clandestine museum

The idea of museums that speak about what a museum is, what it means to collect, and how museums interpret the world is not a new idea. There are several out there – one, for example, is the Museum of Jurassic Technology. Here at ALCHEMY studio, we find these very thought-provoking… evoking reflections and offering inspiration about what we do as a field.

The latest is the secreted or hidden Museum.
































This experience is found in an abandoned freight elevator on Cortlandt Alley in New York City. As the museum’s web site states:

“Life exists around us, and the proof of our existence is both beautiful and absurd. Our footprint, which is often overlooked, dismissed, or ignored, is intriguing, and always worth exploring.”

In addition, there is no interpretation of the objects visible in the Museum. Rather, each object has a number code and you call a toll free number (888-763-8839), enter the object’s code, and receive information about the object.

So, here we have a fascinating example of a “hidden discovery” experience like the UNESTS we blogged about before. Imagine the impact of discovering this experience – a simple, perhaps extreme, instance of using mobile devices in a museum. Makes one wonder about trying this in a larger context.

Finally, an interesting take on bringing the museum to the neighborhood.

Today, their website says there will be a store and café this weekend. (Museum expansion!)

So, what “museum” might you create in an abandoned freight elevator? What other kinds of hidden museums would want to discover?

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Mobile Interactivity

Museum and science centers continue to explore and experiment with how to incorporate mobile devices into their experiences. One motivation is the incredible capacity of today’s modern smart phones – devices more powerful than the first computers put on a museum floor.

However, the field’s experimentation has focused primarily on the device as separate from the experiences in the exhibition environment. The devise is an add-on to the experience itself.

What if the only way to interact with an exhibit was with a mobile device?

Here at the studio we are fascinated with several experiences that were on display at the “ALSO” exhibition. “ALSO” was an exhibition created by first year students of the School of VISUAL ARTS’ MFA Products of Design program.

The first experience that caught our eye was the one named LIFT





































Here, you put your phone system in a hoist that lifts it high above the exhibit floor and then back down – capturing video the whole time. The visitor thus gets their own “bird’s eye” view of the exhibition, with this experience offering a different perspective and creating personal memories for each visitor.


The second intriguing experience was TINY.





















Here, a portable video magnifier was attached to an iPad, thus allowing visitors to explore the micro-world around them. Imagine offering a magnifier that visitors can attach to their tablet and use to explore an entire museum!

The third was WARP





















Here, visitors could use their mobile device’s camera to record an image from a two-sided kaleidoscope. This exhibit points to the idea of embedding video or image opportunities directly into an experience.

Each of these shows a different creative approach to incorporating mobile devices into museum environments.

Rather than depend on an app, look to make the phone an integral part of the exhibit “structure,” an integral part of the main experience.

The importance of structure and the message it portrays was also evident in another exhibit included, called BOOM.



















Here, using a boom microphone, you dramatically get the stories of objects. This experience harkens back to the sound bottles we discussed in an earlier post and the idea of physical metaphor.

We salute the great ideas these students presented. We look forward to seeing more!



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