March 22-25, 2006
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Sessions: Abstract

Exhibit Commons: Using the Internet for a new exhibit paradigm

Wayne LaBar, Liberty Science Center, USA

In the museum world, the age-old model of 'one-way' experience creation has remained largely unchallenged. Historically, museum staff and consultants have most often been the ones to conceive of exhibition topics, interpret the content and design the experiences that the public encounters. But today, a major shift in building exhibitions is under way – a shift that will profoundly influence not only the way institutions operate but also the reach and ultimate impact they have.

This paradigm shift exists on the Internet, and it is in cyberspace that a new wave of "museum makeovers" will come to the fore. This trend is reflected in the Exhibit Commons (, a new project led by Liberty Science Center, that explores technology-driven societal forces, and experiments with how they may influence science center/museum visits, whether guests are physically on-site or engaging from afar. Through the Web and the experiences found at Exhibit Commons, guests will be able to shape and mould actual exhibition and programmatic elements at the Science Center, expanding the definition of an interactive museum experience. Guests will not merely encounter prescribed, predetermined experiences; they will also find numerous ways to change exhibits using creative problem solving.

Looking forward, a natural offshoot of this new, participatory approach to exhibition development is that guests will also have opportunities to be involved in open community invention and creativity. This may lead to wholly new developments in the science center field. As important, for Liberty Science Center the Exhibit Commons is intended as a long-term exploration for igniting innovation and incorporating relevant world changes into the experiences we provide, as well as into our organizational culture.

Session: Participation + Personalization [Technology]

Keywords: Open Source, participation, collaboration, commons, innovation