Friday, November 14, 2008

Play Power Under the Microscope

Yesterday, the Museum hosted a group of museum professionals, mostly from other children's museums, as part of a NEMA (New England Museums Association) conference session. Members of our exhibit team (the X-team) presented a session called "Putting Play First," which shared the process of developing and creating Play Power, followed by a response from a panel and the audience.

Carly & Janice kicked things off by leading participants in an exercise revisiting their childhood memories of play, then Valerie and Chris joined them to talk about the exhibit.

Janet Rice Elman, executive director of the Association of Children's Museums, moderated a panel as they shared their positive and critical responses to the exhibit. They all said that they were impressed by the beauty of the environment and its components, and also by the Play Power video, which shows children at play throughout the Museum. But some questioned the goal & effectiveness of the exhibit labels and the role adults were intended to take, and mentioned different museum & play research studies.

“You accomplished creating a space for people to play in different ways,” Suzanne Olson, executive director of the Children's Museum of Maine, told the X-team. Dr. Robin Meisner, former Providence Children's Museum exhibit developer, said the new exhibit "will help change the perception of why play is important." Responding from the audience, Neil Gordon of Boston Children's Museum said he'd like to see us "put more questions out to parents to find out what they're taking away."

All in all, a thought-provoking session that will give the X-team much to consider as they continue their evaluation of our newest exhibit. Participants also had plenty of time to play as they were thinking about our exhibit. It was fun seeing so many "big kids" in Play Power!

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