How can we make museum artifacts more like dogs? On @Ninaksimon and participation

I've been a big fan of Nina Simon since reading her book, The Participatory Museum (read it for free online!) It had a big impact on how I envisioned the possibilities for museums as social spaces. If you're interested in anything pertaining to public participation, cultural organizations, and community dialogue, you definitely should read her book. But if not, this TED Talk is a great, 15-minute distillation of a lot of the ideas she promotes. 

A friend from the Smithsonian said, “I know a lot of people who work at art museums who would recoil in horror at being inundated with ‘Sunday Painters.’” But if people who paint on Sundays are not the core audience for an art museum, I don’t know who is!
— Nina Simon

Some of my favorite thoughts:

  • Don't dismiss participatory opportunities because you've seen it fail. When you show people you value their thoughts by giving them beautiful or interesting tools, they will respond in kind. Meaningful design translates to meaningful responses. 
  • Emphasizing participation does not mean objects aren't important. Museum objects can be powerful social catalysts. She cites the example of dogs, who can inspire conversations and connections between strangers. Leading to the HCW challenge...
How can we make museum artifacts more like dogs? How can we make them into opportunities for conversations that otherwise wouldn’t happen?
— Nina Simon