Last week I hosted a workshop on museums, kids and new media together with SETUP Utrecht and the Utrecht Museums Foundation (SUM). Some of my dear friends of the Innovators Network Heritage (INE) also added their good thoughts. The challenge: How to use new media to get more young kids (0-12 years old) and their parents to the museums in Utrecht.
I know little about kids. I know even less about kids in combination with new media. The Powerhouse Museum (who else?) recently launched WaterWox, which to me looks like a great new media application for (a.o.) kids. That’s about how much I know about it, so I was happy to have 45 talented people from different backgrounds look into the issue.
During the workshop participants globally came up with 3 strategies to use new media in order to get more kids to the museum in Utrecht:
- The Continuous Exploded Museum Fun Experience
The first strategy, and I loved this one, focused on the exploded museum. The collection of a museum is scattered around the city, in the streets, in public spaces and in other museums. Things are hidden everywhere, sometimes in plain sight and sometimes on places where only kids can/will look. Mobile apps, (online) scavenger hunts and simple signage guide people from the objects they discover to the museums where they can learn more about them. This makes the city the playground and triggers curiosity in random passers-by. A website might tell you where to look and help parents design tours to walk with their kids.
- The Ubiquitous Museum Platform
The second strategy, and the most heard one, was to connect all museums online and provide one centralised platform, connected to the social networks where kids (and parents!) hang out. On this platform collections are matched, can be shared and further information about museum activities is provided. A reward system encourages kids to participate in games and activities, both online and in the museum. An RFID key-chain, bracelet or ‘coin system’ identifies kids and addresses their need to collect stuff.
The last strategy takes the previous one a step further. In a game kids can collect objects from the participating museums. Some objects are freely available, others are rare and might require the kids to use their creativity and intelligence. Players can build their own private collection and display this in their gallery. Of course all objects go with their information so the kids can learn more about them. In the physical museum kids can expose their collection by (for instance) beaming it on the walls of an empty room and invite their friends. Or maybe even get the real objects together.
Now I like a lot of the thoughts in these strategies. However I have no idea if they’ll work out. I’m happy the museums in Utrecht have promised (Yes, you have!) to try to make some of these ideas reality.
Our former minister of culture and education has commissioned seven experiments to investigate how we can get more kids to museums. I’ve been involved in the experiment that had to do with the use of new media to do so and a lot of the ideas above were in the proposals that were developed. Some of these are developed now, to see if they work, which will be an inspiration if the museums in Utrecht would like to put the above in practice.
But, as I’ve said, I know little about kids. Somehow I have the feeling there’s more we can do with new media to get kids to visit and enjoy museum. And learn from these experiences. Needless to say that if we can make kids enthusiastic about the arts, culture and heritage, they might grow up to become frequent museum visitors.
What are your thoughts? Have you done successful new media projects to get kids to museums? Or to theatre? I’d love to hear about your projects and learn from them.
All photography by Ramon Mosterd. Thanks!