Saturday, February 29, 2020

A Wellcoming Power of Ten in London

Years ago, Rainey Tisdale introduced me to the concept of the power of ten, developed by the Project for Public Spaces--the idea that public places need more than one reason to be there--preferably ten!  So in a park, for instance, you might walk, birdwatch, eat, play with your dog--you get the idea. Museums have gotten better at this, but many still have a long way to go.

I was reminded vividly of that concept when I visited the Wellcome Collection a few weeks ago in London--the entire museum had loads to do--but in particular, I found the Reading Room to be one of the most welcoming (sorry, no pun intended), fascinating, friendly museum/library spaces I had visited in a very long time.

First, it's a beautiful space, so the first thing you might do would be just to enjoy the space (above, photo from the Wellcome Collection website) But what else did I see people doing?

Read--there all kinds of books on the shelves, just ready for you to dive in.

Draw your self-portrait--and share it with others.

Play board games--and another complicated game I never quite figured out!

Look at art.

Build things with giant foam blocks--with your family or with perfect strangers--and the prompt was to imagine what abstract ideas might look like in physical form.

Share a drawing of what you eat to feel better.

Join in a facilitated conversation--for all ages-- about toys that represent all of us.

Send a postcard (oh yes, postcards free for the taking)

And also, dream, chat, connect, wonder, and more.  There were things you could do by yourself, there were things you could do with people you came with, and there were things that you could do with people you'd never met.  You could learn new things, or visit books that were old-friends.  You could use your physical self;  your emotional self; your connected self.  And importantly, I don't remember one piece one piece of digital technology (although there was lots in other parts of the museum, deployed in some interesting ways).

The Reading Room felt both the most old-fashioned place and the place of the future--where we learn to deeply connect.  Thanks Wellcome Collection, for making a rainy London afternoon so memorable!