Redesigning Museums for Good


A museum is more than a collection of interesting objects.

A memorial is more than a heap or marble or stone.

Each of these types of institutions exist to serve a greater purpose. Whether it’s the British Museum or a local historical society, these organizations create an experience that is meant to inspire some action on the part of those who visit them.

For many years, museums did not take direct responsibility for the conversion point between experience and action — what visitors did after they left the gift shop was their business. But today, some institutions are thinking differently about this key component of their missions, asking tough questions about how the conversion happens and seeking new tools to make sure that it does.


Earlier this year, we went to work on behalf of an institution with an undoubtable moral mandate for action: the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Rwanda, final resting place for more than 250,000 people killed in the 1994 genocide. Aegis Trust, the organization that built and operates the memorial, wanted to make sure that visitors were offered not just a strong emotional experience at the memorial site and museum, but opportunities to help stop genocide today and in the future. So we sent a team of user experience designers to Rwanda to figure it out.

With the help of the Rwandan people, they did it. In their work the team made use of an array of resources, from experts on museum design to their own personal observations at the memorial site. But they were most inspired by the young people who visited and worked at the Kigali site. In workshops and curricula, portable posters and personal stories, the next generation of Rwandans are figuring out how to convert the story of one of history’s worst genocides into hopeful action in their own lives.

Carefully observing these young people, the designers developed a model the Kigali museum — and all museums — can use to convert profound emotional experiences into action. They nicknamed it “the Inzovu Curve” after the Kinyarwanda word for “elephant,” because the arc users travel resembles an elephant’s trunk. Visitors to a memorial or museum first descend into a state of (often painful) empathy with the victims of violence whose stories they encounter.

Many institutions simply abandon them there; the Inzovu Curve instead advises them to provide additional experiences that lift visitors into a state of compassionate action. The model also identifies specific moments of reflection and transformation that will help equip all visitors to make a difference in the world.

Eventbrite: Redesigning Museums for Good

Music Credits: “Rasputin” by HEPNOVA

Lee-Sean & Michelle Do Flushing

Michelle and I headed out to hitherto terra incognita Flushing, Queens today in search of some authentic Taiwanese and Chinese food.  Armed with a printout of a New York Times what-to-eat-map, we walked over from the last stop on the 7 train to the Flushing Mall.

Above: Michelle and Mouse.

When we walked into the Flushing Mall, it looked strangely deserted (and a little run down), but we followed our noses and finally found out that all the action was in the food court.

Above: We shared some Taiwanese favorites: oyster omelette (蚵仔煎) and steamed rice cake in a bowl with pork, mushrooms and shrimp (碗粿).  I had to go off the veggie wagon when dealing with the food from the homeland! 😉

Below: A bowl of handmade beef noodle soup (手拉牛肉麵).  The noodles were thick and chewy and the beef extremely tender.  The broth was a little different from the typical Taiwanese-style beef noodle soup broth, which tends to be darker because it contains soy sauce and sometimes tomatoes.  This broth was light-gray and fragrant.  It reminded me of Vietnamese pho soup.

We also shared a scallion pancake (蔥油餅) and a cup of soy milk (not pictured).  The scallion pancake was amazingly crisp and light, but the soy milk had a strange off taste that happens when one burns the soybean pulp while making the soy milk.

I couldn’t help snapping this photo of the “Bland Houses” sign.  Funny, creepy, and definitely spot on.  Despite the savory food, Flushing was indeed very bland architecturally.

Visit to PS1 in Queens

I finished my midterm projects for Physical Computing and Intro to Computational Media on Friday, so I decided to get out and get some “culture” by attending the ArtOut with Marina Zurkow at PS1 in QueensElizabeth, who I worked with to make the Herbivores animation, has an in-depth post about the visit.  I don’t have a whole lot more to add to what she said.  I also thought the Børre Sæthre piece was incredibly immersive, especially the part with the unicorn in the partially fogged up glass and the “bathroom” installation with the gun and balls.  I can definitely identify with his boyish sense of humor and mischief.  I don’t want to give away too much, just go and see it for yourself – it’s only a few minutes from Midtown Manhattan, and admission is only $5 or $2 for students (a lot cheaper than the main branch of the MoMa which charges $20).  I found Olafur Eliassons’ Take Your Time stunningly imersive as well.  The photo doesn’t really do it justice because it can’t really capture the size of the installation nor the interactive effect of the mirror.

Lest you think that PS1 has been totally taken over by the Scandinavians, I also highly recommend the NeoHooDoo exhibit for a defiantly New World perspective.

While I was a little burned out with working with physical materials after the struggle to build the Electric Chair Bear, my trip to PS1 has injected me with a bit more inspiration and a renewed desire to work with different materials and to create works on a large scale.