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SILVER OAKS COMMUNICATIONS BLOG

Technology in Museums = Magic
June 29, 2017
I’ve seen some truly disastrous uses of technology in museums — outdated intro videos clearly made in the late 80’s, push-buttons that don’t work, poorly timed motion-sensor-activated audio, and ‘out of service’ interactives. But a few years ago I saw a use of technology that absolutely blew me away. Denver Museum of Nature and Science [caption id="attachment_4939" align="aligncenter" width="504"] My mom and I at the Power of Poison exhibit.[/caption] Back in 2015, I visited the Denver Museum of Nature and Science where they were hosting a traveling exhibition, The Power of Poison. The exhibition took me on an thrilling and whimsical adventure as I learned about the role of poison in nature, human health, history, literature, and myth. The exhibit had real poison frogs, larger-than-life dioramas, and interactives that all ages could enjoy. But the Enchanted Spell Book was by far the highlight of the exhibition and was one of the most well-done uses of technology in a museum I’ve ever seen. “In nature, countless plants and animals rely on poison to survive. Poisons also have a powerful grip on the human imagination — poisoned drinks, clothes and foods appear in stories throughout the centuries. And increasingly we are learning how poisons can be powerful stories of healing.” [caption id="attachment_4940" align="aligncenter" width="470"] Watch out. This book is magical![/caption] As I approached the ancient-looking enormous book, it suddenly “came to life” — animated plants wiggled as I touched them on the page, animals hopped, animated videos began, and words appeared and disappeared as I hovered my hand over them. It. Was. Magical. As I turned the giant page (its texture reminded me of old parchment), a new set of interactive animations  just as thrilling as the last appeared. I could have played with that book for hours. And I would have, if there wasn’t a line forming behind me. Did you know? This was by far the most impressive use of technology I’ve seen in a museum so far. Not only was it fun and magical-feeling, I actually learned something! Did you know that wolfsbane isn't just a potion ingredient in Harry Potter? It's a real plant commonly called Monkshood and if eaten, it can cause a fatal heart attack! Silver Oaks Loves Technology AND Museums! At Silver Oaks, it’s my job to recognize great uses of technology in museums. We’re constantly trying to implement new, creative and engaging media like this. Well-made interactives can transport visitors through time and space — real and fantasy. The fact that I get to help people have experiences like that is incredibly rewarding. For a glimpse at the Enchanted Spell Book, here’s a digital version. Enjoy!
Silver Oaks Loves Museums!
July 10, 2017
Whales, sloths, and creepy crawlies! Whenever I'm in a museum, I like to pretend I’m Indiana Jones, Bill Nye the Science Guy (Bill! Bill! Bill!), or a wannabe Bob Ross (happy little trees!). Those guys were my heroes on TV. I always feel like I'm making them proud by learning all I can at the museums I visit. I can distinctly remember my first museum — The Natural History Museum at the University of Iowa. The complete whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling, a recreation of a Giant Ground Sloth and creepy crawly fossils from the Jurassic period frozen in time, left me curious and wanting more. Since that first encounter with the sloth, I’ve visited countless museums around the world. My love for museums motivated me to earn a bachelor's degree in history and a master’s degree in Museum Studies. I think it's so cool to work for a company that loves museums just much as I do. So to prove it, the staff at Silver Oaks shared their favorite museums with me and now I'm sharing them with you. Enjoy! [caption id="attachment_4981" align="aligncenter" width="258"] Seriously though.[/caption] Julia (that's me), Museum Services Project Manager: I’m going to rank my top three because I can’t pick just one. #1 The British Museum, London, England — Standing in front of the Rosetta Stone gave me the most goosebumps I’ve ever had. Ever. [caption id="attachment_4983" align="aligncenter" width="344"] British Museum, London, England[/caption] #2 The National WWI Museum, Kansas City, MO — The layout, media, and placement of artifacts in this museum was superior to any other museum I’ve visited. Drop everything you're doing and go there. Now. [caption id="attachment_4982" align="aligncenter" width="348"] National WWI Museum, Kansas City, MO[/caption] #3 The Choco Museum, Cusco, Peru — I went here before my hike to Machu Picchu last year and was blown away. For being a small, local museum, the staff was friendly, informative and let us taste test all kinds of Peruvian chocolate! [caption id="attachment_4984" align="aligncenter" width="205"] Choco Museum, Cusco, Peru[/caption]   