Hacking Arizona: Our Amazing Museum Adventure

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What happens when multiple museums in the same area want to work with us?  We get to go on a crazy awesome museum hacking adventure!

Museum Hack was recently approached by two separate museums – the Phoenix Art Museum as well as i.d.e.a. Museum in Mesa – to provide professional development for their staff.  We realized that not only was this an awesome opportunity to collaborate – but also a great way for us to meet with other Phoenix-area museums!  Nick Gray and Dustin Growick packed their bags for their awesome Arizona adventure.  

Nick researches flowers preferred by Hummingbirds in Arizona
Did you know: Arizona is the hummingbird capital of the United States? Nick began the trip with fun fact-finding about hummingbirds!

The Musical Instrument Museum

Nick and Dustin arrived in Phoenix prior to their engagements, looking to spend time discovering the area.  The first stop? The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, which displays musical instruments from over 200 different countries and includes some super-interactive fun.

The Musical Instrument Museum is the TripAdvisor Top 1 Museum in Arizona.  How did they become so successful?  They craft “guest experiences” that carefully meet the needs of all guests, from the moment visitors arrive to the very end.  This focus on experience includes having an oversized parking lot, investing in their “Museum Guides” with professional training, listening to all visitor feedback, and constantly seeking new ways to improve.  They also know the importance of accessibility and inclusion, from having headsets that only utilize music so that language barriers are easily crossed to creating a Brand Ambassador program that facilitates visitor feedback.

Child listening to Ivory Coast museum at Musical Instruments Museum
A young guest listens to music from the Ivory Coast at the Musical Instrument Museum.
Dustin Growick at the Musical Instruments Museum
Dustin is about to ring the gong!

Nick got a taste of the museum’s dedication to inclusivity, as he tried to break a world record for playing every instrument in one alcove in 9 seconds.  Check it out:

Nick and Dustin were blown away by the Musical Instrument Museum’s dedication to guest satisfaction, focus on utilizing data to achieve real results, and their adherence to business-world practices like Six Sigma to continuously improve their operations and guest experiences.  In fact, they had the response common to the museum’s visitors:

“The overwhelming thing we hear from people is, WOW. I had no idea this was so awesome.”

Nick & Dustin with Musical Instruments Museum staff.
Nick & Dustin with Musical Instruments Museum staff.

(Want to learn more about the Musical Instrument Museum? Be on the lookout for an upcoming interview with them on our blog! Add your email address here to get notified.)

Arizona State University Art Museum

Next, Nick and Dustin met with staff from the Arizona State University Art Museum, the “single most impressive venue for contemporary art in Arizona.” Over lunch, they played fun icebreaker games and discussed the complexities of marketing on-campus museum offerings to a dynamic student body.  The ASU staff shared with us some big wins in regards to attracting new audiences, as well as some hard learning experiences regarding outreach.

ASU Art Museum selfie with Nick and Dustin
Nick & Dustin with ASU Art Museum staff. Image courtesy Rossitza Todorova.

The staff then took them to view the ASU Art Museum.  We found so many neat objects there, including this awesome pool table:

Pool table at ASU Art Museum
[email protected] has one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen and YOU’RE ENCOURAGED TO PLAY & I DID & IT WAS AWESOME” – Dustin Growick

We had an amazing time chatting with ASU Art Museum staff and discovering the incredible collections of this university museum.  But, soon it was time to move on to our next adventure: delivering professional development at the i.d.e.a. Museum in Mesa!

i.d.e.a. Museum

i.d.e.a. Museum may seem like just another children’s museum – but it’s so much more!  Did you know it was the first children’s museum focused on art in the United States? Designed to invite audiences to explore their imaginations, the museum utilizes art, science, and technology to engage the senses and encourage creativity for both children and “the child within you.”

While i.d.e.a. Museum has amazing programming, they wanted to take things up a notch and brainstorm ways to engage new audiences as a space where visitors of all ages could realize their creative potential.  Specifically, they wanted to train their staff in Museum Hack’s unique audience engagement methods while brainstorming ways to develop a Corporate Team Building program – because what adult doesn’t want to team build in a children’s museum?

