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Contributing to Museums The most common way visitors participate with cultural institutions is through contribution. Visitors contribute to institutions by helping the staff test ideas or develop new projects. They contribute to each other by sharing their thoughts and creative work in public forums.
Feedback in the form of verbal and written comments during visits and in focus groups Personal objects and creative works for crowd-sourced exhibits and collection projects Opinions and stories on comment boards, during tours, and in educational programs Memories and photographs in reflective spaces on the Web Why invite visitors to share their stories and objects with the institution?
When staff members ask visitors to contribute, it signals that the cultural institution is open to and eager for participation. Unlike collaborative and co-creative projects, which often accommodate only a small number of deeply committed and pre-selected participants, contributory activities can be offered to visitors of all types without much setup or participant coaching.
These projects can function with minimal staff support; many are self-explanatory and self-maintaining. Contributory projects are also in many cases the only type of participatory experience in which visitors can seamlessly move from functioning as participants to audience and back again.
Visitors can write a comment, post it on the wall, and immediately experience the excitement of seeing how they have contributed to the institution. Contributory projects can also offer visitors incredible creative agency: Consider the Denver Community Museum, a small, temporary institution that presented short-term exhibitions sourced solely from visitor-contributed content.
For example, challenge number five, Bottled Up!
Fill a bottle with the memories of people and places from your life. Saved material can take any form — messages, objects, smells, sounds, photos — anything that shares your story.
Please decide if your bottle can be opened by visitors or if it should remain sealed. The resulting exhibition displayed twenty-nine visitor-contributed exhibits: Many participants designed their projects to be opened, allowing visitors to unfold secrets, take in smells, or discover hidden treasures.
One young contributor was so excited that he returned to the museum every few days to rearrange his display of bottled toys and encourage visitors to play with his collection.
The shows always included something that you could touch, take…or most importantly leave behind. Photo by Jaime Kopke. The Denver Community Museum was a small institution with no budget or paid staff.
By respecting visitors and their ability to contribute, Kopke was able to provide unique audience experiences in which everyone felt like a participant or potential participant.
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While few traditional institutions could be as completely contribution-driven as the Denver Community Museum, the same principle of respecting visitors and their contributions applies at even the largest institutions.
The World Beach Project website showcases beach artworks made by hundreds of participants all over the world. Three Approaches to Contributory Projects There are three basic institutional approaches to contributory projects: In these projects, the goal of contribution is to generate a body of work that is useful and meaningful.
Some necessary projects are helpful to staff because contributors generate data or research.Become an expert in drawing, learning about its history and contemporary practice and its application across a broad range of disciplines.
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