Exercise: Museum Posters

The brief… is to create 3 posters for a museum. Each poster is to target a particular demographic: Child (aged 5 to 9); Teenager (aged 13 to 16); General Adult population.

The museum I’ve chosen is Milton Keynes Museum.

Web: http://www.miltonkeynesmuseum.org.uk/

Map: https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/Milton+Keynes+Museum/@52.0561457,-0.8069718,17z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x487700598903a001:0xe2fd7c0f9b71811!8m2!3d52.0561457!4d-0.8047831

Planned visit tomorrow.

The museum is staffed by volunteers and puts on extra activities during the school holidays.

Initial thoughts on the demographics

(Prior to visit)

Child (aged 5 to 9)

Will be brought by an adult (Parent, Grandparent, Aunt/Uncle… possibly an older teenager but rarely I would have thought one aged 13 to 16!).

Teenager (aged 13 to16)

I think mostly this age would visit with adults as per younger children, but some may come in pairs or groups of their peers. This is more likely since the museum is within the Milton Keynes City area, surrounded by housing and accessible using Milton Keynes’  city-wide network of dedicated, off road cycle network (completely off-road – a totally separate set of tracks that cross roads using underpasses).

General Adult Audience (aged… 17 and above? Perhaps 19 and above?)

The distinguishing factor here is motivation… I’m predicting that children are interested in something very tangible – going to see the ____ (insert exciting noun like “dinosaurs” or “steam engines”) whereas adults might also be interested in the “historical significance” and “social history” of the exhibits, which words are very long and dry for a child to put into an ‘activity’ context. After the fact it’s possible children/teenagers might agree that they have experienced those things too, but it doesn’t sound like the kind of thing they have in mind beforehand.

When I got to the Museum tomorrow I’m going to be the general adult – open mind (ish!), reading things perhaps and contemplating them quietly. As a Bank-Holiday-Sunday, with a special half-term activity lined-up, I expect there will be lots of children there… shouting loudly, running in and out of the ‘Police Box’ giggling and shouting “I’m Dr. Who… look how big my tardis is! [on the inside]”. This one is normally sized but I’m sure imagination will bridge that inconvenient chasm of reality.

List of things to notice:

  • what do the children/teens see and run to first?
  • what do the adults do differently to the children?
  • ask the staff what they think are the best/nicest/most exciting attractions for adults/children/teens
  • What do I think of the exhibits personally
  • can I see ideas about portraying exhibits in new ways to make great posters
  • what are the museum’s ‘quirks’
  • are the exhibits like other things children have in their lives (eg: climbing frame, video game, school, playground)

Post Visit

The museum was much better than I was expecting – deliberate effort had been made throughout to create an experience for visitors that was all about being there in the the museum, rather than simply presenting text and pictures and calling that an exhibit.

Connected Earth

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The room all about telephony/communication was possibly the showpiece of the museum. Here there were whole parts of several different ages of telephone exchanges – real, working pieces of equipment. Also in that room were dozens of telephones dating back through the decades and they were all connected to the exchanges in the same room. What made this come alive is that the oldest exchange – the mechanical one – actually operated to connect all of those phones. Visitors can dial from one to another and talk through that exchange. The effect was ‘electric’.

Ages 5-9: this age group were interested in the physicality the the phones – being able to talk to their adults through them. There were some working operator stations that the children were shown how to operate to connect real incoming calls to another phone by the volunteer staff. I can imagine if you had a school party (with only a few teachers) in this room they would quickly start dialling on any possible phone arranging to call their classmates across the room.

Ages 13-16: Not present. One girl appeared to be in that age range but I don’t think she actually went around the museum at all! Hard to say how this age would receive it… they would already have their own mobile phones in their pockets (or glued to their faces) so they may feel ‘land lines’ are a bit old and useless (no texts, not mobile, not ‘smart’ phones, no contacts list, shared with the whole house).

General Adults: Most who were there were there with children and followed their lead. Then there was me – I didn’t bring an children so I got to look in detail at operating exchanges as I dialled on phones.

Street of Shops

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These were re-creations of historic shops… or at least enough of the shop to show a front, a window display, and sometimes room to go inside and see the counter and interior goods displayed. It was ‘immersive’.

Age 5-9: These kids enjoyed this area without inhibitions. The one prize moment I whitnessed was a dad saying to his young daughter, who was in the ‘Post Office’, “shall we go to the next shop now?” and she replied “I’m talking to the postman”. The postman in this case was a manakin holding a parcel but this girl was actually make-believing a whole scenario in a real Post Office of her own imaging.

Ages 13-16: Not present.

Adults: Mostly indulging the younger kids. Also looking, sometimes studying, the ‘merchandise’ in the ‘shops’ like adults to examine artefacts in a museum. Perhaps adults do not have a way to engage with a novel presentation and so have to treat it like any other kind of exhibit – like art to be studied or artefacts to be revered and respected.

Agriculture Area

This was a large room packed with historic artefacts of the agrarian life – tractors… stuff that goes on tractors… stuff that was used before there were tractors… other stuff I don’t even know the name (or purpose) of.

All ages: people spent little time here – it connected the street of shops with the connected earth areas and I don’t know what they thought of it.

Classroom

I was surprised by this – the kids in this room were quite naturally role-playing being teachers or students. I know my own daughter has said that this was a common role-play with her friends when she was younger. The surprise is that these kids make the most of the most basic ideas… it’s a ‘Wendy House’ of whatever flavour that you like.

Toy room

Although it seems obvious, it wasn’t. This room was full of toys but not full of children. There are a wonderful array of toys but running around and role-playing things seems to trump looking at toys.

Transport Shed

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Full of vehicles, including the longest tram ever and a real, lived-in horse-drawn caravan with the curvy roof. This looked fabulous.

