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Museum Makers

Students create digital support materials to enhance the visitor experience at a museum.

Apps: Wixie® or Pixie®

National Air and Space Museum

Task

Artifacts in a museum are typically supported by plaques with textual information displayed near the exhibit. Some museums are providing even more detail by creating multimedia presentations that help visitors truly connect with the story the exhibit is sharing.

In this project, you will create digital plaques for museum artifacts. Your creation must provide more than merely the date and location where the item was found. Your goal is to immerse museum visitors in the time and place of the artifacts in the museum.

Engage

Museum exhibits often contain artifacts, objects from a specific time and/or place, which help tell a story. Museum curators create a brief history for each artifact and display these on plaques around the exhibit.

While all exhibits contain artifacts from a museum’s collections, many museums enhance the experience for visitors with audio tours, videos, and multimedia. However, smaller, local museums may not have the budget and/or staff to create these supplementary materials.

Educator Debbie Bohanan had her students create materials to enhance the artifacts at the Museum of Military History in Kissimmee, Florida to demonstrate their understanding and knowledge of the various artifacts on display. This also provided her students the opportunity to develop and create authentic materials that make a real difference in their communities.

Begin by taking your students on a visit to a local museum to allow them experience the “flatness” of exhibits that are not supplemented with digital enhancements. Students today are used to being surrounded by media, and an experience that doesn’t include multiple modes of presentation will be an excellent opportunity for reflecting on what made the visit interesting, or not.

Discuss as a class ideas for making the actual museum experience more interesting. How can the use of digital tools and multimedia better help the museum convey a complete experience to its visitors?

Next, share an online interactive museum experience like those of the Anne Frank House online and The Henry Ford collections. You may want to divide students into small groups to explore online materials of several museums, asking them to record and later share their thoughts.

How did these museums take advantage of technology and media tools to enhance the visitor experience and make the artifacts seem more relevant? What other options might they consider? In what ways can online resources be used as part of a physical museum tour?

Work together to create a list of guiding principles for what works and what doesn’t. Discuss how these ideas might look as digital enhancements to specific objects at the museum you are designing for.

Create

Have students work in small teams to design and develop enhanced materials for the museum. Work with staff at a local museum to choose artifacts from their collection that would benefit from additional media information and storytelling. Alternatively, you may want students to choose artifacts they are curious about or are eager to share with others.

Have each team brainstorm ideas, begin preliminary research, and outline their plan to digitally enhance their artifact. Have each team share this vision with the rest of the class for feedback and additional ideas. If the students understand the purpose of the digital enhancement and their artifact's relevance to the museum, it is much easier to design effective digital products.

If this is the first time your students have worked on a task like this, it might help to share some ideas for components to can include. If students are creating their support materials in Wixie, you could suggest including:

  1. A photograph of the object.
  2. History of the artifact, including when it was found or where it was used.
  3. Images that show how the object is/was, used.
  4. Images that reflect the events surrounding the use of the artifact.
  5. A description of the materials in the artifact.
  6. Additional information that would help bring the object to life for the visitor.

As they build their presentations, teams will also need to consider whether the digital resources will play as a self-running slide show or if the visitor will be expected to interact with the presentation.

Share

To make the materials accessible to museum visitors, post them online. The museum may be interested in hosting student content on their own website. Since Wixie projects are already online, you could build or embed files on a blog or upload them to a public folder on a file sharing site like Google Drive. If you have created videos, upload them to YouTube.

Once materials are online, students can create QR codes to post near the artifacts. Visitors can use a code reader on their phone or tablet to access the supplementary materials.

Creative students who finish early might choose to create an Aurasma channel with their presentation. Museum visitors could subscribe to the channel and see the student presentations come to life each time they scan the artifact with the Aurasma app.

Have a small team of students create materials, including QR Codes and/or Aurasma instructions, for placement around the museum for visitors. This team should be sure to test the codes and support materials in context.

Revisit the museum as a class. Have students take their mobile devices and explore the museum to see how their interactive components contribute to the overall experience.

Assessment

The final digital materials provide a fantastic performance task for research as well as informational writing. You may also be able to gauge student competency with informative and narrative writing. You can also choose to evaluate groups for teamwork, responsibility, organization, and problem solving.

Create your own rubric for free at rubric-maker.com

You will get a sense of student interest in and prior knowledge of the content after the first museum visit. Use discussion time to evaluate students’ ability to discern features of effective communication, in print and visual form.

As teams begin to research and share their plans for their digital enhancement, you can monitor for understanding and identify misconceptions.

Resources

Janet Hoskins. Biographical Objects: How Things Tell the Stories of Peoples’ Lives. ISBN: 0415920124

Dawn Raffel. The Secret Life of Objects. ISBN: 193754303X

British Museum - Online tours

The Secret Annex - The Anne Frank House online

The Henry Ford - Online Collectionss

Standards

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts

Literacy in History/Social Studies

Reading Theme

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.

Writing Theme

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.6-8.2 Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.6-8.7 Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.

NETS for Students:

1. Creativity and Innovation

Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.

2. Communication and Collaboration:

Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.

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