Opening the MWXX Pop-up Museum: Gaming Square Pegs into Dinosaur-shaped Holes

Barry Joseph, Barry Joseph Consulting, USA, Eve Gaus, The Field Museum, USA, Rik Panganiban, California Academy of Sciences, USA, Koven Smith, Koven J. Smith Consulting, USA

An intrepid few have been exploring a new dimension in the museum experience: game design. This highly interactive session will challenge participants to work with us to co-design the Museums and the Web Pop-Up Museum, and explore two big questions 1) What happens when you treat permanent collections not as static objects, but as pieces on a game board, the halls not as temples, but as playgrounds? and 2) Can games bring into alignment the interests of visitors, students, educators, museum curators, and administrators?

The MWXX Pop-up Museum will contain objects donated by conference attendees in advance that represent the nearly two decade history of these gatherings. Participants will question and reinvent the idea of what a museum is by working together to build, interpret, and play with the new exhibits. Will you be assigned the role of curator or exhibit designer, copywriter or tour guide? Come join us and find out – and then together we will open the MWXX Pop-up Museum and offer it to attendees for the duration of the conference.

The Pop-up opening will be followed by an open discussion about museums and games as constructed experiences and what happens when the two are combined, informed by both the previous exercise and recent experiments at museums using game design as an innovative form of public engagement. We will also dive deep into one case study, MicroRangers (, an innovative museum-based augmented mobile game about microbiomes and global threats to biodiversity, and discuss how it is challenging one museum to rethink the visitor experience.

Participants will learn about different perspectives on games and user experience at a natural history museum; games as a museum experience to focus visitors’ attention and teach key exhibit content; and how a museum community can participate in the creation of new experiences for its visitors.

(To donate objects to the exhibit, contact digitallearning AT amnh DOT org)

Gaming - both traditional and video - has been used in museum context for years. But increasingly museums are considering what an on-going engagement with gaming might mean within our history of innovations in public engagement. The three presenters explore this topic not only through their work at their respective museums - the American Museum of Natural History, the Field Museum, and California Academy of Science - but also through the following episode of their podcast, Object Oriented: