Sometimes, less is more. After considering a number of high-tech ways to engage with our Suited for Space exhibition audiences, we decided on three very basic tools--pens, pencils, and sticky notes. Yes, the exhibit itself is about innovation and technology, but no modern device has the universal ability to convey information like a good, old-fashioned writing implement and a tiny slip of paper. There's nothing to download here; it's not device specific and runs on an hOS. (That's the hand operating system.) But, really, in this age when mobile is hot, and paper is not, why did we go with such a simplistic solution?
Maybe, we just liked the size of the sticky notes; they're so cute--each one a miniature canvas that only takes a second to customize with quick sketches and personal witticisms. Let's face it, this is a 140-character society, and asking folks to spend more than a few moments on anything might be asking too much. This sticky-note concept, while certainly not new, is really the antithesis of where we are in the technological moment, and yet, it reminded us of the most basic of museum goals--to foster dialogue.
That vibrant, sticky-note color also sucked us in. Are you a hot pink kind of gal or a lime green sort of fellow? No matter, you choose. Oh, and what about that wonderful, tacky swathe of glue? When was the last time you saw someone adhere their mobile device on a wall for others to see? "Hey, look at all my pictures, world. Here's my banking information and all my friends' phone numbers." Maybe, the point here is that the sticky note is personal and yet, somehow, very anonymous--an opportunity for publically condoned graffiti.
We tested the concept of the sticky note wall at the Columbia Memorial Space Center in Downey, California, where the Suited for Space exhibition was recently on display. To get the conversation started, we asked people to answer a couple of questions. Among them, "What one thing would you bring on your trip into space?" The answers were both serious and whimsical, thoughtful and flippant.
It's safe to say that Californians love their iPods, iPads, and cameras. It's also fairly accurate to state that food was of great concern. Many cited the implicit need for candy in space, for cheese cake, hot cheetos with sour cream, Nutella, pizza, and pineapples (hooray for the fruit lover). Some, more nostalgic writers, asserted that a picture of their families would be a must, while others hoped that their beloved cat or dog could make the trip too.
Long story short, we were exceptionally pleased with the level of engagement at the site. Personally, I might have joined the waves of writers who referenced their mobile phones, but alas, maybe I could be convinced that a pen, pencil, and pack of sticky notes would be just as valuable.
Suited for Space opens at the Strategic Air & Space Museum in Ashland, Nebraska, this weekend. The national exhibition tour is generously supported by DuPont.