This is the “Spooky House.” No, that is not its official title (embarrassingly I can’t find the notes where I wrote down its actual name) but it is what these two 4 year olds called the work. They spent ten minutes calling out in great delight all of the “spooky” things that they noticed about the house (a bear! A spider! A creepy mask!).
I snapped this picture as a reminder of two important things in museum education. The first is one I’ve talked about before, that “interactive” does not always mean it has to be literally hands on.
But the second point is that “hands off” has to mean only that you aren’t touching, not that you aren’t engaging and involving the visitor. These kids are very savvy museum goers, but even they would not be able to concoct and sustain a game of that sort on their own.
Not pictured is the other mom (and fellow museum educator) that I was with. She was encouraging, coaching, providing vocabulary and modeling delight and interest in the piece of art work. She did all of the legwork to set up the game, so the kids could then take it and run with it.
Even if you are setting up your exhibits to be observation based, or if they are going to primarily self direct, your presence is valuable. You are setting the stage for the visitors and teaching them how to interact. You are also showing them that they can be interested and excited by what they see and what that looks like.
Interactive does not mean “hands on” but it also doesn’t mean you can be completely “hands off” with your visitors.