprisingly, the exhibitions about Soviet times provided great food for thought. Each participant was asked to write three questions: one divergent, one convegent, and one evaluative, and place them in the exhibit. I then asked the group to become visitors, to answer questions that interested them personally.

The questions and answers provided depth, texture and complications to the narrative, as you can see from the images in this post. It was the simplest of prototypes, but helped us learn which kind of questions really attracted interest, although we also wondered what kinds of questions and answers an older generation would produce. It was a powerful reminder of the importance of prototyping and how it can extend our own learning and our own perspectives. On reflection, it seemed important to both ask and answer, to be both museum and visitor. Small written dialogues began to happen among the Post-it notes, talking about a time that remains difficult conversation. Many thanks to all my colleagues that day, who embraced experimentation and risk in the search for deeper meaning.

And Lenin, once so ever-present, so all encompassing, getting the question, "Who is this?"

My thanks also go to the Baltic-American Freedom Foundation who supported my trip here, and a planning committee that made everything work tremendously!

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