Placing Your Invention: Smithsonian Lemelson Center’s Interactive Storytelling Map Demonstration -Booth 6

Christopher Gauthier, Smithsonian National Museum of American History, USA, Joyce Bedi, Smithsonian, USA

The Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center was keen to highlight collaboration as a central tenet of invention in its recently opened “Places of Invention” exhibition. Since such a concept is not simple to demonstrate in a museum exhibition, the Lemelson Center team invited the public to collaborate in creating content for the exhibition itself in order to stimulate thinking about place and social interaction as ingredients in the invention process. The platform for this content is an interactive storytelling map that asks visitors to submit stories of invention from their hometowns. Visitors can explore others’ stories and submit their own either online or in the gallery. The two versions are connected and reflect each others’ content, with user-submitted links to short videos, photos, and text. Since opening, the interactive map has had tens of thousands of views and over 5,200 contributions, and evaluations indicate that visitors love the idea of collaborating to tell stories of invention.

This is my first time submitting a proposal for a Museums and the Web conference. In fact, last year's conference in Chicago was the first time I had ever encountered Museums and the Web, and many of the concepts and practices I now apply to my job. The 2015 "Digital Storytelling" session (Thursday April 9, 10:30) was vital encouragement for me to explore collaborative participation in creating interactive digital storytelling experiences; and the "Crowdsourcing" session later that day affirmed many of the ideas and considerations the Lemelson Center team was exploring as we moved forward with our project. Indeed, while our project was well underway and nearing completion by the time I attended MW2015, what I learned had a strong impact on the final "Places of Invention" map project.