MA Museum Studies Students Visit DMAG

On the 17th November the latest cohort of MA Museum Studies students from Nottingham Trent University visited Derby Museum to meet with Andrea H-J and learn more about the museum’s approach to collaborative project development  and  the reimagining of the ‘Notice Nature’ gallery.

Students listen to Andrea Hadley Johnson present on the Notice Nature Project

The students experience had been broken down into a number of tasks:

  1.  Read the Human Centred Design Handbook, and the Museum Association article in advance of the visit.
  2. Listen to a talk on the Notice Nature gallery and how collaborative working was integrated.
  3. Explore the different galleries and spaces within DMAG and reflect on them.
  4. Complete a prototyping exercise to create a new interpretative tool for the nature gallery.

I was involved in the development of the student’s day, and make a number of contributions, including; recording the process of the prototyping exercise to allow it to be used again, creating a visual record of the students experience as they completed the exercise, gathering materials and setting up the space, working out how we could reflect with the participants on their experience in a fun and relevant way.

Andrea really wanted to challenge the students by taking them out their comfort zone with the prototyping. We gathered, essentially, a bunch of junk from the Derby Play and Recycling Centre, supplemented with  stationary and play-doh. The idea was to cut away the usual restrains that curb creativity, such as health and safety or space constraints, and instead respond to the materials provided and ideas presented.

Materials ready for creative hands to explore

In terms of the evaluation,  something written and questions focused was deemed inappropriate, firstly because of being away from the spirit of the event an also because the university had not asked us to do this. One thing I have recognised is that the public sector seems to be quite a way behind the private sector in measuring the value of something, using it as an opportunity to learn a lesson. I thought that as this type of experience was held a number of times a year, some kind of feedback would be useful.

Derby Museum measures interest in their activity with fun engagement

We eventually settled on a playful solution that also cleared space in the co-production office. Each student was given a collection of the mascot stickers that were used earlier in the year for voting. They were asked to apply these to a sheet under which of the 4 exercises had been the most useful part for them. We developed this idea. Each student was given some of the Notice Nature post-it notes to use for their own thoughts on the feedback sheet and badges to take away – we did lots of tweeting with them too.

Coffee and welcome packs for the Nottingham Trent MA students

Working through the discussion about the feedback was a bit hairy as it museum evaluation is an area that I don’t really know much about. I’m pleased that I stuck with it though as I think that the end solution added a great deal to the value gained and the visitor’s time on the day.

I’m currently working on the last version of the toolkit to allow staff to repeat the exercise in the future. Andrea and I are meeting to review the content next week and I’ll post a copy of the finished toolkit on my blog when it’s done.

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