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Re: Important, please read -- RE: exhibit planning

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  • john_apw
    Periodically I get to sit down and read through 3 or 4 months of MARCH digests. This weekend I tried to catch up, and almost made it. I rarely post because I
    Message 1 of 6 , Jun 30, 2008
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      Periodically I get to sit down and read through 3 or 4 months of
      MARCH digests. This weekend I tried to catch up, and almost made it.
      I rarely post because I can't keep up with the responses in the
      digest in a timely manner, and because I hardly have anything useful
      to contribute.

      But in this thread, I see that there are diverse points of view that
      are trying to be expressed, and perhaps, with my background in
      technical writing, I may be of some assistance.

      Might I suggest a 3-level approach to display information?

      The first level is very low, like assembler: Create a display board
      that describes just the unit. Give such details as the date of
      introduction (a rough date would be OK), the CPU type, the clock
      speed, the size of RAM, the I/O interfaces, etc. I like seeing the
      initial MSRP that the unit sold for, or peripherals/options that were
      offered. Perhaps a sentence or two about significant features of this
      machine, but nothing really detailed.

      This one display board would stay with the machine. Whenever you put
      machines out for viewing, the machine's basic data would be right
      there. This display board would be the machine's "Tech Detail" board
      or "Basic Facts" board (or whatever you'd want to call it).

      Standardizing the basic information would enable visitors to quickly
      and easily compare details, maybe even ask WHY about the differences.


      The second level would be at a "higher level". This would be
      information about that machine, but it would be presented in context
      of a particualr "theme". It would be more of the history and
      significance of that machine IN THAT STORY LINE.

      Therefore, each machine would have aditional display boards, "Theme"
      boards, for each storyline that it fits into.


      The third level would be the display boards and banners that would
      present the overall "story line" appropriate for that particular
      display.

      MARCH could develop an inventory of "themes" on a handful of story
      lines that you love to tell.

      Whenever you set up a display, you'd set up the overall theme boards
      for the whole story line, then for each machine, it's own "Theme"
      and "Basics" boards.


      Some school or group wants a temporary exhibit? Would take little
      thought to pick a storyline appropriate for them, grab the overall
      boards for that theme, then pick the machines, take each machine's
      corresponding Theme board, and its "Basics" board. Instant road show!

      This would give MARCH an inventory of stories, and bring coherence
      into a unified display.

      Has nothing to do with graphics and flowers. Just good organization
      and forethought.


      Contact me offline for further discussion, as I may not be reading
      digests again for a few weeks... (No, this is not "hit and run"; I
      really have a business to run, and my involvement with MARCH unfairly
      gets lower priority.)

