How To Look At Your Museum In New Ways To Redesign Guest Engagement (Corning Museum of Glass Case Study)

Carly Syms


VIP + Marketing Manager

The Corning Museum of Glass is exactly what it sounds like – an awesome museum in New York dedicated solely to the amazing world of glass! The museum is home to more than 40,000 different objects focused on glass and glassmaking dating back to ancient Egypt to modern times.

But even with this specialized focus and cool collection, staff at Corning wanted to take some time and refocus on the visitor experience and guest engagement at the museum.

They gave Museum Hack a call to see how we might be able to help boost their already amazing collections.

Part of the Museum Hack team exploring Corning's collections.
Part of the Museum Hack team exploring Corning’s collections.

Why Storytelling And Activities Will Take Your Museum’s Guest Engagement To The Next Level

Corning had two specific goals for reimagining their guest experience at the museum:

  • They wanted to learn more about weaving good storytelling into their collections.
  • They were interested in incorporating more activities into the museum experience.

Their ultimate hope? Corning’s staff wanted to take our approaches to in-gallery storytelling and activities and work them into their daily interactions with visitors at their own museum.

We set to work crafting a customized version of our Audience Engagement Workshop for the staff at Corning, and soon five of our VIP guides were on the road to upstate New York to work with the team.

We spent three days at the museum with a group of about 50 guides and docents. We split the workshop into two modules: storytelling and activities.

Using Stories To Bring Your Collections To Life

Bex discussing Diana and the Stag at our VIP Night tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Designing engaging stories is key to creating a memorable museum experience.

As part of our workshop on storytelling, we taught our 5 Elements of a Hack to Corning’s guides and docents.

The 5 Elements of a Hack is our own technique that we’ve developed over the last several years to craft engaging museum tours. We have five different tools that, when combined, create a successful “hack.” In other words, when you use these five elements, you’re well on your way to crafting an engaging and unique tour stop.

We walked the group through each element before our guides demonstrated the 5 Elements in action by presenting pieces from their own tours. Once Corning’s group had the principles down, we turned them loose on their own museum, challenging them to find an object from the familiar collections and create a tour stop for it based on our methods. Everyone had an opportunity to present their hacked piece to the group.

Participation Is Key

Smartphones and Social Media in the Museum
Embrace technology and smartphones to help boost participation and engagement.

The second half of our workshop focused on activities and guest engagement. We’re firm believers in the power of encouraging guests to actively participate in the tour and we use games, challenges, and other methods to do just that.

Our activities are designed to give guests fun missions that connect them with different objects in the collection. We ran through several of the games we use on ours tours, including why we encourage guests to use smartphones on tour. We’ve crafted a bunch of different activities that require guests to pull out their phones and snap a few pictures with the collections.

After running through our methods and strategies for game design, we helped the group at Corning develop games and activities that work best for their space. The team had an opportunity to think about their museum and collections in different ways as they crafted their activities.

Re-Imagining Your Own Museum

We had an incredible time at the Corning Museum of Glass! We loved sharing our methods of storytelling and activities with the group, and watching the team interact with their home museum in new ways.

Check out this awesome video our team put together about their time at the museum:

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