Just north of Los Angeles sits Lancaster, CA, home to the Lancaster Museum of Art and History (MOAH).
Robert Benitez, who started as a volunteer at this museum as and slowly worked his way up the chain of command, reached out to us about giving their team some new tools to help create amazing tours, so we sent our SF crew for a rapid prototyping workshop with the Lancaster staff. The Museum Hack team had such an awesome time, that guides Kate, Casey, and Julian wanted to tell all about it.
#Goals: What was Lancaster looking to do?
Julian: Lancaster is a museum space with little-to-no permanent collection in a rotating gallery space with a turnover time of 2.5 months. They wanted us to give them tools and advice on constructing tour content and strategies that would help them engage a wider audience without having to spend too much time on prep.
Kate: They started with very detailed tour scripts with specific facts and takeaways but have moved away from that idea and more towards creating a general tour outline with room for the guide to improvise/add their own voice. They needed direction on how to incorporate the passions of the gallery guides into these stories. The past year the museum was working through a lot of changes and now have a better understanding of who their audience is but still needed help to engage them.
Casey: Since they switch out their exhibits every 2.5 months, showing that we could rapidly prototype using the 5 elements resonated with this audience a lot. Their staff just got restructured and divided into teams that focus on different parts of the museum operations, so Robert was hoping that everyone would be able to take something back and apply the workshop skills to their area of focus. Since many of the departments, like marketing, education and curation, use communication skills, we made sure to talk about storytelling and story shortening in broad terms. Some of the pieces in their current exhibition tell stories of heavy subjects like identity and representation, and their use of the “make it personal” element made those pieces much more approachable.
Kate: We had people from every single department plus a few board members, this forced people to break up their cliques and exchange ideas with new people.
Kate: They are all fairly young and a diverse group who really love their space, you can just tell. They basically want to take over the entire Antelope Valley arts scene and I think they will one day. The fact that their main museum completely changes its exhibits every 2.5 months is bonkers to me. I was trying to wrap my head around the amount of time and work that goes into keeping up with that schedule. This group really feels like the future voice of museum professionals because a lot of their art/exhibits deal with current issues that are important to our generation (race, gender, technology, opportunity, masculinity, tradition). They already had the ideas and the charm to pull off a Museum Hack style tour, now they have the tools!
Casey: The pieces that they created after only 30 min of prep time were REALLY incredible. One woman talked about how common female beard growing is as we looked at old pictures from circus shows, and really humanized this phenomenon that the art piece presented as quite alienating. Others found their own cultural background in a piece of art about mixed race identity and asked people to reflect on their own heritage and how it was represented in the painting we were looking at. I’ve been to AudDev workshops before and been really impressed with how people took all of the skills we shared with them and turned them into really cool rapid prototypes. But these folks REALLY did a great job, and several of them were basically ready for a live audience. And the art on display came alive with their interpretation and it made me think about it in a new way.
Julian: It was really interesting to work with a space with such a high turnover rate for its art. I feel like half the staff bought in before we started and the other half was won over by lunch. Lots of people said that it “was really fun” or “it was like summer camp for museum employees.”
So – How’d it go?
Kate: I had such a great time! We got so many compliments and smiles and thank yous.
Julian: They loved it! One person said it was literally a life-changing experience on how to be more sociable and engaging.
Casey: Robert was happy with the day and would recommend this kind of program to others who are considering it.
Thanks Kate, Julian, and Casey for telling us all about how f***ing awesome Lancaster MOAH is – and big thanks to the Lancaster Museum of Art and History for having us!