      -John M.
      Montclair, NJ



      --- In midatlanticretro@yahoogroups.com, "Evan Koblentz" <evan@...>
      wrote:
      >
      > Contrary to Bryan's advice, I am sending another late-night (early-
      morning?)
      > reply...
      >
      > >>> heading to the lame type of exhibit that I have always feared:
      a room
      > ringed with computers and no story to tie it all together. Such an
      exhibit
      > might be interesting to people like us who already know (or think
      we know)
      > the history of the computer industry but will bore the typical
      visitor who
      > will decide that "there was nothing to see" and never come back.
      Our museum
      > should tell a story with the individual pieces of the story
      changing over
      > time
      >
      > Jim's concerns are extremely important. I agree that nobody wants
      a room
      > full of computers and nothing else.
      >
      > But, I think we should err on the side of "more" rather than fewer
      artifacts
      > per exhibit.
      >
      > Anyone who is artistic or design-oriented would disagree. And I
      would agree
      > with the disagree-ers, if our museum were a professional entity.
      But I
      > think we should embrace, not fear, our grassroots status. For
      example, in
      > the micros exhibit, then we should be as inclusive as possible, as
      long as
      > it's not fluffy, i.e. not packed with less important systems like 14
      > different varieties of Mac, the Commodore Plus 4, and all the other
      > secondary versions of common systems. Looking at our list of 30 (or
      > whatever), I think we are succeeding at avoiding those. And I
      think that
      > most micros can be displayed just fine in a few feet of table
      space. We
      > don't need a boatload of "white space" and fancy-schmancy
      exhibits. This
      > exhibit should have one of all the systems that our mainstream
      visitors
      > would expect to see and simple posters explaining why each one is
      important.
      > I think THAT will impress our public visitors. The story to tie it
      all
      > together is that we'll remind (or teach for those who never knew)
      about the
      > amazing variety of micros from the pre-modern era. So in summary,
      I just
      > want to assure everyone that an exhibit with large quantity does not
      > necessarily lead to poor quality. We're not trying to tell the
      history of
      > the industry (I agree that would bore most people); we're telling
      the
      > history of their own experiences or the experiences of their
      parents.
      > However this gives me an idea: I'm going to make a new poster
      template for
      > which we fill in details like the make, model, year, etc., but most
      > important there will be a "Significance" section.
      >
      > >>> you want to tell the story of the development of the
      microcomputer
      > industry
      >
      > Not really. For now, we only want to show "what was". Someday
      when we get
      > space in the much larger H-buildings, then we can try telling
      bigger stories
      > like that. But for now we should start with the K.I.S.S. method.
      >
      > >>> Is this a generation issue?
      >
      > No. (But this is a good spot to remind people of a long-ago
      suggestion --
      > we can reserve some exhibit space for MARCHins' individual ideas.
      For
      > example, Jim, suppose you really want to tell a thorough story
      about the
      > importance and meaning of the Xerox 860. We can make a whole
      exhibit about
      > that. This section and also the "Best of the Rest of MARCH"
      exhibit are the
      > ideal places to rotate artifacts in and out.
      >
      > >>> each exhibit of a machine should _thoroughly_ explain why a
      particular
      > machine is significant. What did it do first or better? How did is
      earn it's
      > place in history? Telling the story of each machine will require a
      > significant investment in signage - big signs that people can read
      while
      > standing a few feet from the machine. Such signs, plus the space to
      display
      > related software, manuals, accessories, etc. will require at least
      double
      > the space Evan calculated. IOW, on a realistic basis, the large
      room can
      > support less than half of the machines you have been discussing
      >
      > I firmly disagree. There is no reason our exhibits and signage
      can't be
      > concise but still compelling. As explained above, I have no
      interest in
      > huge signs to impress museum professionals and graphic artists.
      Instead
      > let's be practical. Cover all the bases of important artifacts, be
      > efficient, get the message across, move on.
      >
      > >>> It's better to do a few exhibits _WELL_ than to just show a
      bunch of
      > hardware on shelves.
      >
      > Somewhere in the middle.
      >
      > >>> Anybody can plop machines on a table and call it a museum.
      >
      > Nobody said we're doing that. We're talking about specific
      machines, chosen
      > democratically and for good reasons, with an abundance of useful
      signs, all
      > to fit a theme. Similarly, as everyone here knows, when we explain
      VCF
      > exhibits to newbies, we always tell them "DO have a solid theme;
      DON'T just
      > plop all your shit on a table and call it an exhibit." So I think
      of the
      > micros exhibit as just a very large VCF-style exhibit -- the theme
      is "The
      > most significant 70s/80s micros and why".
      >
      > I do concede that 30 may be a bit much :) but < sarcasm on> I
      also have no
      > intention of wasting a big chunk of exhibit space on 4 computers
      and flowers
      > and pastels </sarcasm off>.
      >
      > Heading an issue off before it starts: if anyone's getting wound up
      because
      > of that iota of sarcasm, then stop.
      >
      > Friendly reminder to everyone including myself: we are supposed to
      be a fun
      > and neighborhood computer club. Granted our neighborhood is a few
      states.
      > But let's NOT take ourselves too seriously. In the fall of 2004,
      all Andy
      > and I wanted to do is find other people in the area who thought
      vintage
      > computers were cool. My vote is to stay true to the original idea.
      > Hopefully we are not being clique-y about it (I don't think so,
      based on how
      > hard we try to get people involved). The museum is just a place
      where we
      > can share our fun with the public. Hopefully we'll entertain,
      educate,
      > and/or inspire some people along the way.
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      > -----Original Message-----
      > From: Jim Scheef [mailto:jscheef@...]
      > Sent: Thursday, June 26, 2008 11:26 PM
      > To: MARCH
      > Subject: [midatlanticretro] Exhibit planning
      >
      >
      > Hello all,
      >
      > All this talk about which computers are "important" is heading to
      the lame
      > type of exhibit that I have always feared: a room ringed with
      computers and
      > no story to tie it all together. Such an exhibit might be
      interesting to
      > people like us who already know (or think we know) the history of
      the
      > computer industry but will bore the typical visitor who will decide
      that
      > "there was nothing to see" and never come back. Our museum should
      tell a
      > story with the individual pieces of the story changing over time.
      That way
      > people can learn something new each time they come.
      >
      > I think we are doing this entirely backward. The first step should
      be to
      > decide what story we want to tell, then select exhibits to
      illustrate that
      > story. If you want to tell the story of the development of the
      microcomputer
      > industry, the story needs to talk as much about the people as it
      does about
      > the machines.
      >
      > Herb Johnson and Jack Rubin both alluded to this in their messages
      on
      > Tuesday. Is this a generation issue?
      >
      > Even if this part of the museum is to be about the artifacts rather
      than
      > about the story of the microcomputer, the industry, the people or
      something
      > else, each exhibit of a machine should _thoroughly_ explain why a
      particular
      > machine is significant. What did it do first or better? How did is
      earn it's
      > place in history? Telling the story of each machine will require a
      > significant investment in signage - big signs that people can read
      while
      > standing a few feet from the machine. Such signs, plus the space to
      display
      > related software, manuals, accessories, etc. will require at least
      double
      > the space Evan calculated. IOW, on a realistic basis, the large
      room can
      > support less than half of the machines you have been discussing.
      >
      > This is OK. It's better to do a few exhibits _WELL_ than to just
      show a
      > bunch of hardware on shelves. Anybody can plop machines on a table
      and call
      > it a museum. Herb has shown that we can do better.
      >
      > Jim
      >
    • Evan Koblentz
      ... could develop an inventory of themes on a handful of story lines that you love to tell. Whenever you set up a display, you d set up the overall theme
      Message 2 of 6 , Jun 30, 2008
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        >>> Might I suggest a 3-level approach to display information? ..... MARCH
        could develop an inventory of "themes" on a handful of story lines
        that you love to tell. Whenever you set up a display, you'd set up the
        overall theme boards for the whole story line, then for each machine,
        it's own Theme" and "Basics" boards. .... This would give MARCH an
        inventory of stories, and bring coherence into a unified display. Has
        nothing to do with graphics and flowers. Just good organization and
        forethought.

        Great idea, John! I like it a lot.
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