Story 03: Birth of Playspace

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Written by Jeri Robinson

As I looked back over the past year, many things became quite clear. First of all, with so much confusion and indecisiveness, it was a wonder that anything was ever accomplished. It seems that decisions were hardly ever made, but just "happen" due to a lack of procedures. I have come to understand my own frustrations—as well as the frustrations of those around me—in trying to get things done. There needs to be some clarification of roles and procedures to enable a more coherent route to exhibit development. But, in talking with colleagues from other museums where there are such procedures, things don't always turn out as desired there either.

During the past year, I have learned to work with a number of new people and have also learned about limitations—my own and others. At this point in the museum's history, the whole institution is working under considerable stress that makes it doubly more difficult to sort out the issues. Are creative processes always so confusing and trouble laden? Would a real set of procedures serve as a deterrent to creativity?

I have grown through this experience. More than once I had to stop and ask myself why I continue when I feel so negative about it. In the past, I might have just quit, thinking nothing was worth such pressure and conflict. But I know to some degree I too am caught up in the dream. Ever since I came to the museum nearly six years ago the "move" had been discussed; now only a year away, I had the desire to see it through. Instead of running from the conflict I wanted to find a way to work it out, at least for myself.

Before You Were Three was the first major exhibit development I had worked on. I learned a great deal from the mistakes that were made during that process and hope with that new knowledge I am now ready to tackle the Playspace.

While working on this paper I discovered another developer at the museum was also trying to work out some of these same issues. As a result, we jointly decided to encourage the developer group as a whole to unite and make the managers more aware of the frustrations and feelings that developers have about the existing exhibit development process. It is doubtful that it will make any impact on our most recent experience, but it gives us something to work toward for the future.

I am sure these experiences have been shared in other ways by other developers, but I'm hoping these experiences and what I learned from them will enable me to work more effectively in the future.

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