Making Music - Creating the Exhibition

How does the Montshire create a brand-new exhibition? With the help of visitors, of course!

The Montshire created an entirely new exhibition about musical instruments and the science behind them during 2015 and 2016. In this exhibition visitors learn about the design and craft of musical instrument building, the science behind the materials, and the physics behind the sounds that those instruments create.

Creating Exhibits

Thanks to contributions to the new David Goudy Discovery Fund, the Montshire exhibits department has been creating new exhibits for the Museum’s permanent collection. The process of developing a new exhibition is complex and takes time, and requires the help of our visitors! Our goal is to create exhibits that are accessible and engaging for families, groups, and individuals.

We get ideas for new exhibits from suggestions from visitors, from science concepts, even from phenomena that we’ve noticed and want to explore. We select concepts that will interest visitors and that seem appropriate for interpretation as a hands-on exhibit. We research the science thoroughly, and then explore how to design an exhibit that will engage visitors in the topic. This concept phase can take several months.

At the heart of Montshire’s exhibit development process is prototyping and evaluation. We create a trial version of the exhibit, using temporary materials and labels, to test them with visitors. We try to find out if visitors will know what to do, if there are enough opportunities for open-ended experimentation, if the label is clear and easy to read. We make changes to the prototype based on what we learn and test again. This process continues until we’re sure we’ve got it right. 

For the work on the Making Music exhibition, the Museum’s largest gallery was transformed into a prototype showcase to test out exhibit ideas, and we invited visitors to be part of the process.

During a prototype showcase, a team from the Museum observes how people interact with each component of the exhibition. We watch visitors use the exhibit, we ask them questions about their experience, and we try out new versions of each prototype based on what we learn.

The final version of the exhibit is fabricated using long-lasting materials. An exhibit has to be able to withstand more wear and tear in a year than most consumer products do in a lifetime. We either build the entire exhibit in the Museum’s shop, or have components fabricated by outside specialists and assemble them here. Once everything has been assembled and tested, we install the exhibit for visitors to enjoy.

Watch for the opening of Making Music: The Science of Musical Instruments at the end of November 2016.

Making Music is made possible by donors to the David Goudy Discovery Fund. Thank you.