ExposeYour… accessible exclusivity


So, before tonight, I’d never shot a gun. I’d definitely never shot a 22, a 9mm, a glock, and a revolver and then followed it up with a whisky chaser. Thanks to LivingSocial Aventures, I got to do just that. They even added some tasty food, a chartered bus, and some pretty exclusive VIP treatment wherever we went. It was equal parts excitement, adventure, entertainment, and education. AND… I could afford to swing it on my museum salary!

LivingSocial isn’t the only company getting wise to the concept of accessible exclusivity.

Seems like it all started with pop-ups. The concept of “pop-ups” was coined by trendwatching.com in 2003, part of the Transumer trend. Pop-up retailers gave us here today/gone tomorrow shopping spaces in an exclusive, unannounced way. They took consumers by surprise, garnered buzz and crowds, then faded into the ether. Though these spaces were tangible, they were also very temporary. For those who got to them in time, they provided incredible bragging rights. For those who didn’t, they took on the aura of an urban legend.

Then came pop-up dining, pop-up drive-ins, pop-up museums and galleries– even pop-up toilets!

Transumerism evolved. It began with a focus on business travellers and those on the go. Now many of us live “on the go” in our everyday lives. We are motivated by fluid experiences. We expect entertainment, discovery, flexibility, and– this is key– a good story.

Of course, sometimes a good story comes at a premium. We all have heard that we can be civilian space travellers- for Virgin’s $200K price tag. Similarly, the Cube is a 140m2 pop-up portable restaurant which can be transported by helicopter. The plan is to move it to different European cities every four to twelve weeks.

But what about the rest of us?

Enter companies like Ferrara’s Street Dinner in Italy and Charlie’s Burgers in Toronto. Both combine mystery and allure in semi-exclusive, intimate dining experiences for those looking for the transumer experience. A limited number of lucky attendees are provided a series of clues, online or through SMS, revealing customized directions to expose the evening’s events. The price tag on these? About $50-100 a head. Like LivingSocial Adventures, it’s accessible exclusivity.

How can museums and culturals apply the pop-up concept or appeal to the transumer in all of us?

Would your star curator bring take-out from her favorite local restaurant and spend the evening in the home of one lucky visitor? (Maybe the visitor with the most tweets about your institution that week, or the 3000th one in your door…)

Could you have a pop-up gallery or exhibit? Maybe somewhere for just a day– or a few hours– that could be found through a series of tags or a mobile app…

What about a “drink with the museum” night, where on-the-fly announcements are made via social networks and anyone who’s close by can join a museum educator (or an exhibit designer, a security guard, the director…) for a few drinks?

Could you design a scavenger hunt in your area that promotes the discovery and learning goals key to your institution?

What would it mean for us to be that accessible in ways that are so exclusive?

Major sources cited this week:


One Response to “ExposeYour… accessible exclusivity”

  1. exposeyourmuseum

    7 comments (migrated from Blogger):

    Nick said…
    Love the idea of incorporating accessible exclusivity in museums… As a teacher/trainer of students who will become museum professionals, these ideas are great for introducing that “out of the box” mentality when it comes to developing experiences… education, exhibits, programs, whatever…. Lends itself well to a common discussion we have… when we stop thinking of museums as places where “education” happens, and more about museums as places where “leisure” or “fun” or “amazement, inspiration, etc…” happen. At this point these things seem more like added value or pie in the sky ideas…How can we make these types of experiences more ‘Standard’ practice? Part of what makes Museums unique and relevant to their communities….

    March 28, 2011 2:20 PM

    Nathan said…
    I love the idea of mixing drinking an firearms. Sounds exciting.

    March 28, 2011 3:50 PM

    Laureen said…
    Cupcakes! (I heart cupcakes!)

    Yes, cupcakes – that is what came to mind as I read this post.

    There is a cupcake trunk that drives around Denver (This is just one example – several restaurants have roving food trucks as well.) The cupcake loving public does not know the truck’s route or timing, but when the truck arrives at a street corner, the driver tweets their location. Generally, those craving sugary goodness have 30 minutes to make it that location. If they do, they get a delicious treat, if not, then they’re out of luck for the time being (until the next location is posted).

    What if a museum operated like a roaming food truck?

    What if a museum went to different locations throughout a city and set up a mini-museum for an hour/afternoon/day. What would that look like? What would they bring? Would it be object-based, project-based, theater-based – all of the above, none of the above, changing? Would people come? How would their experience differ from the traditional museum experience?

    March 29, 2011 11:46 AM

    Claudia said…
    So I guess this is what you’d call what I experienced last year while visiting the Bishop Museum during ASTC?! Accessible exclusivity. As a conference attendee I had the opportunity to sign up for a small group tour of the museum’s collections, given by a museum staff who worked closely with the collections. I chose the cultural collections and it was just an amazing experience. I loved that “behind the scenes” opportunity and the one-on-one with that pool of knowledge/passion, as well as with the pieces no other visitor had access to. It was just very cool! If I lived in Hawai’i I’d have signed up to volunteer at the museum right then!

    March 29, 2011 4:23 PM

    Peter Linett said…
    These are great ideas-in-the-form-of-questions you’ve put in italics, Kathleen. I love the spontaneity built into all of them — an antidote to the considered, meticulous spirit we all associate with museums.

    But as Laureen and Nick both suggest, the real question is how those twittered, pop-up experiences actually differ (in vibe, voice, aesthetic) from the usual fare. Last week I saw a pop-up art truck on the street in Santa Fe, and the text panel, handout, and audio track were all straight out of the contemporary art curation playbook. And other experiments I’ve seen have demonstrated that it’s all too easy to bring the old assumptions along when you venture into new venues or new media platforms.

    Keep it coming, Kathleen! Your thoughtful trendwatching is going to be so useful to the museum field.

    March 30, 2011 11:26 AM

    Kathleen Tinworth said…
    My lovely, wise, introspective and observant friends… fantastic comments!

    I love that Nick’s encouraging students (the next generation of museum staffers, presumably) to see museums and places of amazement and excitement and to work (and is *is* work) towards establishing their uniqueness and relevance in communities.

    I wonder what accessibe exclusivity means for your students, Nick… how they could take an experience from “traditional” (which both Laureen and Peter touched on) and into something altogether different– the “vibe, voice and aesthetic” Peter wrote about. I can’t help but think (hope?) that because they’re not yet entrenched in the field they would bring some really creative thinking to this, and shake the old assumptions.

    I came into the museum field in a round-about way and still feel like a bit of an outsider. At first I thought my non-museum background would be an obstacle (and it can be), but I have learned to appreciate the unique vantage point it gives me.

    What can we all do, all the time, to keep seeing things– and, more importantly, doing things– in new way? Ways that build that amazement and inspiration…

    I realize that the times I have been most impressed with this whole concept of accessible exclusivity in practice is when there has been dose of risk and a leap of faith involved (see this week’s update).

    The goal isn’t the attendance numbers, the profit made, or even the buzz that results. The real goal is an absolutely unique, never-able-to-be-exactly-replicated, incredible, memorable, shared, communal experience for a lucky few. And they’ll never forget it. It’s the amazement and inspiration.

    As Claudia shared in her story… it’s the spark.

    April 1, 2011 4:02 PM

    DMNS Research Assistants said…
    Here’s an example of someone who took the museum to the streets: http://futureofmuseums.blogspot.com/2011/04/using-your-audience-as-exhibit.html

    April 12, 2011 12:52 PM


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