I have a confession to make.Â After 13 years in museum education, I have come to think of educational carts in the galleries as the Clydesdales of the field – the workhorses that are low-tech, straightforward, usually blue or made of sturdyÂ metal.Â I fully embrace them as an effectiveÂ “vehicle” to engage visitors in the galleries… but certainly did not consider themÂ a new frontier of innovation, especially in our world of iPad apps, videoconferencing, and Twitter.
Boy was I wrong.
Educators at the SmithsonianÂ recentlyÂ gathered forÂ a brown bag lunch session to explore this idea of innovation in educational carts.Â We were treated to a presentation by guest speakers Rich Faron of museum explorer and Heidi Moisan from the Chicago History Museum.Â Through a slideshow of case studies and prototypes,Â it became clear that their examplesÂ did not represent theÂ cartÂ I hadÂ come to stereotype over the years.Â Â Rather, they presented carts as an appealing, activeÂ launch pad for visitor team-building, collaboration, and a deeper engagement with exhibitions.Â And they came in all different shapes and sizes.
For example, using an oversized map of the city and 3-D markers (disguised as a cart), students trace the route of the great Chicago fire of 1871 (try makingÂ THAT exciting for a 3rd grader otherwise!).Â Other carts used oversized skyscrapers to explore the city’s iconic architecture, or ropes to measure the height of native plants on theÂ prairie.Â
In short, it wasÂ simultaneouslyÂ humbling and inspirational to think of the workhorse cart in such inventive ways.Â And, exciting to know thatÂ seasoned professionals can still have theÂ “ah ha!” moments we try to create for our audiences.Â That’s what it’s all about, right?
Affiliates, do you have any inspirational cart stories or examples to share?