The Cows

Liz Leyh’s cows have now been moved to this museum. It’s possible that people may come just to see the cows… maybe?

Choosing Artefacts

Perhaps a little too much detail there… now to choose artefacts to use to create the posters.

Ages 5-9: “Meet the Ancestors”? There are many things to choose from but I find myself trying to choose something that is not an object at all… it’s the environment in which the child creates their own imaginary world. Perhaps I’m thinking of the ‘street’ as an exhibit that I could use to promote the infinite possibilities for role-play to this age group.

Ages 13-16: I’ve been told are impossible… but I’ll do my best. There are two things that stick out – the ‘Police Box’ which has an obvious Dr Who connotation, and any other phone idea that can be played against the teenager’s trademark permanent connection to their own smart-phone device.

Adults: My first instinct is to say “Kids love it here and there’s a cafe with home-made cakes”. That should make it a done-deal for any parent/grandparent in a fix. However… what will appeal directly to the adults?

I’ll go with…

Child: Street of Shops – the whole street!
Teen: Telephones – Police Box
Adult: Transport – the tram

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Doodling what children look like in a museum.

Child: Street of Shops

Lauren Child is a well-known illustrator and author who’s work that is best known to me is ‘Charlie and Lola’.

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These charming and consistent characters live in a world that is part line drawing part vibrant collage… it’s exciting but simplified, dispensing with over-description and draws on facial and body expression to show the full range of emotions that these children move through.

I want to show the Street of Shops as an exciting place to be… so a style inspired by Lauren Child’s would provide some key elements to work with…

  • Emotional expression
  • Colourful environment

Perhaps a national museum would commission Lauren Child to draw Lola in their museum as this would have another factor that might be immensely helpful… endorsement from the actual extremely properly proper character.

Teen: Telephones

Ignoring that it is ‘impossible to market a museum to teenagers’ in economically viable terms I think I’ll draw on kind of light science fiction that embodies Dr Who in order to draw in characters that this age group might identify with. This might be more of a male-orientated idea, in terms of stereotypical marketing approaches but the hope is to be aware that Dr Who re-invented itself with younger, more dashing actors for The Doctor (who also appeal to boys as a capable wielders of the gadgets).

The Doctor’s companion has become a role filled by an independent woman with individual taste, rather than a one-size-fits-all sidekick and foil for the older wiser male.

Style: I thought of a style that I found at the start of this  Part:

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These images from Neil Leslie’s work echo a technical process – the collaging of whole photographic transparencies – but (I presume) done using digital manipulation to produce a highly flexible result. I imaging using photographs and self-produced imagery with a format like this to create a sense of drama, conspiracy and excitement that I feel is needed to engage the teenager.

Within this style I hope that there is scope to allude to Doctor Who via the police box which is an exhibit in the museum… although I feel I can use the whole telephone room and its contents as source material.

Adults: Transport, The Tram

I chose the tram for several connotations:

  • Romance – trams have a connection with meeting and love. The ‘Trolly Song’ is notable for being a whole musical theatre number about a woman who plucks up the courage to approach a man she fancies on a tram (Trolly Bus) journey.
  • Nostalgia – Today’s grandparents may have really ridden on the old trams in london. New ones are being installed in cities now (for their small carbon footprint probably) and being able to show the grandchildren that ‘Trams aren’t new’ might be a draw too.
  • Scale – when appropriate the museum allows visitors to enter and sit in the tram, and there’s plenty of room on two decks. It’s the kind of ‘monumental’ exhibit that provides a large, tangible experience.

Styles: Lauren Child’s style may also be appropriate for this illustration… appealing to the ‘inner child’, except that the subject matter may be outside of the usual scope for that style… I don’t thing there are any adults in the Charlie and Lola books.

Something more based on Quentin Blake would be appropriate… it’s easy to draw silly adults behaving like children using the loose lines and colourful pallets. I’m hoping to re-connect the adults with the childish joy of their own childhoods – perhaps the tram is a ‘wonder’ of their childhood. For many people it seems that first experiences with public transport are memory-gems.

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Layouts

A few ideas about how the telephone room poster is put together…

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This colour visual shows the elements and colour scheme laid out with the intention to work towards this style:

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This is a rough idea for the Street of Shops… but I drew the children too large for their environment, as well as not allowing us to see enough of the shop…

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Upon reworking the shop I started looking at the Adult poster. I made up some dormer windows to go above the Post Office… other shops in the street had something similar.

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This visual now shows more of the shop with two children having fun in the style of Charlie and Lola.

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Exploring Quentin Blake’s loose style and creating two characters to populate the tram.

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Here’s my first visual.

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Developing this picture towards  finished artwork I went back to make the tram more accurate like the one in the museum. This image is also using watercolour to get closer to Blake’s style.

This is one of the few times I’ve liked the watercolour experience. I think it’s entirely because I’m using Blake’s style as my guide – making inked lines first then colouring-in, but loosely. Because it resembles the style Blake uses I think I find it more acceptable – as if any particular style needs to be justified externally before it is worthy to be used. This is a common thinking pattern I have and I wonder if there’s a mode of thought beyond it where I can see the value of a new style without needing to resort to outside authority to make that judgement for me?

More practice with watercolour may also help!

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This was an earlier sketch which I did using ink and and a nib pen (dipping into the ink) to explore again the techniques that Blake uses.

One of the interesting idea that he talks about (on his many informative videos) is that he uses a light box to allow a reference to be used under the final sheet of (expensive) watercolour paper. He does not try to trace the image but merely uses it to locate it well in the composition. When he’s drawing it he wants it to come out like it is drawn for the first time (interestingly analogous to how actors strive to say their lines as if they are thinking what to say at that moment rather than it sounding like a rehearsed announcement).

 

 

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