Sometimes the only way one realizes you’ve been “seeing the same old thing” is when you finally bump into a completely different, even outlandish, solution to the same problem. The City Museum in St. Louis, MO does this when it comes to children’s museums (www.citymuseum.org). The hum drum children’s museum solution has the same building blocks: train section; water works; kitchen; some manner of playground.
The City Museum breaks so many rules! For example:
- Don’t obsess if what you create will nick / bruise the participant. Many of the exhibits just may scuff the knees and elbows, but how is that different from life in general (other than needing some excellent lawyers to protect your good work)
- Don’t explain. There are many places where things are presented, like cavities that either weave their way into serpentine ceiling or basement passage ways for people to discover on their own
- Your best items are under your nose. Brilliantly, the museum staff scavenges old buildings about to be torn down for artifacts that create a rich tapestry of widgets, furnishings and exercises. For example, 2 spiral staircases that tightly wind upwards for 4 stories, sandwiching a spiral suitcase chute that looks like an Alice in Wonderland passage back to the bottom
- Non-child items may work phenomenally. You are thunderstruck by what you see, and after a moment it is so obvious why kids love the experience. Below are images of catwalks 3 stories above the ground, connecting to gutted learjets that are then interconnected by suspended bridges to each other and to a slide that takes you whizzing back down.
- Retain creative control. You’ve seen it before, be it Bramante, Michelangelo, or Jobs. One person with a vivid idea and uncompromising desire to see it come thru. In this case, it is sculptor Bob Cassilly who is fervently adding to the current work in progress.
The City Museum is a great lesson for anyone wanting to retool their view of what a fresh solution can look like. A close, analytically minded visit is among the best forms of adult education one can sign up for.