The Museum Makerspace Rainbow

This year I discovered the amazing world of makerspaces! Then in July I started my quest to find the makerspace niche that fit me best. Eventually, I decided museum makerspaces offered an exceptional setting for informal learning. During the summer I got the chance to talk to makers from five different museums. Through this research I’ve also expanded my maker network & found over 40 museums in North America with makerspaces and there are likely more!

Museum Makers Map

I’d like to thank all the makers who took the time to give their insight. This post is meant to give just a glimpse at the diversity of museum makerspaces. Out of respect and as I have yet to visit these museums the post only mentions individual museums by a letter (A-E). For reference the museums of the makers I talked to are listed below. Finally, although I call all of these ‘makerspaces’ some of the museums prefer to use other names.

Keep It Fun!

When talking to museum makers I was curious about how they choose their programs. Even though the methods varied greatly, I heard a resounding ‘keep it fun’! In fact this is what attracts me so much to this niche. As mentioned in the ‘Art of Learning’ (link), I wholeheartedly agree that learning happens best when we’re having fun!

photo credit: visitnorway.com

photo credit: visitnorway.com

Art or Tech?

It became clear from the start the contrast of programs and activities museum makerspaces offer. Each program/activity a museum offers tends to lean more towards art or technology. For sure the museums will have both or a program/activity has elements of both. Still it seems like a museum makerspace will offer a bit more of one type. Below is a rough scale to show how I felt the museum makerspaces differed.

ArtORTech2

Free or Facilitated?

Another area of diversity is whether the makerspace is used for facilitated programs or free/open activities. It’s interesting to see the correlation between makerspaces that free activities and art as well as facilitated and tech. This is often obvious, as programs with tech will pose more of a safety risk. Again here is a rough scale of how I felt the museum makerspaces differed.

FreeORFacilitated2

What’s Next?

As mentioned above makerspace diversity is great! From this research it becomes clear that it’s important to understand the needs/interests of your community. I think it is especially beneficial to research the community ‘gaps’ your makerspace could potentially fill. One example to consider:

How can a makerspace become a link to the real world for teens?

Why do I believe this is an important? In most countries there is a strong pressure to get a university degree. Teens will probably choose a degree based on their best school subjects. Yet how many people actually follow the same career as their degree? Why do few education systems support teens in realizing how their skills/interests relate to different career options? From personal experience one needs to experience a type of work before knowing if it’s a potential career!

It’s truly been a fascinating experience to learn the unique traits of each museum makerspace! Please feel free to give your feedback and you can reach me on Twitter or LinkedIN.

Museums
Explora
Exploratorium
New York Hall of Science
Ontario Science Centre
Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh

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