The Other 90% in Atlanta

Thanks to Louise Shaw, Curator, Global Health Odyssey Museum, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for this guest post.

Photo credit: Jim Gathany, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

As curator of the Global Health Odyssey Museum at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] in Atlanta, I had the challenging and exciting task of designing and installing Design for the Other 90%. This traveling exhibit was curated by Cynthia Smith of the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York City, and “features more than 30 projects that reflect a growing movement among designers, engineers, and social entrepreneurs to create low-cost solutions for everyday problems,” targeting 90% of the world’s 6.5 billion people who “have little or no access to most of the products and services many of us take for granted.”

Context is everything.

As one of the world’s leading public health agencies, CDC is committed to achieving true improvements in all people’s lives, and we walk the walk. This explains why the Global Health Odyssey Museum was interested in mounting Design for the Other 90%. At CDC, we believe that poverty, whether abroad or in the U.S., is directly linked to health gaps, disproportionately affecting certain populations, as well as geographic regions. Any effort to improve global health must also holistically address issues of education; shelter; access to water, food, and technology; affordable transportation; economic opportunities; and sustainability.

So, what an opportunity Design for the Other 90% has been. We are engaging with CDC staff members who actually have been deeply involved in the issues brought up in the exhibit, as well as the evaluation and distribution of some of the design objects on display. The exhibit has also drawn tremendous interest from educational institutions such as the Georgia Institute of Technology and Savannah College of Art and Design, and from the entire Atlanta design community.

Because the original installation was mounted totally outside on the CH’s grounds, each host institution was tasked to create a new and unique design plan, and fabricate its own exhibit display elements. We had a great time figuring out how to display objects ranging from a latrine slab used in refugee camps in East Africa to a house for the homeless made by the Atlanta-based Mad Housers to treated bednets. Our entire design and fabrication team really rose to the occasion, using warehouse crates for pedestals, building floor trays to display objects such as water pumps, and even appropriating a piece of 1000-pound concrete as a base for a 12′ solar lamp post!

At the end of the day, by highlighting innovative designs meant to improve the lives of all, we have been able to acknowledge our collective responsibility for both solutions and actions. Like the previous hosts of the exhibit–the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto, Canada–we are committed to exploring issues of social change and justice that will allow the world’s populations to live the best lives possible.

To learn more about this exhibition and its travel schedule, visit it online at http://other90.cooperhewitt.org/ 
or email Cynthia Smith at SmithCynthia@si.edu.  

Our Journeys Our Stories in New York

Our Journeys at LIM Many thanks to Joshua Ruff, History Curator and Betsy Radecki, Educator, from the Long Island Museum of American Art, History and Carriages in Stony Brook, NY for this post.  This is the first of what we hope will be many! guest authored posts from Affiliates about Smithsonian experiences at their sites.

                                          The Long Island Museum is thrilled to be hosting the SITES exhibit Our Journeys/Our Stories:  Portraits of Latino Achievement, through June 8.  We opened the exhibit with a gala reception attended by guests from the Smithsonian and sponsor Ford Motor Company along with museum members and local political and social leaders.  Guests toured the exhibit, feasted on fantastic ethnic food and listened to a Uruguayan musical ensemble. 

One of the things we often try to do with traveling exhibits is to add a local dimension or theme.  In Our Journeys, we have added three Long Island Latino achievers and attempted to mirror all of the technical features of the rest of the exhibit – the same graphic design, same framing/matting – to make our section seem to fit seamlessly into the larger whole.  This can be a little more difficult than it seems at first – the colors and finish of the panels from different graphic designers are subtly different, for example – but it came out great and SITES helped us with all the translations.

Latino teacher workshopOn March 18, 40 teachers attended a staff development      workshop and brainstormed lesson plans to use both in the classroom and at the exhibit.   During the coming months the teachers will be bringing nearly 2000 students to the exhibit.  We are very excited about the May 4 free family festival, which will include Latino foods, music, stories and dance, all provided by artists and vendors from the local community. In order to promote the festival, we are partnering with a local library to make April “Hispanic Heritage Month” and are sponsoring both a morning storytelling session for children and an evening music      program for families at the library. To make it easier for visitors to get to the museum, we have arranged to provide buses from area libraries and service organizations.  The festival will also include tours of the exhibit and a chance for families to record their own journeys through videotaped interviews.

I had the pleasure of attending the opening, and was also so impressed upon meeting the many members of the Museum’s “Local Committee of Honor.” Latinos from all sectors of the community including nonprofit health organizations, foreign language teachers, businesspeople and more, celebrated with the Museum and brought the show’s message to the community at large.  Congratulations all!

If you have a Smithsonian experience you’d like to share with other Affiliates, let us know!! 

So many announcements!

Whew!  it’s hard to keep up with all the great new developments and announcements that have been advertised recently on the Affiliations list, so here are the synopses again…

TRAVELING EXHIBITIONS:

canal.jpg Building America’s Canals by the National Canal Museum (affiliate) & the Science Museum of MN
Ideal for children’s history and science museums, the interactive exhibition puts the visitor in the role of canal engineer.  1600 square feet, $6,500 per 13-week period, plus inbound shipping.  Dates available from October 2009.

