Why it is Important
Presenting content through kinesthetic, audible, tactile, logical, and other formats creates multiple entry points of engagement for all users. Leveraging different learning styles within a family group creates an experience that engages everyone.
Put it into Practice
Combining modes of engagement and sensory experiences enhances written and verbal content. A layered and immersive approach to design appeals to different types of learners.
Combine Modes of Interpretation
The richest experiences combine many different modes of interpretation. This combination ensures that different learners in a multigenerational family group find an activity or content that appeals to them.
The All Hands on Deck exhibit at the USS Constitution Museum has intentionally designed multi-modal stations with multiple entry points. These stations display content through a combination of text, artifacts, graphics, images, and hands-on interactives at each station.
One section tells the story of a sailor flogged aboard ship. Initially, the area included a reproduction cat o’ nine tails (or whip), a full-sized cutout of a sailor, a speech bubble telling his story, and a period quote. In observations, few visitors stopped. We added a small illustration of a sailor being flogged while his shipmates watched. After this change, visitors did stop and commented on this content in exit interviews. Visitors needed a way into the story, and the illustration provided context and an added mode of interpretation.
Involve the Senses
An exhibit is more likely to be effective if a variety of exhibit techniques address a range of senses. Smelling the pine tar in the ship’s rigging or the salted cod packed into barrels creates a more vivid experience than simply reading about life at sea. When visitors climb in a hammock or get on their knees and scrub the deck, it is a full-body tactile experience. These activities elicit the most comments in exit interviews at the USS Constitution Museum, and are the elements most frequently recalled by families, even years after a visit.
Action Can Speak Louder than Words
One of the most important themes for our All Hands on Deck exhibit is teamwork. There is no text panel that explicitly calls out this theme, yet in exit interviews, visitors continually brought it up. How were they learning this? Through the exhibit’s multi-modal yard activity. It requires visitors to stand on a footrope and work together to let out or furl a sail. The content is delivered in multiple modes: a kinesthetic, hands-on experience supported by instructional text, images, and a projected video of sailors working together.