The LAB: Innovating a Museum with S.I.T. (June 2012)

According the Center for the Future of Museums, many non-profit museums in this country are struggling from a broken economic model.  Attendance and memberships are declining as consumers are given more choices of how to spend their time.  To attract more, museums need to have good storytelling, stagecraft, showmanship, great imagery, and great sound.  They need to tap deep passions and emotions to create “product” that is meaningful to audiences.  Otherwise, many museums will shut down.

For this month’s LAB, let’s apply the innovation method, S.I.T, to a museum.  Students from my Innovation Tools course at the University of Cincinnati created new concepts for a local museum, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.  The students portrayed the concepts in a Dream Catalog as a way to visually tell the story. You can download the entire catalog here.

1.  LIGHTS OUT:  Quick! Hide! The Lights Out experience leads kids through an Underground Railroad “safe house” exhibit which truly places kids in the 19th century. This interactive exhibition makes them empathize what it would be like to escape to freedom. This is a two part exhibit which begins in the movie theatre and moves to a model Underground Railroad “safe house”. Did you hear those knocks at the door? Where will you hide?

  • SIT TOOL: DIVISION
  • BENEFITS
    • Heightens awareness and creates an emotional experience
    • Hands on learning experience
    • Promotion of creativity and imagination
    • Proven high information retention with interactive exhibits

FC12.  FOLLOW THE FLAME: The Midnight Decision is a day-long scavenger hunt to Freedom! The adventure leads participants’ to safe houses and historic monuments in Cincinnati. After teams register at the Freedom Center they will collect tokens at each location they visit along their way. Upon returning to the Freedom Center with all the tokens visitors will enjoy free food and admission to the museum. The weeks prior to the event crates are scattered around the city with little pieces of paper posing different questions from The Midnight Decision Story inside. Next, billboards advertising the website and follow @the Flame on Twitter are posted. Last, brightly colored flames are scattered around the city with a sign reading “Will you find freedom?”

  • SIT TOOL: SUBTRACTION
  • BENEFITS
    • Unconventional form of marketing designed to generate excitement and positive word-of-mouth, raise awareness and increase attendance
    • Portable ideas that can be taken into the community
    • Creates shareable material for social media and word-of-mouth marketing

3.  EVERYDAY HEROES WALL: Each of us plays a role in preserving freedom in our own lives and the lives of those around us. It is the everyday heroes that make the biggest impact on the world. How will you make an impact? The Everyday Heroes Wall will feature photos of freedom fighters from near and far and their inspirational biographies. Guests will be able to video themselves and tell stories of times when they have stood up for freedom. The videos will play throughout the Freedom Center; a call to action for all Freedom Center guests to become heroes.

  • SIT TOOL: TASK UNIFICATION
  • BENEFITS
    • A feeling of empowerment and a call to action for visitors
    • Interactive exhibit that educates on the mission of the Freedom Center
    • The area is also rentable space and will be an encouraging environment for potential event participants
    • Creates shareable material for social media and word-of-mouth marketing

4. REFLECTION POINTS: Take some time to reflect on your experience at the Freedom Center. This multisensory experience will allow you to reflect through an outlet that personally suits you. After entering the dimly lit, serene room; try mediating while standing on words of freedom or sitting on boxes used as sleeping quarters for restavecs in Haiti. After your reflection, write what holds you back from full freedom and drop it in the water to see the words melt away.

  • SIT TOOL: ATTRIBUTE DEPENDENCY
  • BENEFITS
    • A tactile experience that will be memorable for people once they leave the museum
    • A reflection of freedom and the core mission of the Freedom Center
    • Will be an exhibit for both children and adults

FC25.  HELPING HANDS: We could use a helping hand. Our interactive donation box begins with a brief video of how your contribution will help the Freedom Center implement it’s mission. Make a contribution to the Freedom Center and see the chain unlock as we become closer to taking courageous steps to freedom. Scan the imprint of your hand and input your name to become part of the mosaic of donors. The Helping Hands will be projected outside of our building.

  • SIT TOOL: ATTRIBUTE DEPENDENCY
  • BENEFITS
    • Helps Visitors feel as part of museum and cause by being part of exhibit
    • Raises awareness towards Freedom Center to those outside building
    • Donors are able to get something back for having made a donation
    • Visitors may be more inclined to donate