Museums and Culture in Everyday Life

This was an exploration of thinking about the role of museums and cultural production in the context of people’s everyday life. Initial research consisted of trips to several of the city’s museums to observe and absorb clues about their functioning as a cultural institution. Then, interviews were carried out with four participants to probe further and collect insights about the role of the museum in their lives.

Some initial findings and patterns we noticed based on our own observations and from participant’s perceptions were:

1. “Culture” seems to be regarded in two different ways: as a noun or a verb. The former implies that, on the one hand, culture is considered to be a fixed and static category such as an art object. Thus the word culture is associated with things that are easily identifiable and communicable. On the other hand, culture is taken to be a verb when one thinks about cultural activities such as moviegoing. These activities follow trends, change over time and are sometimes harder to define. Here culture is what one does. There seems to be a conflict between these two ways of thinking about culture, even within the same person, with the result being that the individual seems to feel conflicted about their level of “cultural” literacy.

2. Museums are seen as an elite institution and the communication is perceived to be predominantly unidirectional: from museum to patron.

From this we derived three key insights:

1.There is a gap between the visitor’s perception of what the museum should and could be and what the museum is or provides.

2. Communication is usually one way and predominantly visual.

3. People can have different roles depending on visit, context and company.

Keeping the above in mind, we framed the following design challenges focused on one particular aspect of each insight:

1. How might we make visitors more comfortable with the content of the Design Museum if the visitor is not a design expert?

2. How might we make the museum going experience more of a dialogue between the visitor and museum by taking physicality of the interaction into account?

3. How might we enable the role of the facilitator when going with other people?

With these design challenges in mind we brainstormed and short-listed three basic concepts. These would be the base of co creation sessions and receive feedback to further develop and specify the concepts.

Concepts (with working titles):

Enable visitors with a personalised system of exploring the museum by providing a more customised experience.

Encourage an engagement with the content and context of cultural objects that might lead to unexpected connections and juxtapositions with other objects within the museum or across museums in the city.

Mona Lisa Needs a Moustache
Encourage and enable dialogue between visitors and content as well as between visitor and visitor anonymously and implicitly.

Following this, we embarked on a period of co-creation with our participants and took our concepts back to them with “just enough” prototyping of props to stimulate further conversation and concept development.

For more information please visit our slideshow.