I started a new Bullet Journal a couple of weeks ago, and had the rude realization that we were into year three of the pandemic, since both of the previous years’ journals say “plague year” on their covers. I also had great conversation with the indefatigable Kellian Adams about books we want to write, and realized that it was high time to update you on my book.
You may recall I announced with some fanfare back at the beginning of the 2019 that I had started writing a book on museum experience design. It was an all-consuming process, trying to figure out what I wanted to say and not to say, where the emphasis should go, and who the audiences were for this book, who needed yet another museum book. I wrote about my research and writing tools, and sketched out a participatory workflow based on my experience being part of Nina Simon’s community while she was writing her first book. Many of you stepped up, offering wisdom and critique, and most importantly support. And the idea became reality.
In the midst of all this turmoil, the book still was still moving slowly, thanks to two things: having an editor who was interested in it, and teaching a class at Harvard Extension School, MUSE E-138 Museums, Experience Design, and Digital Technologies. Over the next few months the book underwent serious reworking and tightening. By mid 2021, a new version had solidified, much more rigorously academic in tone and more streamlined overall. In addition to starting The Experience Alchemists with Annie Lundsten and Jim Olson, this version of the book actually started getting written. Interlocutors were approached, and almost all said “Yes” for which I am ever so grateful. More reviewers volunteered to read bits. And chapters have been getting drafted. I’m three chapters in and have three chapters left. At this point, the biggest struggle is to keep up with events. It’s a bit of a blur.
What this means for the book
The unfolding changes in the museum world are dizzying. When I started the chapter on immersion, it was hard to find examples to cite. Now there are 40+ Immersive Van Gogh exhibitions in the U.S. alone, and the second wave of them is already being announced. I expect this to be a continuing problem. Stuff happens, and it happens quickly. When I took my COVID break from writing, I also took a break from the commitment I made to the community of readers who had already given their time and interest. Not that anybody noticed. There was a lot going on, all of it more pressing than a book on museum experience design.
But here we are, friends, in 2022 now. A new year beckons, and life has gotten more predictable now. Despite the insanity of launching a business in the middle of the pandemic, The Experience Alchemists are doing quite well. There is work enough and time enough and room enough again, even amidst the craziness of the pandemic and America’s fraught political situation. So it is time to enter the final phase of writing and put this sucker to bed, as it were. And I hope you’ll help.
Over the coming weeks and months, I’ll be sharing the chapters for comment, references, illustrative examples, and hopefully thoughtful critique. I am still working on what that process will look like, so stay tuned for details. In the meantime, I wanted to share some of the writing I have been doing that is out there.
“Read the TEA Leaves”, The Experience Alchemists blog
Each of the three founders of TEA wrote a reflection on the “origin story” of the company as they experienced it.
Immersive experiences and museum experiences
At the beginning of the immersive craze, I convened a group of interested museum folks to discuss the phenomenon and it could mean for museums.
With a Little Help from Our Friends: Halsey Burgund
One of the joys of TEA is our dedication to creating a community of creative partners whose work we admire, and hopefully can contribute to. I got the honor of interviewing Emmy Award-winning documentarian, technologist, composer, and all-around nice guy Halsey Burgund about his life and work.
“Finding Alternative Futures 2”, TAM LABS
One of TEA’s first contracts was with the Texas Association of Museums to help them with the Finding Alternative Futures, Phase 2 (FAF2) project! This project examines digital readiness and ways to help move the Texas museum community forward. I write every month on the TAM blog, exploring the topics being covered in the workshops, pointing readers at examples of interesting work happening elsewhere.
TAM FAF2 Post 1: Introducing Ed Rodley and the Experience Alchemists
TAM FAF2 Post 2: Museums and Online Public Programming
TAM FAF2 Post 3: Organizational Capacity and Continuity
FAF2 October Technology Round-Up – Recording Now Available
TAM FAF2 Post 5: Recap of Technology Round-Up
TAM FAF2 Post 6: Looking for the Light at the End of the Tunnel White Paper
It turns out I’ve been pretty busy actually, especially once you add all the proposals that have been written in the past year! This is one of the benefits that working in public like blogging provides. The nasty voices in my head pipe down a bit when I list out everything I’ve been doing.
May 2022 be a better year for us all!
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to think about many interesting and important things I seldom think about, perhaps in part because the pandemic has kept me out of museums generally. Do you see any downsides to the immersive experiences that are ever cropping up in museums and other places?
A decent response to this will easily fill another blog post. At least one, maybe two. Stay tuned.
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