Using Passion and Fun to Revitalize Museums: Full Report from Our June 2016 Boot Camp

Museum Hack - Renegade Tours

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Museum Hack specializes in professional development that helps museum professionals better engage with visitors and showcase their amazing collections through storytelling, technology, and fun activities.  We know that the key to fostering new visitor relationships without alienating core audiences lies in the heart of every museum: its staff and stories.

As crafters of unforgettable museum experiences, we know that people come first.  Our three-day Boot Camps help museum professionals develop skills that empower them to become active facilitators of engaging experiences for visitors of all ages.  By encouraging personal passion and fun in museum spaces, we open the doors for staff to become fully invested in their institutions and connect with audiences in unique, meaningful ways.

In June, museum professionals from around the world converged on the Metropolitan Museum of Art to participate in our latest Boot Camp.  They were passionate individuals with diverse knowledge bases and experiences seeking to learn new skills on engaging audiences while exploring one of the greatest museums in the world.  Read on to find out the amazing fun they had during the June cohort of our Boot Camp.

Boot Camp participants at the Met for their kick-off meeting

Our third Boot Camp kicked off on June 10, 2016.  We welcomed twelve museum professionals from across the world to a whirlwind weekend of professional development.  Participants worked side-by-side with our VIP Guides to learn the secrets to participatory museum experiences while brainstorming how to integrate storytelling, mobile technology, and personal passion into their museum’s programs.

Start with an Outside-In Approach

Their first stop was the American Museum of Natural History.  After a quick introduction, we dived into camp by showcasing our audience experiences during a tour of this museum.  Participants became visitors first, viewing the American Museum of Natural History as outsiders and experiencing our methods in the same way that our guests do.  By starting with an “outside-in” approach, we helped these professionals refresh their view on museums and their possibilities.

Next, we split attendees into squads.  Each squad was led by one of our VIP Guides, ensuring that attendees received one-on-one interaction and the chance to develop their skills while bonding with fellow museum professionals.  These squads were given a task: by the end of the weekend, each squad was to develop and present their own Museum Hack-style tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Our VIP Guides then led attendees through our signature 5 Elements of a Hack, discussing how these elements had been used during the tour of AMNH and how the elements can be adapted to a wide range of institutions.  After a brief interlude for dinner, participants ended their first day by attending our VIP Night Tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“Seeing the different tours was great – especially after being explained how tours are structured. I enjoyed being able to put what we learned into context by guiding a beta tour.” – Lauren B.

June Boot Camp participants preparing for their beta tours

Add Storytelling, Scaffolding, and Super-Fun Games

Saturday dawned and our Boot Campers were back in action!  We led participants through workshops that delved deep into our Hack methodology, including:

  • How to structure tours with activities, pacing, and varied types of pieces to engage, and re-engage, audiences.
  • Utilizing scaffolding and language to fight “museum fatigue” and invite visitors to share their thoughts and feelings in an open and non-threatening environment.
  • Developing exploratory games and activities that give visitors fun missions, connect them with objects on display, and get them discussing their finds with each other – and through the use of technology.

After a full day of training, it was time for some fun.  Our squads were set loose to discover the secrets of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Assisted by their coaches, attendees identified, brainstormed, and created their own object hacks and activities based on their personal passions.

Ethan Angelica ready to lead Boot Camp beta tours!
This is @EthanAngelica, and he’s very excited to see his museum pro Boot Campers lead their own tours!

And Hack the Museum!

On Sunday morning, each squad was ready to show their Hack style to the world!  After a practice round of tours with fellow attendees and Museum Hack staff, participants gathered to lead public tours of the Metropolitan Museum of Art!  On a special tour of the Met, each attendee presented their object hacks and activities to a special group of our public tour beta testers.

Boot Campers recreate a famous painting during beta tours
Boot Camp beta tour in action!

Afterwards, the Hackers-in-Training gathered for feedback sessions with their squad leaders and, later, our senior staff members.  As we prepared to say goodbye, we discussed key takeaways that would allow each new Hacker to go home ready to immediately put their new skills into practice.

“Hi, Nick! I wanted to just take a brief moment to commend you and your team on an extraordinary Bootcamp in New York this past weekend! I’m still buzzing from it. Everyone on your team is so smart and fun and dedicated, every moment was amazing! I was totally wowed by the amount of thought and design sensibility that was put into every facet of the camp, the personal attention, along with the emphasis on Entertainment without losing Education. Seriously…Museum Hack is f**king awesome!!!!!!”

“Extremely thoughtful and action-packed camp! Great balance of activities, work sessions, and tour experiences. I loved that we not only learned about Museum Hack, but got to design and lead our own tours in the Museum Hack style, as well. New muscles were exercised, and I felt safe and encouraged to take risks and approach things in a new way. I loved working with a group, and appreciated the thought that went into deciding the groups, as I felt that really helped me to get the most out of the experience. And of course, Ethan is amazing! I learned so much from his ability to balance intellectual rigor with entertainment. I left with applicable tools and materials, but also experienced what it feels like to be on a Museum Hack tour, and can still remember so many facts and impressions. This made me a better programmer, as I have new thoughts about the role of fun in education that I will use to inform my programs and tours.”

– Chelsea H., Boot Camp participant

We had an amazing time hosting the June cohort of our Boot Camp!  We loved meeting museum professionals from around the world and helping advance the vision of the museum of the future as an engaging, educational, and entertaining space for all visitors. 

Best of all? We’re hosting more group Boot Camps!  Join us in in August or November 2016, or April of 2017, to upgrade your museum career.  Tickets are limited – reserve yours now:

Eventbrite - Museum Hack Boot Camps in NYC 2016 & 2017

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