In 2004, the USS Constitution Museum received a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to launch the Family Learning Project to explore techniques to encourage family learning in history museum exhibits. We built a prototype exhibit called A Sailor's Life for Me? to test effective, low-cost exhibit techniques that encourage family conversation.
After interviewing and observing over 2,000 families in this exhibit, we learned what worked and what needed to be changed in the future. On July 3, 2009, we celebrated the opening of the permanent exhibit All Hands on Deck: A Sailor's Life in 1812.
In All Hands on Deck, we invite families to connect with history and not just learn about it. Instead of using walls of text to tell the stories of USS Constitution’s crew, we use interactive adventures combined with images, sound, theatre, artifacts and physical and mental tests. These methods foster discoveries, spark conversations between family members, and provide for more memorable and enjoyable museum experiences.
We thought this was just going to be exhibits and stuff to read, not really for the kids, but this was fun… this was really fun!
- The Value of Prototyping: Prototyping the Recruiting Interactive
- Some Ideas Don’t Work Out: Prototyping “Pack Your Seabag”
- Visitors May Challenge You: Prototyping “Holystoning the Deck”
- A Successful Full Body Experience: Prototyping the Hammock Area
- A Free Play Space: Prototyping the Mess Area
- It’s Not as Simple as it Seems: Prototyping Try On Sailors’ Clothing
- Sometimes Observations are Enough: Prototyping the Crew Cards
- Getting It Right Takes Time: Prototyping “Sands of Time”
Want even more inspiration? Check out our collection of lessons learned from prototyping another exhibit: Old Ironsides 1812 Discovery Center.