By Brian Jewell
The velvet rope is dead. Long live the interactive museum!
Although nearly every museum has some precious artifacts to preserve and exhibit, institutions around the country have found that hands-on activities fulfill their educational mandates and appeal to visitors in ways that traditional exhibits cannot. From art workshops to adventure courses and interaction with survivors of historic events, these five museums have found ways to create innovative interactive experiences for their guests.
Oklahoma City National
Memorial and Museum
Although it commemorates the site of the tragic bombing that occurred in 1995, the Oklahoma National Memorial and Museum is more than just a monument. The onsite museum tells stories of hope, courage and community that arose as a result of the bombing, and groups that visit the memorial have access to several special interactive programs there.
Groups can get a behind-the-scenes archives tour during which guides bring out artifacts that aren’t on regular display and talk about the museum’s preservation efforts. Another option is the Stories of Hope program: Groups meet with survivors of the bombing and other Oklahoma City locals linked to the event who share their first-person experiences and reflections with visitors.
Both the archive tour and the first-person program are available for groups by appointment, and each lasts approximately 45 minutes.
College Basketball Experience
Kansas City, Missouri
The National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame resides at the Sprint Center in downtown Kansas City. But instead of being accompanied by a traditional museum, the hall of fame engages visitors with the College Basketball Experience, a hands-on facility that encourages physical activity.
Fans “experience” college basketball through interactive exhibits around the center. At “Beat the Clock,” visitors attempt to make a game-winning shot. “Step to the Line” gives guests the opportunity to try to make a series of high-pressure free throws. The center’s “Slam Dunk Courts” feature basketball goals set at six different heights, allowing even diminutive players to try out razzle-dazzle, above-the-rim moves.
Numerous audiovisual kiosks complement the interactive components with commentary from college basketball players and coaches.
Worcester Art Museum
The Worcester Art Museum has a fine collection of paintings, drawings, photography and prints from around the world, as well as contemporary mosaics and sculpture. But it’s the wide menu of art workshops that make this museum a great hands-on destination for groups.
Visiting groups can combine a 30-minute docent-led tour of the museum with a 90-minute or two-hour studio session taught by staff artists at the museum. Options include opportunities to re-create an ancient Egyptian cartouche or Greek pottery, or learn to draw natural landscapes and portraits. Guests can also take contemporary sculpture and mosaic classes.
Groups must request workshops at least four weeks in advance of their visits.