Cultivating Creativity in Kansas: A Case Study at the Dole Institute of Politics

Julia Kennedy

Marketing & Aud Dev Associate

The University of Kansas’ campus in Lawrence, is home to a handful of f***ing awesome museums.

Shhhhh…Julia & Zak checked out some other museums on KU’s campus.

On campus, you’ll find gems like the Spencer Museum of Art and the KU Natural History Museum. You’ll also find the Dole Institute of Politics, which sports its own awesome collection. Dole was the host site of the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress annual conference, so they asked us to join in on the fun and inspire the group to think about the stories they house in their own collection.

The group we worked with was pretty diverse, filled with not only Dole and other KU institutions staff, but also attendees from the conference and some Kansas Museums Association sites. Since our signature storytelling method uses a simple framework, we were able to help this diverse group all find stories in their collections that would really pop.

Dole also houses the largest stained glass American Flag!

Everyone in the group was looking forward to getting some new tools for interpreting their collections.

Many members of the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress are from libraries and archives―spaces most people don’t often think to visit, but are quickly becoming visitor hot spots. From crowdsourced collections research to adult show-and-tell, libraries and archives are upping their audience engagement game. Still, many of these places don’t do, or need to upgrade, their tours, and want to focus on storytelling as a way to make their collections relevant to their communities.

These sites are literal keepers of stories – so they have lots of material for telling great stories on tours. But what should you do if your collection is narrow in scope, like the Dole Institute? In that case, learning to loop in larger narratives is a must to give the collection even more depth and context.

Since this was a varied group, ice breakers were a must.

Julia and Zak worked with this diverse group on how to use stories as a catalyst to talk about larger ideas and how can you scaffold these stories to make a full cohesive experience for visitors. We also included information on activity design.

On our tours, we frequently use activities and games because:

  • They’re fun (duh).
  • They can be used as a learning tool to experience an idea rather than simply delivering the idea.

While we don’t traditionally think of libraries and archives as places to play, adding activities with clear outcomes helps give visitors a depth of experience that you can’t get simply by conveying a message through words.

Roll with Dole! These stories started to come to life.

So how did it go?

“Everyone loved the experience. So much great framework to experiment with.” -Audrey Coleman, Assistant Director

If your site could use an easy format to create engaging stories, give our museum consulting team a call.

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