AAM 2012 Final Thoughts



So the AAM conference has come and gone. The museums, science center, and cultural organizations of Minneapolis and St. Paul were gracious and wonderful hosts. Now that the dust has settled and we have recovered from the last of the all night parties, here are some observations in no particular order.

-          Walker Art Center with its Open Field Initiative – Awesome! Where else can I get a hula hoop and give it whirl at a moment’s notice on a sea of grass. A model for community engagement.

-          Art in science centers – a growing trend. And this is not just science based art but that certainly will be its major theme. Juried show opening at the NYSci upcoming

-          National Association for Museum Exhibition (N.A.M.E.) threw a great party at the Foshay Tower. Beautiful art deco space at the top and the most hidden with interesting museum at the top of the tower. Minneapolis style Empire State Building observation deck at the very top.

“Science centers are often scared to say what we must do concerning issues facing our planet, artists and art have no fear.”

-          Generational discussion continued at the conference it still feels that there are some tensions between Generation X and “grey beards” in the museum field or perhaps just miscommunication.

-          Speaking of generations it was great to see all of the students who came to the show. It’s nice to see that working in the museum field is of interest to so many.

-          The game experience theme is another experience thread weaving itself through a variety of medium. It may be a key way portables are used in museums. Shout out to Minnesota’s Historical Society’s “Reinventing the Field Trip for the 21st Century.”

-         The above  great quote (from hastily written notes) from Walter Staveloz of ASTC



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It may seem ironic that a firm whose roots are in the world of science and technology took the name of a field of inquiry that has been called “pseudoscience.” For us, the reason for choosing the name “ALCHEMY studio” lies in the parallel nature between the inquiry process of alchemists and the process and outcomes of planning and designing museum, science centers, experiences and media.

The field of alchemy was a complex, multicultural and integrated way of thinking and exploring our world. It included developing experimental processes and was a proto-science for the fields of chemistry and metallurgy. Meanwhile, alchemy also undertook seeing its examination of the physical world hand in hand with improving one’s spiritual self and seeking self-improvement. Of course, the most familiar “magical” aspects of alchemy are the practitioners who searched for the ability to transmute common metals into gold and silver, and the quest for an elixir of life that bestows immortality and youth. When one looks back at alchemy’s heights, it marked a special time (and perhaps the last time) when mythology, science, technology and spiritual worlds merged.

Upon reflection of the what, why and how of what ALCHEMY studio does, the work of alchemists definitely resonated.

Our work is often but not always focuses on science and technology, and it certainly covers technical and experimental aspects. An even stronger similarity is that, increasingly, the projects we work on reflect institutions’ growing desire to examine and explore humanity’s relationship with the world, the cosmos, and society, including the many forces of science technology and culture that affect our lives. In addition, an important aspect of our work is the spirit of learning and improvement we and our clients manifest together

Of course, most striking is that all work related to developing and designing experiences is aimed toward producing something magical, something that connects emotion and content. In practice, we are taking various “common” elements – lighting, displays, media, interaction and the visitors themselves – and transmuting them into something extraordinary, something that often makes us young at heart. ALCHEMY studio embraces the idea that we are alchemists. Perhaps you are an alchemist, too?

Posted in: Alchemy Today

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