Monday, September 12, 2011
The Feedback Quilt Project
I'm going to step back in time a bit to post some documentation of a participatory activity I designed for the TMC that was up in the museum for the month of August. The quilt was part of a larger project I did for the museum, doing qualitative research about visitor engagement and satisfaction. Inspired by some of the ideas in Nina Simon's book, The Participatory Museum, I thought I would make an in-museum project that would serve as something of an interactive guestbook. Here is a short summary I wrote about the quilt that explains it a bit more. I'm happy to report that by the end of my contract on August 19th, the quilt was almost completely done!
The purpose of The Feedback Quilt Project is to create a participatory visitor feedback activity for the museum space. Its goals are to collect and preserve visitor content, to create a more interactive museum environment, to educate visitors about a particular material practice (quilt structure and construction) and to become a “town square,” essentially creating an alternative portrait of our visitorship.
A 3-colour hourglass quilt structure (http://quilting.about.com/od/blockofthemonth/ss/cal-hourglass-quilt-block_2.htm) was mapped out on an 8’ X 4’ piece of Foamcore with a 1/2", dark-coloured masking tape. The board was mounted to a wall facing the 2nd floor elevators and stairwell. The activity requires that visitors answer at least one of three questions:
1. Describe your ‘Fantasy Museum.”
2. What keeps you from going to museums?
3. What do you want out of a museum for textiles?
Each question has a corresponding coloured “quilt block” sticky note. Using a dry-mounted, colour-coded quilt legend, visitors placed a sticky note with their response in the appropriate position on the quilt template, almost like a large paint by numbers or cross-stitch kit. In doing so they are building a large quilt form together, and the more questions they respond to, the more the “quilt” starts to take shape. The quilt form was chosen as a basis for the activity due to the connections between quilting, community and communication.
Responses to this activity were revealing. Many people took the opportunity to spill their guts about what they felt museums were and weren't giving them as visitors. Many focused on the price and hours of operation of museums not being accessible. A few came up with truly amazing ideas for fantasy museums-- a museum of smells, a snowglobe museum, a "museum of everything in the entire world." I came away from the project at the end of my contract realizing that museum visitors will reveal a lot to you if you make the effort to stray away from the same old prescribed questions, such as "are you a return visitor?" and "how did you hear about our museum?"
My sincerest thanks goes out to the museum for giving me the chance to basically make art and talk to enthusiastic museum-goers and textile fans all summer. Funnest job ever!
For more documentation of the quilt, check out the TMC's fantastic Facebook Page.