This engagement was contracted through InGlobal Learning Design.
The Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan is the world’s only museum dedicated to Arab American history and culture. School field trips make up a substantial proportion of their visitors, but the permanent exhibits, which had not seen major updates since the museum opened in 2005, tended to be text-heavy and relatively static. Interactive elements that did exist were hard to use in large groups, and most were designed for older children and adults.
For this engagement I enlisted the help of Michael Fahy, a cultural anthropologist with expertise in the Middle East and North Africa, and we started with the question: How might we enhance the museum’s permanent exhibits to make them more engaging for younger visitors?
Our discovery phase involved direct observations of visitors in the exhibit spaces, meetings with the museum staff to uncover and categorize needs, and interviews with educators who had brought elementary-age classes to the museum. We collected these findings on a large board in Miro.
Based on our discovery findings, we had a persona-writing and persona-mapping session with museum staff (using techniques I learned at Menlo Innovations), resulting in a primary persona we called “Daniel”: A third-grade teacher who wishes to give his students experiences that foster empathy across cultures.
With Daniel’s needs as our guide, Michael and I developed sets of contrasting designs for exhibit elements.
We presented these to museum staff, and helped them choose and combine elements into rough prototypes that could be tested with actual children. Because the museum was closed due to the pandemic, museum staff tested the prototypes with children in their neighborhood, and recorded the children’s interactions on video to share with the whole group. Michael and I reviewed the videos with staff and gave feedback, which informed the final design for production.
As of fall, 2022, the new exhibit elements are in production. Once they are in place we will make summative observations and submit a final report.