by Nathalie Brejaart & Brent Blockx
In March we submerged our DFF youngsters in the world of Diamonds. They visited the Diamond museum in Grobbendonk and we took them on an exclusive tour through the ‘Diamond Square Mile’. So it can be said that the youngsters now have a lot of impressions and theoretical input.
Because we want to bring participatory tools into our museum we did some inspiration visits with the DFF’ers.
The first long trip was to Eindhoven where we visited the Van Abbemuseum, a contemporary art museum. On their website, they make it appear as if they’re a ‘curious museum’ and they want to convey this to their visitors. Therefore, we went out! Unfortunately, we found little curious elements in the exhibits on display. We learned later on that the curious (participatory) elements vary strongly from exhibit to exhibit.
But a fantastic concept they do apply, is the use of ‘hosts and hostesses’. These people address the visitors and give you the feeling that you are really welcome. Although the hosts/hostesses were present in the exhibitions, it was a pity they didn’t have all the knowledge of the expositions because we truly could use some information! All in all, we want to keep this concept in mind for our pop-up museum.
As Huis van Alijn in Ghent is the Flemish example of a participatory museum, we just had to visit this museum, and so we did! We had high expectations of this museum because they are considered thé example. We didn’t discover all to many participatory tools in the exhibits. After a conversation with the public mediator and curator, it became clear that participation in the museum is focussed on one track of participation: ‘creating an exhibition together with the community’. The other track, participatory tools and designs in the exhibit itself was less developed in the current exhibit. Although there were no participatory tools available, almost 90% of the items on display came from the community (in the current exhibit fanfares and harmonies).
With DFF we want to go further and work on both tracks: creating together with the community (DFF youngsters) and creating participatory tools in the exhibit.
In April we started the difficult and crucial process of deciding on which objects we want to show, and what information we want to convey to our future visitors. Although Kavka offered us two large spaces, we think it’s necessary to define what we want to tell, otherwise it just would be too much information and objects for our visitors.
After a long day of brainstorming with our DFF youngsters, they came up with the idea of telling stories. More specifically: stories behind the scene of the diamond industry. Everyone knows what a diamond is, but only a few people know the personal stories of the people who work (or have worked) in that industry. We will illuminate a different perspective of the diamond industry and just that approach can ensure that our visitors are more connected with the objects that we’ll show. Of course, the theme ‘stories’ is very general and can be divided into several subthemes, such as: personal stories, stories from transport, myths, …and so on. In the beginning of May we will work on the substantive portion and determine which stories we want to tell.
The next step we took was thinking how we could give the visitors an enjoyable tour through our story telling pop-up museum. At the end of the following brainstorming day, this wonderful idea came up: we want to give our visitors the choice of following an individual tour based on their interest. This by providing some various profiles that are related to the theme diamonds, as: ‘the housewife and farmer on the countryside’ (a few decades ago a lot of farmers in the province of Antwerp traded their fields for the diamond trade), ‘scientists’, ‘rapper/diva’, ‘historian’ and ‘diamond merchant’. Each profile provides another story that will be told in a different way. Of course, some of the information will overlap, but that’s what we want to achieve. For example, we want to make people aware that both the rapper and the scientist, indirectly come into contact. It’s just a more playful way to make visitors aware of things.
So the individual tour based on the different profiles is one thing, but we assume that the visitor also wants to visit the museum without choosing a profile. Not everyone is interested in doing a focused tour. For this kind of visitor we want to design something like a brochure. At the front of the brochure there will be the ‘easy information’ side, but on the rear, the visitor can find the ‘hardcore information’ version. Also this is something we will develop further in May!
The following step was dividing the DFF group into three subgroups, namely: mediation, scenography and communication. Each group has been allocated a budget and will develop different innovative concepts by the end of April. We want to break with the traditional museum concept. We don’t want dull showcases, simple flyers or a sec guided tour!
Every time when one of the three groups has a meeting, Brent or myself will be present. We want to encourage our DFF’ers, indicate how they should think out of the box and how to deal with the budget they have been allocated. At the end of April, the DFF group and their concepts come together. Each subgroup will present their concept to the other DFF’ers. The most attractive and realistic concepts will be chosen and implemented.
For now we’ll continue to accompany our youngster and there concepts! By the end of May we can tell you what ideas came up and which concepts we’re going to realise.
Next blog the group communication will elaborate on the subject of social media!