Postcards from Ecsite 2018

Ecsite, the international non-profit whose name is the acronym of European Collaborative for Science, Industry and Technology Exhibitions, has been an event since its founding in the early 1990’s. Bringing together a European network of science centers and museums, its vision is to foster creativity and critical thinking in European society, encouraging citizens to engage with science. Ecsite’s history provides a fascinating glimpse into the evolution of an institution whose mission is to inspire organizations that engage people with science, not just in Europe, but also worldwide.

Our partners at Wezit attended Ecsite 2018, which was held at the Natural History Museum of Geneva, Switzerland, June 7 through 9.  Wezit’s Ségolène Valençot shared with us some vignettes of various gatherings she attended.  These are her postcards from this event.

The setting

We are still on an #Ecsite cloud mode!  This year’s conference took place in the beautiful city of Geneva, during the first days of June. Perfect weather, the air was filled with the energy and the great ambiance of 1,182 professionals from 58 countries, all gathered for three days to reinvent how we communicate, teach, learn, and think! After all…no wonder why this year’s theme was Creative collisions!

Great audience asking key questionsThe art of recontextualizing collections

Wezit attended the Recontextualizing Collections panel; the speakers presented real case scenarios on how museums and their collections can increase the contact with their audiences.

First, we listened to Maria João Fonseca, the Interim Executive Coordinator of the Natural History and Science Museum of the University of Porto, who shared with us how they made a priority to engage their visitors. Thus by creating stories within stories, museums within museums, using the documentation available in the collections. For example, by interpreting the 1930’s dreamy Portuguese poets, displays are used to showcase the Whale skeleton at the Museum of Porto Gallery.

A particular thought to the idea of museums within museums was taken by a scenography incorporating Cabinets of Curiosities dating from the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. Touching the visitors’ emotions, moving their curiosity, attracting them by using a mix of stories, as well as history and literature – the idea was to give life to objects and ultimately use them as a learning tool!

Lastly, Fonseca explained how important it is to evaluate how visitors experience and understand these museography proposals and scenographies.

Starting from more or less the same principle of the “museum within museums” idea, Beat Hächler, Director of the Swiss Alpine Museum at Bern, Switzerland, gave us his insights on  “museum intimacy”. He talked to us about dropping the permanent exhibition principle and go for a kind of mini-exhibiting units, such as pop-up schemes or event venues. Moreover, he emphasized the needs of creating unique spaces that help visitors to connect to the collections, those museum objects surprising them by finding out about things they never knew about the collection – as if the exhibit and the visitor were in a conversation and they shared their stories. Swiss Alpine Museum, Bern

Bringing visitors closer to the museum and making it more available to them by revealing the “behind the scenes” aspects of the collection and its motivations, is also a priority for Grégoire Mayer, co-director at the Musée d’Ethnographie Neuchâtel.

And if you enjoyed Shawn Levy and Chris Columbus’ film “A night in the museum”… then you will agree with Hervé Groscaree, from the Natural History Museum of Geneva,  and invite visitors to sleep and do overnight museum activities , move with visitors in the nature and feel authentic experiences in relation with the collections of the Museum!Museum d'Histoire Naturelle

Balancing Renovation

Even though it does not compare the size and magnitude of a museum, if you ever went through a home or office renovation while still living at your place, you would relate to this session and be open to learn and listen about what the speakers & participants have to share!

Every once in a while, every museum, science center – no matter their size, will eventually go through a renovation. Not only construction-wise, but also concerning the updating of their presentation techniques.

Some institutions will opt to open their doors while going through these improvements; others will temporarily close, others will make key pieces of their collection available to visitors, such is the case of the Musée Lorrain. Wezit completed tactile digital tables showcasing key pieces of their collection, while the museum’s temporary closure, and those are available online for visitors to admire until they reopen their doors.

As part of a constant search to understand the challenges museums and institutions go through, we attended the Balancing construction works and visitor satisfaction Conference at the #Ecsite2018 conference. In this cooperative gathering, speakers share their experiences, strategies and results, adaptable to smaller and to significant bigger organizations.

Speakers from centers located in Amsterdam, Belgium and Germany, pointed out in a TO DO LIST presentation general tips, ideas ranging from financial planning, visitor communication as well as content development.

The real case scenarios presented included the following museums, which were there as participants to this session:

The Jaermuseet in Norway: They mastered in getting feedback from their visitors with customizable surveys, and open-ended questionnaires.

The Jaermuseet obtained an average of 80% responses from families and teachers. The results had a satisfactory rate, which motivated the staff, and uncovers ways to improve. Moreover, surveys referring to open and recreational spaces echoed the museum’s presentation and how it is perceived by its visitors. Overall the Jaermusset focused their visitors as the best museum’s ambassadors!Balancing renovation

On the other hand, more interesting real case examples discussed were: The Eureka Science Center which has been conducting visitors analysis since the 1980’s, enabling them to have a good knowledge of what they offer in their cultural and scientific presentation.

Visitors identify the Center as a place to do family activities; furthermore, the tracking of their visitors’ behavior from the moment they buy their ticket online for the duration of the tour, and lastly the rise of the website and social media as a medium to obtain what motivates and interests their audience.

Maarten Okkersen talked to us about the Internet component in the museum sphere and the power of blogging moms that follow the museum’s latest happenings. How they can be a good pairing with these institutions, which leads to the importance of knowing the basic of SEO and the interpretation of google analytics.

Furthermore, how it can attract those that are considered visitors and non-visitors, hence, the museum becomes not only a cultural place but also perceived a place of fun and entertainment.

Finally, the Copernicus Center in Warsaw shared their views on balancing between data and intuitions.. Now you should be in route towards your institution’s customer satisfaction journey!

About Wezit and Accuware

At Accuware, we love Wezit.  Their innovation and creativity shine through in every project they touch. Since our first collaboration, supporting indoor navigation on their Ma Visite app with Accuware location technology at the Nantes Museum of Art, there has been great synergy between us.

Having Wezit share what they learn at industry-specific gatherings like Ecsite, often helps us visualize potential new applications of our technologies, to implement solutions that address their challenges.

Wezit’s people are true innovators in many creative ways, always focused on educational institutions.  At Accuware, the location technology providers, we look forward to a long term collaboration for many years to come.Wezit-Mazedia

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