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Making & Tinkering Spaces in Museums Hangout: Spotlight on the New York Hall of Science - Your Questions

By Mary Mathias posted 04-11-2014 14:25



Making & Tinkering Spaces in Museums Hangout -

Spotlight on a Space: New York Hall of Science 


Your Questions from the Hangout


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These questions were asked by attendees of the Making & Tinkering Spaces in Museums Community of Practice hangout that took place on April 10, 2014. The panelists, David Wells and Peggy Monahan from the New York Hall of Science, have provide the answers below. You can view the recording of the webinar here:

Q: A couple of folks wanted to close ups of the different cabinetry and said it looked like it was cut on a laser cutter too. How much of the shelf space will be open and accessible to visitors vs. contained/for staff only?
A: David Wells - The entire Maker Space was milled on a giant CNC machine at Situ Studios and assembled here. The majority of the cabinets are used for storage and we also have several large metal cabinets with shelves. But the one thing I say to anyone that asks is to focus A LOT ON STORAGE. You can never have too much...
Peggy Monahan - What David said about how Maker Space was constructed is the same for Design Lab. Those insane shapes were definitely designed and then executed with the help of technology, though not a laser cutter - in this case, a giant CNC machine. They also have an enormous 5-axis router, and other impressive tools. 
I can't imagine how these spaces would be possible without those tools. The Sandbox, for example not only has virtually no right angles, but it also has very few repeating pieces. Even though the faces of all the drawers and cabinets look alike, even those are almost different.  Each has to take into account the way the wall curves in or out around it. One thing I love is that if you look deep into corners and inside drawers, you can find numbers routed into the various pieces of plywood. Those are the part numbers that made it possible for the builders to assemble all of the individual pieces into a coherent whole.
You can find images of some of the pieces on Situ's blog. Here's a page with all of the Design Lab posts. There are some great photos of the sandbox under construction where you can see more specifically how those curves are made:
There's a ton of storage in each space, and that was very much by design. We knew that we would need plenty of space for materials storage. As for display space, and whether that is open to visitors or only accessible to curators... It changes from space to space.  
- In the Sandbox, it's probably about 50/50.  
- In the Studio (without counting the storage area and its display space), it's only about 10% closed display cases, but I would say that about 30% of the shelf space is high enough so that kids will mostly leave it alone.
- In the Backstage, all of the display space is accessible, but maybe 20% is too high to be generally messed with.
- The Treehouse will be about 30% closed, and the rest open.
Q: Brent wanted personally to know what David's work schedule was like day to day since a lot of thing you mentioned took place in the afternoons and on weekends.
A: DW - I generally work Monday to Friday with occasional weekends & travel. There are a couple areas I focus on and my days are typically a mish-mash of everything depending on priority.
1) Programming
Orchestrating workshops, which includes developing ideas, acquiring materials/tools, prototyping and organizing the flow of the space (i.e. materials set up, tables and how are visitors will move between the two).  
    We are limited to 2 staff to run all the programs and we have new workshops every month and new semester long after school programs each semester. In order to keep up with that we are always prototyping and experimenting with ideas and developing how they can work in our space.
   There are two specific other programs that I run one being the Maker Corps program. This requires interviewing, hiring, training, supervising all aspects. One of our grants, Innovation Institute where we work with a group of high school explainers to develop products inspired by a community need. I train them on all tools from hammers and drills to laser cutter and materials literacy. I over see the projects and help out the other project leads with their parts.
    We are developing and prototyping School group workshops in tow formats, one 45 minute open ended concept and another 2 hour longer engagement approach.
    Maker Faire is insane! I work with several grant providers, families from our summer camps and staff to set up our Maker Space booth.
2)  $$ - Grants, fundraising and budgets: We have a development team that works solely on writing grants but all the programatic elements and workshop ideas are written by me before we submit the grant and subsequently all of the reports about the programs to the funders is done by me. I also keep the materials budgets in check for all the Maker Space grants and this space is 100% grant funded from salaries to materials.
3) Representing the NYSCI Maker Space & Collaboration - Speaking engagements at conferences, on panels, webinars, and various presentations to showcase the work we have been doing. I seek out and work with local, national and international organizations to develop partnerships and collaborative interactions to combine Super Powers to make the world a better place. At least that is the way I like to say it. There are many great out of school time organizations we work with including the Hive NYC, Queens Museum of Art, Iridescent, Queens Community house and several area schools... just to mention a few.  
4) Advisory Boards - I work with organizations to help them with Maker Space development that require different amounts of time depending on where they are in their projects. This varies from developing programs, tools/materials acquisition, furniture, storage, facilitation etc. Including -  Boys & Girls clubs of NYC, Children's Museum of London (work in progress), USAid funding Indonesian Maker Spaces in schools.
5) Pedagogy - I continuously am working on a framework for developing "maker type" programs that allows a person to plug in any content area. It focuses on process over content and is meant to make it easier to approach these types of activities for teachers/educators and parents. In tandem with that  I am experimenting with ways to assess the kids experience through their voice as apposed to a survey or interview. My method allows the individual to express in their own words the experience they had and how it relates to them. Both of these are in different stages of development and if it is up to me may never been complete.  
6) General - Materials and tools inventory, space management and scheduling, cross departmental collaboration and training.
Q: People really agreed with your statement about the museum being very brave to take this on and several asked questions about funding and where did your internal support come from for such a big undertaking. 
A: PM - We got funding to build Design Lab from a number of different places. Grants from Verizon and ONR (Office of Naval Research) work with teachers, activity development, and some of the space planning. A couple of private family foundations funded a large portion of the exhibition itself. Xerox funded my invaluable Explainer Residents who worked with me prototyping and developing facilitation styles. 
And of course, we couldn't do it at all without our Science Career Ladder program, which is why we have such strong Explainers. That's been a signature program at NYSCI for a long time, and has proved fundable over the years. 
But really, the primary bravery for taking this on and making a commitment to this kind of slower, in-depth, materials-rich, people-at-the-center learning comes from our leadership. Margaret Honey, our President, really believes in this, and is putting Design-Make-Play at the center of our institution. 
Even so, I'm very aware that we're at the beginning of this process, and that there are trials ahead as the exhibition opens in June and the original grants end later this year. But I'm also very optimistic of our success. Stay tuned!