Scott Kelty, Design: I'd have to say for me, since I don't get many opportunities to visit museums, it would have to be one that's on a lot of bucket lists -- the Louvre in Paris. I was very, very fortunate to get to go, and the entire building itself is a work of art. Seeing art in person is a lot different from seeing it in books or on posters or otherwise reproduced. For example: I discovered that the Mona Lisa is actually pretty small. And we saw something that not many people ever see, because it's not the most popular view of it -- the back of 'Aphrodite,' the Venus de Milo." [caption id="attachment_4985" align="aligncenter" width="192"] The back of Venus de Milo[/caption] [caption id="attachment_4986" align="aligncenter" width="341"] Ceiling in a hallway at the Louvre[/caption]   Tim Wren, Account Manager: The Denver Zoo - one word, 'BEER'. I also love Niabi Zoo in Coal Valley, Illinois, for a couple of reasons.  Growing up here, Niabi has always been special. I used to go there with my grandpa when it was just a tiny little zoo with a handful of animals. Years later, we produced all the media for their new rain forest exhibit -- pretty cool. And the National Naval Aviation Museum is another one that is special to me. My dad was in the Navy and flew on the E2. This is a great museum if you love military history like I do." Anne Kirkpatrick, Writer: "The Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida is my favorite so far. The permanent collection of Dali's oil paintings are breathtaking, and the building itself is a work of art! I don't usually gush about gift shops, but this one was super-cool and sophisticated at the same time. Of course, the Art Institute of Chicago is an all-time favorite of mine as well. The last time I was there, we saw amazing Greek and Roman artifacts. And on my latest vacation, we enjoyed the sculpture garden outside of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Walking around the gardens was a great way to spend the evening-- the Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture is a must see. The cherry stem actually sprays water in the summertime." [caption id="attachment_4993" align="aligncenter" width="359"] The Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is the centerpiece of the 11-acre park.[/caption]   [caption id="attachment_4992" align="aligncenter" width="178"] The helical staircase inside the Salvador Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, FL.[/caption]   [caption id="attachment_4994" align="aligncenter" width="374"] Outside view of the Salvador Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, FL. This large, free-form geodesic glass bubble known as the “enigma" is made up of 1,062 triangular pieces of glass.[/caption]   Grace Kocinski, Museum Services Senior Project Manager: "It's funny, cool and sad, all at the same time...because I work in the museum industry my view of museums is very different than the average museum goer. I have trouble enjoying the content for the purity of the content, but rather look at how exhibits are built, the use of technology and just simply the overall 'coolness factor.' So with all that said, I have to say that the City Museum in St. Louis is now my new 'favorite' museum simply because it defies everything I've ever defined a museum to be. As noted on their website 'the museum is an eclectic mixture of childrens' playground, fun house, surrealistic pavilion, and architectural marvel made out of unique, found objects.' Normally at museums, education through history and artifacts takes precedence, and everything is presented in a very defined, linear manner; while fun, imagination and exploration are secondary." "It was so much fun to 'be a kid'... At the City Museum everything is completely organic and undefined - there isn't even a map or directional signage. I must confess, at first this was a bit disconcerting. However, once I transitioned to embracing it, and seized the opportunity to explore, it was so much fun to just 'be a kid' and discover what hidden treasure was down the next hole, at the bottom of a slide or at the end of a tunnel. It was a weird concept to realize how much can be learned by just having the freedom to see what it's like to explore the root cavities under a tree, climb into the mouth of a whale, or feel what it's like to swirl around on a "topsy-turvy" seat. AND the 10-story slide is a MUST..... sometimes it's just good to have the opportunity for a good, long laugh! My only wish is that the City Museum was closer to me. It would be the perfect place to go after a long, stressful day or when a fresh dose of creativity is needed." Silver Oaks loves museums of all kinds As you can see, the staff at Silver Oaks loves museums of all kinds. We know that they can create powerful life-long memories. Our hope is that the creative media produced by our team helps museums to provide equally powerful life-long memories for their visitors.
