One of the exhibits currently in the Tinkering Studio is a musical bench. Nicole and I made it last year by sawing into a normal museum bench and adding a cricket computer to measure resistance and turn that value into a melodic note. Some reasons that I think this exhibit works well in our space is that it uses familiar materials (the same old bench you have been sitting on all day), provides a delightful surprise, and encourages visitors to interact with each other by holding the hands of friends and strangers.
In addition to providing those qualities, the bench now allows us to highlight the makers who build our exhibits and show how they are often the result of ideas that evolve over time with input from many places. The musical bench is only the latest incarnation of a concept that was developed by the PIE group and explainers with ice balloons and then turned into a drinking fountain by Karen, Mike and Charles after the museum closed one night. All of them, plus Walter and Luigi brought the idea to Maker Faire and other events and let explainers, staff and visitors help re-imagine the concept.
I’ve been working on a short video that takes you through the evolution of this idea and we’re also working on a physical ‘museum’ by the musical bench that celebrates the process of making exhibits by showing artifacts, sketches, and photos. Most of the the exhibits here represent tinkering spirit that we value and it’s nice to go deep and explore the history of just one of the over four hundred objects that fill the Exploratorium.