This week's reading was Creating Exhibitions: Collaboration in the Planning, Development, and Design of Innovative Experiences by Polly McKenna-Cress and Janet A Kamien. The work discusses how to create an exhibit, from start to finish. As the title suggests, it highlights collaboration as a tool and force multiplier which, when used correctly, results in epic exhibits. The book begins by discussing the need for, advantages, and pitfalls of collaboration, and the essentials to good collaboration (including self-evident things such as trust, mutual respect, commonly agreed on goals, &c). The authors divide the team undertaking this process into several advocacies (citing the difficulty and unsuitability of using job titles). These include the advocate for the institution (the client), the advocate for subject matter (ex. a curator), the advocate for the visitor (ex. a developer or planner), the advocate for design (ex. exhibit design team), and the advocate for the project and team (ex. project manager). The succeeding chapters go into each advocacy in detail, then the book ends with discourses on process. The book argues that for consensus to work, everyone on the team must know their roles as advocates and how all the roles fit together.
In terms of tone, the book (first part especially) reads like the typical business leadership book, even referring to visitors (quite rightly) as customers--an easy parallel to consumers. I have no problem with this. Part of being interdisciplinary can certainly mean adopting some of the methods of successful businesses, right? However, some of the language of the book seemed overly dramatic. The beginning suggested that museums have a unknown future, in a way suggesting they might be headed for extinction. Whatever happens I don't think it will come to that. As the book goes on, there are several references to museums' survival being at stake. I'm not sure what the point of this was but it first took me by surprise, and then became almost comical. The book, like Exhibit Labels, also brings in outside experts and examples. Many of them are from Philly (the Independence Seaport Museum and Franklin Institute make many appearances). Overall, most of the book rang true to me and to my experiences with teamwork and leadership outside the public history world (except obviously the museum-specific content).