To Infinity and Beyond! Exploring the Science Behind Pixar
August 8, 2018
I was three years old when Pixar released Toy Story. I was introduced to Flick from A Bug's Life when I was five. At eight, I fell in love with the big blue furry monster, Sully, from Monsters Inc. I grew up with Pixar, its adorable characters, amazing animation, and storylines that hold deep meanings that even adults can understand and appreciate. Pixar characters became my very best friends. So when I heard that Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry was hosting the exhibition, The Science Behind Pixar, I knew I had to go.  As a self-proclaimed 'museum nerd', I always try to see as much in a museum as I can in one day. But that's like trying to fit a month's worth of clothes into a weekend suitcase. This time, however, I decided to just attend the Pixar exhibit to make the most of my time -- and I'd encourage die-hard Pixar fans to do the same. Take the time to enjoy the experience without the rush to move on to the next thing! With that said, here are my Top 8 favorite parts of this exhibition: Two galleries. I'm not sure if every institution lays out this exhibition in the same manner, but MSI did it right. This exhibit has A LOT of content. By splitting the content into two separate galleries, it allows visitors to take a break before visiting the second half (especially if you really want to visit a different area of the museum). In addition, entrance to the first gallery is controlled to limit the number of visitors at one time. Photo-ops. Life-size Pixar characters? I'm in! These photo-ops fill wait time and create something fun and memorable for all ages. Interactivity. There are plenty of touchscreen interactives that allow visitors to learn what it takes to animate, add texture, manipulate lighting, and make elements like hair and grass move just right. There are also plenty of opportunities for very young children to interact with physical objects, such as building magnetic robots. Text. Highly technical concepts are presented in this exhibition -- rigging, lighting, virtual modeling, programming, and set design. And yet all of the text is presented in easy-to-understand phrases. Standing video stations with commentary by actual Pixar employees helped to fill in the gaps of information. Flow. The flow of the exhibition is 'station-based'.  That means self-standing stations are dedicated to specific concepts. This approach allows visitors to sit and learn about each element in no particular order. In addition, there are duplicate interactives at each station. Sometimes there are three separate touchscreen kiosks displaying the exact same activity, or eight hands-on magnetic robot building stations. This drastically reduces the amount of wait time at each station. Dwell time. All of the touchscreen interactives in this exhibition allow visitors to 'play the role' of an animator just enough to understand the general idea. Content can be customized within a short time frame. I would say most visitors spend 2-3 minutes at each station. ADA accessibility. I give high praises to the The Museum of Science, Boston, the creators of this exhibition, for making ADA accessibility a priority. All of the kiosks include free-standing stools that are easily moved to allow a wheelchair access. All videos are captioned. And each video station, featuring Pixar employees, have speaker audio, but also have a small phone that can be used to listen to the audio if needed. There's also an audio button that will read text aloud on each kiosk. STEM oriented. This exhibition is clearly STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) focused. The creators did an incredible job of making math and science 'cool' by relating the concepts back to the beloved characters we see on screen. The concepts are tangible. For example, visitors can see the results of complicated mathematical algorithms and geometric coding in the way blades of grass in a field or hair on someone's head behave.  Not-so-favorite parts of the exhibition: What about script writers, voice over talent, and music production? As an employee at a creative media company, I know the talent and importance of script writers and audio engineers. I would have appreciated just a slight nod to the creative minds who write scripts, produce voice over, and write the musical scores of every Pixar movie. While the exhibition was STEM focused, an acknowledgement to other creative roles would have been nice. Team-oriented interactives. I feel like there was a missed opportunity to highlight the teamwork that's necessary to pull off a large exhibition like this. There were no multi-touch tables and no group activities. It would have been a great lesson to work together to create something, just like the real team at Pixar has to do. A gap in levels of understanding. While the animated characters appeal to a very young audience, the content and messaging is very technical and caters to a more mature audience. Many kids just wanted to touch buttons, not learn about what the buttons do. No take-aways. At Silver Oaks, we're constantly trying to come up with new ways visitors can take their experiences with them. This exhibition did not provide any opportunities to email creations back home, or print anything out. [gallery columns="5" link="file" ids="5578,5576,5581,5577,5582,5583,5584,5585,5586,5587,5592,5593,5596,5597,5598" orderby="rand"] Overall... I LOVED THIS EXHIBITION!! And I realize that I'm a millennial who grew up with these characters and can recite movie scripts in their entirety by heart -- so I'm biased! But not only did I get to experience the characters and sets from my favorite movies in real life, I also learned about the technicalities of how the movies were made and how the characters came to life. All the intricacies of every single element were discussed, which added a level of appreciation to the creative minds behind these beloved films. At the beginning of the exhibition a quote from the President of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, Ed Catmull was displayed on one of the walls, that spoke to me: At Silver Oaks, we solve problems every day. And we're creative in how we solve those problems. That's what I love about working at Silver Oaks. We're creative people using creativity to solve problems.  The Science Behind Pixar is on display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago through January 6, 2019. You don't want to miss it!

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