Compilation of polaroids taken at i.d.e.a. Museum

Nick and Dustin headed to Mesa to deliver our Audience Engagement Workshop to i.d.e.a. Museum staff.  We discussed the secrets to successful audience engagement for adult audiences, while developing object hacks and tour ideas for their space.

Dustin Growick holds a huge pencil
A big pencil for all those big ideas!
Dustin Growick leads speed dating game
Dustin leads staff in our Speed Dating game. Image courtesy i.d.e.a. Museum (via Twitter).

Among the ideas we discussed were our Speed Dating game and “Buy, Burn, and Endow” – a modded version of our “Buy Burn or Steal” games where we asked staff what objects in i.d.e.a. Museum’s collections they would purchase, destroy, or donate.  Finally, we trained staff in our “5 Elements of a Hack” method to craft object and space narratives that utilize storytelling and passion to successfully connect with audiences.

i.d.e.a. Museum staff in Arizona
i.d.e.a. Museum staff ready to hack their museum!
VIP backstage tour of idea Museum
“Back stage tour with @MuseumHack – feeling like a VIP. ” – i.d.e.a. Museum

By the end of the workshop, we provided i.d.e.a. Museum with new tools and ideas for successfully engaging audiences.  We also met with their board to discuss how they could develop a corporate team building program that utilized our techniques and conducted an audit of their current development tours. Throughout our consultation, we focused on how i.d.e.a. Museum could use their existing resources to improve or create engaging experiences for donors and new audiences. Check out what Sunnee, Director of i.d.e.a. Museum thought about their experience:

And they loved it!  As they stated on Twitter,

“Thank you for a great event @MuseumHack. #GoTeam”

“We have a great museum & now have a few more ideas to make it better.”

All hands in for museums!
Image courtesy i.d.e.a. Museum.

Phoenix Art Museum

Nick and Dustin’s last stop in Arizona was presenting to the staff and docents of the Phoenix Art Museum.  As the largest museum for visual art in the Southwestern United States, the Phoenix Art Museum has a massive collection of art encompassing many different regions and art forms.  They also have a large staff, who wanted to learn more about what we do and how we successfully engage audiences. 

Phoenix Art Museum also wanted to invest in their docents by adding to the toolbox of skills and strategies that they use to successfully engage audiences.  Nick and Dustin delivered an interactive presentation about Museum Hack’s methods for nearly 200 of the Phoenix Art Museum’s staff and docents.  They demonstrated tools that the docents could utilize to increase audience engagement, discussing the different ways that Museum Hack tenets could be put to work at the Phoenix Art Museum.

Nick presents to Phoenix Art Museum staff
Nick discusses our unique methods.

Nick and Dustin also got to discover the variety of collections at the Phoenix Art Museum.  Check out the awesome art they found:

Phoenix Art Museum 1
Can you find the hidden THIRD horse and rider?
Face Me Face You installation with Nick
We’re still not sure if Nick was correctly following directions or not…
Dustin found a dinosaur at Phoenix Art Museum
Our resident Dinosaur Whisperer clearly found his spirit animal.
Nick and Phoenix Art Museum staff
Nick + Kaela = Sol LeWitt samesies.
Phoenix Art Museum Nick and Dustin with Kayla
Nick, Kaela, & Dustin after a successful visit to Phoenix Art Museum.

Our presentation at the Phoenix Art Museum was a success!  Check out this great testimonial with Susan, President of the Docents, and Kaela, Director of Education:

Nick and Dustin had an amazing time during their Arizona adventure!  We can’t wait to keep working with museums around the world, discovering their incredible collections and consulting with staff to make museums more accessible, inclusive, and engaging for all audiences.

Want us to visit your museum? Contact us to discuss how we can help you rethink audience engagement, re-imagine museum spaces, and produce fun, engaging events and programs to attract and retain new audiences and donors.

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