22 May 2018 Attractions Management Handbook
 

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Attractions Management Handbook - The Maker Mindset

Feature

The Maker Mindset


Actively encouraging guests to play, experiment and create during their stay guarantees a memorable visit – and a more likely repeat visit. Jessica Eson King explains how attractions can benefit from the Maker Movement

Encouraging visitors to feel materials at MoMA’s Art Lab engages their senses © martin seck
Take-It-Apart at Maker Faire Orlando is simple to curate and provides guests of all ages with a unique experience © Roberto Gonzalez
Visitors can engage, investigate and make within the immersive walls of the Tinkering Studio at San Francisco’s Exploratorium © exploratorium
Collaborating with materials, tools and technologies is actively encouraged at the Tinkering Studio © exploratorium
To keep MoMA’s Art Lab fresh, each year there’s a new theme – Process, Movement, People, Material, Shape, Line and Colour © martin seck
To keep MoMA’s Art Lab fresh, each year there’s a new theme – Process, Movement, People, Material, Shape, Line and Colour photo: © martin seck
To keep MoMA’s Art Lab fresh, each year there’s a new theme – Process, Movement, People, Material, Shape, Line and Colour
Families discovered artworks that suggest motion and objects that actually move at Art Lab’s year-long Movement programme © martin seck
Families discovered artworks that suggest motion and objects that actually move at Art Lab’s year-long Movement programme © martin seck
Families discovered artworks that suggest motion and objects that actually move at Art Lab’s year-long Movement programme © martin seck
Guests can leave Disney with a personalised souvenir – a light sabre they made during their visit

A growing community of highly educated and creative families has been slowly unveiling itself over the past decade. They want to understand how things are made, share experiences with their loved ones and crave hands-on and DIY experiences.

These ‘makers’ are most likely visiting your attractions already – but in many cases they are bored. So, who are they? And how can you do more to embrace and enthrall them during their visits to exhibits and experiences at your attraction?

MOVING WITH THE MAKERS
The maker movement took root roughly a decade ago in San Francisco, California. Publishers of Make: Magazine sought to create a weekend event that brought their publication to life and showcased the incredible people in their community. Since this first impromptu Maker Faire was held in 2005, the maker movement has spread to include more than 150 global events in 2015; many hosted or produced by museums, art galleries and science centres, such as Maker Faire UK hosted by the Life Science Centre in Newcastle in April 2016. Event survey data show that the attendees of these events are diverse and well educated, have healthy incomes and a broad range of interests. Observational data show that makers tend to have a family focus.

At the annual Maker Faire Orlando in Florida, grandparents are everywhere and they are all showing their grandchildren how to make something incredible. The middle generation stands back in awe, with no idea that their parents have so much knowledge or that their kids are so hungry to absorb it. As the consumer-driven economies of the last 30 years drove out manufacturing and craftspersons, the art of making and of creating was removed from schools and factories and took root in garages and personal workshops. Maker Faires and the maker movement have given new life to the art of making and serve as a bridge between generations, with creative knowledge being eagerly transferred at these family focused creative events.

One of the most popular activities at Maker Faire Orlando is the experience. For visitors wondering what the guts of a computer or cell phone look like, Take-It-Apart is the opportunity of a lifetime. Using basic tools and safety equipment (screw drivers and safety goggles) guests dig into donated e-waste such as old computers, cell phones, fax machines and other outdated =tech. This activity is simple to curate and provides guests of all ages with a unique experience.

As a result of its popularity at Maker Faire Orlando, the Orlando Science Center, also in Florida, has even added it to their regular programming rotation. The science centre’s Science Live! programme of events aims to inspire curiosity and exploration and bring the science exhibitions to life, with live alligator feedings and swamp talks, as well as DinoDigs, tabletop science demonstrations, and even Digital Adventure Theater stage shows.

LET’S MAKE SOME SPACE
Grassroots Maker Faire producers are now challenged with continuing the momentum of this movement throughout their communities beyond just one annual Maker Faire – Maker Spaces are now filling that gap. Science centres, art galleries and museums have started opening maker spaces – places where guests can experiment, tinker and play, within the attraction’s own walls. For establishments with educational missions, these spaces and their hands-on activities promote various learning outcomes and can increase comprehension.

Opened in 2009, the Tinkering Studio at San Francisco’s Exploratorium is one of the premier examples of a public maker space within a museum. Tucked behind a massive toothpick sculpture, the Tinkering Studio serves primarily as a research and development (R&D) laboratory. In addition to R&D, staff work to develop maker-based projects that can be shared with both parents and educators and also offer in-house workshops for guests of all ages. Their open source model allows both in-person and virtual guests to experience the studio and the creativity flowing from it. It’s an immersive, active and creative space where museum visitors can engage, investigate and make by actively collaborating with materials, tools and technologies, as well as with visitors, educators, artists and museum staff.

Larger attractions, like Disney, have not only designed in-house maker spaces for their employees, but also guest maker spaces. Visitors to Hong Kong Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida can create their own light sabres. The eight-step process allows guests to fully customise their light sabre from the emitter through to the activation switch. Guests (young and young at heart) leave the experience having made their own souvenir unlike any other.

These types of hands on elements are essential to the maker movement and experiences channelling it – and this can pose a challenge to museums and galleries with strict “hands off” policies. To engage younger guests and provide a hands-on experience, museums like the Modern Museum of Art (MoMA) in New York have started experimenting with interactive exhibits. The Art Lab at MoMA allows guests to touch, assemble and create within a safe environment. Allowing visitors to feel materials like oil paint, tissue paper and clay in a controlled environment not only engages them but also keeps curious hands off of the prized collections. To keep Art Lab fresh, a new theme features each year – 2016 is showcasing Process, while previous years have focused on Movement, People, Material, Shape, Line and Colour.

ANIMAL MAGIC
Maker Faires also do a great job in incorporating exhibits where visitors can see chick incubators, make butter, and learn how to pickle fresh vegetables, keeping the younger generations more in touch with nature. These activities are now being broadened out even further with the growing trend for small group or one-to-one animal feeding times at zoos and aquariums, as well as close-up experiences with animals. Harnessing elements of the maker movement through “sneak peek” and hands-on activities within a zoo or aquarium is an ideal opportunity to more fully immerse guests.

FUTURE CURIOUS
Curiosity and wonder go hand-in-hand with the maker movement. When curating Maker Faire Orlando, we encourage our exhibiting makers to show failed prototypes and to talk about how their creations were made. Feeding this curiosity is an easy way for all kinds of attractions to tap into the ethos of the maker movement.

Showcasing fabrication areas by either moving them to a central location or offering behind-the-scenes tours allow guests to more deeply appreciate the exhibits at various attractions. Existing exhibits and experiences can be modified to provide glimpses inside the unknown.

Though the definition of a maker varies widely, the Maker Effect Foundation defines a maker as “parents, students, scientists, and garage tinkerers. The young and the old who all share a love for innovation, creativity and inspiring others to make something – anything – as long as it makes people happy.”

Makers and maker spaces come in all shapes, sizes and skill sets. When developing experiences at your attraction for makers and their families, the most important thing to keep in mind is that at its root, making is about creativity, innovation, inspiration and joy. This is a quartet that can easily be embedded in any experience at any attraction. ?


About the author:

 

Jessica Eson King
 

Jessica Eson King is co-founder and vice president of the Maker Effect Foundation and event producer of Maker Faire Orlando.

jessica.king@themakereffect.org
www.themakereffect.org



Originally published in Attractions Handbook 2016 issue 1

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