Soul Soldiers Soul Soldiers: African Americans and the Vietnam Era by the Senator John Heinz History Center (affiliate)
Explores the impact of the Vietnam War on African American life and culture through  artifacts, photographs and more.  2600 square feet, $12,500 for 12-week period, plus prorated transport, medium security.  Dates available from February 2008

Artists in Studios Artists in their Studios from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art
55 framed original photographs of American artists in their studios, and approximately 20 related documents including letters & unpublished writings.  There’s a companion book, speaker list, and bibliography.  150 running feet,  $10,000 per 10-week period, prorated shipping with a AAA designated carrier, medium security.

PROGRAM OPPORTUNITIES:
SEEC  SEEC workshop, September 25-26
A two-day seminar for museum professionals, “Learning Through Objects: Museums and Young Children” at the Smithsonian, $300 for affiliates.

Holidays  Holidays on Display, lecture and booksigning by American History curator Larry Bird
Bird’s newest book traces the art and industry of holiday displays.  Dates in October, November, early December.  Cost is airfare, accommodations, and a modest per diem stipend. 


              

  

Judging exhibitions

Every quarter, educators from across the Smitsonian meet for an “exchange” of ideas around a common topic of interest. Last week I attended my first educators’ exchange, where we deconstructed the National Museum of Natural History’s Mammal Hall. We were trying out the theories of Beverly Serrell, whose new book, Judging Exhibitions: A Framework for Assessing Excellence provided parameters, criteria, and a scoring system.

NMNH's Mammal Hall Tiger in NMNH's Mammal Hall While this may sound a little formulaic (an exhibition is not an algebra problem after all), in practice of course, it is not – we discovered wildly varied responses to the same stimuli. Some of my collegues came away knowing more about the basics of being a mammal than they ever had, while others found the display somewhat too textbook-like. And so on.

It was worthwhile and enjoyable to me though, to subject an exhibition to these questions, even if we can’t agree on the results. I was forced to confront my “meaning of life” -type questions of why I go to museums in the first place, and what do I expect from them? What are my core values in spending my time this way? Ok, Museum 101. But aren’t these questions worth re-asking ourselves, and our exhibition teams, from time to time?

I do want an exhibition to challenge my thinking. Going with very simple ideas is ok, unless they are simple to a fault. I find successful interactives to be those that redirect my focus back to critical observation of objects to illuminate a point (that I could otherwise read in a book.) Low-tech (crawling under a tree trunk to see how squirrels live) is as, if not more, effective than computers and video. No, you can’t please every audience demographic. But little gestures to those outside the core target audience are significant and not difficult. Do you agree or are your values different?

My favorite comment was about majesty. To hear Smithsonian scientists talk about their work is to hear inspiration; they are professionals who truly love what they do. Translating passion into physical space is a lofty goal for which any exhibition should strive. That the Hall of Mammals achieved a level of majesty, a passionate spectacular majesty, is something on which we all could agree.

Traveling exhibitions available from the National Museum of Dentistry

The National Museum of Dentistry is pleased to announce the availability of two traveling exhibitions: The Future is Now! African Americans in Dentistry and Branches, Bristles and Batteries: Toothbrushes through Time.

The Future is Now! African Americans in Dentistry pays tribute to the extraordinary men and women who paved the way for African Americans’ success as dental professionals. With dramatic portraits, poignant memoirs and stories of individual and collective achievement, this exhibition inspires and educates visitors of every age.  The exhibition includes a moving photographic timeline of  the complex and inspiring story of individual accomplishment, educational advancement and organizational success from the 1860s through the present day; and provides a valuable new point of engagement with the youth of a host’s communities, with the potential to spark an interest in considering dentistry as a lifetime career.

The exhibition is appropriate for a wide range of museums, including institutions devoted to science, health, and history.  It is presented in partnership with the National Dental Association, and is available for a cost of $5,000 plus incoming shipping costs.  

Did you know that the first modern toothbrush was invented in the late 1700’s?  Filled with fascinating facts and fun activities for the whole family, Branches, Bristles and Batteries: Toothbrushes through Time allows children and adults to “brush up” on truths about toothbrushes while helping to develop habits that ensure good oral health. 

Targeted to elementary-age children, the exhibition includes interactives that encourage healthy eating, the importance of brushing, and an understanding of the toothbrush’s role in history.  It provides an excellent opportunity to partner with local professionals to promote dental health education outreach. 

The exhibition is appropriate for science, health and children’s museums, and is made possible by the support of United Concordia Companies, Inc.  It is available for a cost of $5,000 plus incoming shipping costs.

Educational and marketing materials, installation instructions and condition reports are included in the registration packets of both exhibitions.  To learn more about these exhibitions and for booking information, please contact Scott Swank, DDS, Curator at 410.706.8704 or sswank@dentalmuseum.umaryland.edu